Eleven-year-old singer Jase Nelson is such a huge Michael Jackson fan that he wrote a tribute song for the King of Pop on the fifth anniversary of his death.
The Central Alberta youth enthuses about seeing Jackson’s This is It concert documentary film “about 12 times” and adds, “I really miss how he lit the stage and his creativity.”
We Miss You Michael was one of several tunes Jase recently recorded with Los Angeles music producer Andrew Lane, who’s worked with the Backstreet Boys and Irene Cara, as well as on recordings for Hannah Montana and the platinum-selling High School Musical.
“He made (Miley Cyrus) into Hannah Montana,” says Jase, who’s now signed to Lane’s recording label, Drew Right Music Inc.
The heavyweight producer approached Jase’s grandmother, Maggie Hewitt, to say he was interested in working with her grandson after being “bowled over” by Jase’s a cappela performance of The Kite from the musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at a performing workshop in Los Angeles.
Hewitt recalls, “I wasn’t even sure if he was serious,” until Lane assured her he was.
Last week, Jase cut several singles in L. A., including We Miss You Michael (written by Jase and Hewitt and reworked by Lane), a revamp of the Sam Cooke song Cupid and Waking Up, a new tune written by Lane that will be used in a short Calgary-made film about bullying that Jase appears in as an actor.
Jase says he really enjoyed recording both the lead vocals and harmonies on the tracks, and listening to Lane’s guidance on how to deliver the emotional lyrics.
Hewitt recalls Lane was amazed at how quickly Jase could grasp new material. But it probably helped that the home-schooled Central Albertan plays piano, guitar and ukulele — Jase says if Lane told him you’re a little flat or sharp, “I could understand exactly what he was saying.”
Recording with the seasoned producer was an “amazing” experience, concludes the affable youth, whose long blond hair makes him reminiscent of the Hanson brothers of MMMBop fame.
Hewitt says Lane intends to send copies of Jase’s singles to larger recording labels, as well as to radio stations, iTunes and YouTube. Lane’s support indicates the Red Deer County-based singer now has a whole coterie of high-profile people in his corner, including his Calgary-based manager and a New York City-based talent agency.
Jase has known he’s wanted to perform since the age of five, when his grandma heard him singing along to a Justin Timberlake song and asked if he wanted to take singing lessons. His response? “Let’s move to New York. I want to be on Broadway!”
The singer, who studies with Calgary vocal coach Brian Farrell (who has worked with k.d. lang, Sarah McLachlan and Paul Brandt) confirms this is still his goal.
To try to reach it, he’s spent much of his childhood performing in various Alberta talent competitions and rodeos — including the Calgary Stampede. Hewitt says Jase also regularly sings the Canadian anthem at Blackfalds Wranglers games and some involving the Bentley Generals.
Experience has already taught him to take his knocks: For every audition or competition he lands, Jase says there have been dozens that he doesn’t. “They say you have to do 50 or 100 auditions to get one or two. It doesn’t bother me,” adds the youth, who spends a lot of time in various dance and music classes and workshops to keep honing his skills.
Hewitt believes it’s probably no more time than someone would spend playing minor hockey.
While the pitfalls that can entrap young performers, including alcohol and drugs, are scary, Hewitt believes these same problems can befall oilfield workers — or anyone else for that matter.
She stressed that she will support Jase no matter what he wants to do. “If he wants to teach voice or piano someday, it would be a success story. If he chooses to perform, then we’ll try to give him whatever tools are necessary to live his dream.”