VAIL - Seeing is believing has never been more true than when you watch Jaden Carlson play guitar. She has been playing for six years, has released three albums and played in front of over 80,000 people.
She's only twelve. But after watching her play a few songs, you might forget her age.
Her influences come from bands who have come and gone or are barely hanging on: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and many more represent her style.
"I live in Boulder, Colorado and I play acoustic and electric guitar. I love playing guitar, especially in front of crowds and jamming with my musician friends," Carlson said. "I started playing after going to a Michael Franti and Spearhead concert a few years ago. While watching the lead guitarist and bass player rip it up, I decided that playing guitar was going to be mine too. I started lessons with a great teacher, learning classical music. It wasn't long before I was learning some pretty cool rock songs and figuring out many covers to play."
"I hope the band headlines Red Rocks and Madison Square Garden some day and I want to go on tour with the Tedeschi Trucks Band," Carlson said.
Her band members tonight include drummer Noah Shomberg and Jeff McCollister on bass.
"I would be impressed if she were a 30-year-old," McCollister said.
"[During] the first song, everyone's jaws just kind of slowly make their way to the ground. [During] the second song, they're recording with their phones. [During] the third song, they're texting all their friends. By the fourth song, there's a bunch more people there," McCollister said when describing the audience reaction to Carlson jamming away on guitar.
As with many bands, this band was formed by coincidence, necessity and luck. Shomberg and McCollister needed someone in their band and Carlson wanted to tour with a band and the rest is history. They started playing with Carlson in January.
"Since our first tour, it feels as if we've been playing forever together," Shomberg said.
All three have been traveling the past few weeks through Montana, Utah and Colorado. In the beginning of March the band traveled through Billings, Whitefish, Moab, Livingston, Crested Butte, Steamboat and Vail.
Those are names of cities a 12-year-old is more likely to learn in a geography contest. She is home schooled.
"It's kind of an adult world. I see a lot of things that most 12-year-olds don't. Like I'm in bars, I'm playing on stages like this, I've heard some language, I've seen people like fall over and stuff. I mean, not normal stuff a 12-year-old would be around," Carlson said.
It was also unusual for the crowd. Most were in disbelief as Carlson led the band in long jams of both cover songs and originals. The dozen or so in the crowd came early to see John Popper from the Blues Travelers.
"This is amazing, I'm a fifth grade teacher and I want to know how to inspire kids to reach their potential," one patron said. "She's unbelievable," added another guest waiting to see John Popper.
Eventually the bar filled up for a sold out show to see Popper play with a local band named My Brother's Keeper. The Jaden Carlson Band had to relinquish the small stage for a larger band and name. However, there was one more surprise for the crowd and Jaden.
Scott Rednor of My Brother's Keeper is recording their first album with Popper and made it all happen.
Rednor has taken Carlson under his wing to give her opportunity. That night the band included Scott Rednor on lead guitar, Rob Eaton Jr. on rhythm guitar, Bill McKay (on keyboards) from Leftover Salmon, John Michel on drums, Michael Jude on Bass and of course John Popper belting away on his harmonica.
This is not Madison Square Garden or Red Rocks but it's a pretty good start for a 12-year-old. You have to see it to believe it.