Jaden Carlson plays the guitar like a seasoned musician. What makes her unique is that she's only 12.
Tri-Citians can hear the Colorado-based adolescent play a mix of funk, soul and jazz starting at 9 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Emerald of Siam in Richland.
"Jaden is definitely a prodigy," said Dara Quinn, co-owner of the Emerald of Siam Thai restaurant and lounge. "I just recently discovered Jaden, and I am hooked. Her melodies and lyrics are beautiful and even catchy."
Jaden admits she isn't a normal 12-year-old kid.
"My mom took me to a Michael Franti & Spearhead concert when I was 6 years old, and I told her after that concert that playing the guitar is what I wanted to do," Jaden told the Herald in a phone interview. "I knew at that concert that I wanted to play music and make people happy."
She's been playing professionally for about four years and keeps up with her education online while on the road. She exudes a maturity rarely found in youngsters, even musically talented ones. It's perhaps her level of maturity that has led to few refusals from bar owners to allow her to play in their establishments.
"I'd say about 98 percent of (21 and older nightclubs) let me in to play," Jaden said. "That's probably because my mom tours with me. And besides, I'd never do anything stupid (like drink alcohol)."
She's toured with her current band for the past year, and the three are a good meld in performing and songwriting, she said.
Her drummer is Will Trask, who also handles percussion and backup vocals. Eric Luba is a left-handed bassist, who also plays keyboards.
"Will is the best drummer in Colorado," Jaden said. "And Eric can play the organ with his left hand while playing the bass with his right. They are both simply amazing musicians and songwriters."
Jaden has independently produced three CDs and plans to hit the recording studio next month with a selection of new songs for a fourth album.
She describes her sound as musical soulfulness mixed with rockin' funk and jazz, as well as inspirational lyrics.
Jaden wrote her first song at age 7 and started studying music theory around the same time, she said.
"When I write songs, I see the music in my head first," she said. "I guess you could say music is who I am."
Quinn agrees that Jaden seems to have a firm grip on music theory and is more tasteful than most adult guitar players she has known.
"I truly believe Jaden is on her way to super stardom," Quinn said. "Her guitar playing rivals that of an adult, and her songwriting is fantastic."
Jaden admits she doesn't have friends her own age because music is her life, and she doesn't feel she's missing out on her childhood.
"I suppose I'm not your normal 12 year old," Jaden said. "I love computers and I love music, and I'm happy with that."
-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dorioneal