Twelve-year-old Jase Nelson knows plenty about putting his own unique artistic touch on a revered classic. Just take a listen to Sam Cooke’s instantly recognizable Cupid.
Jase, a native of Red Deer who now lives on an acreage near Innisfail, covers the legendary tune like a polished pro and with chops like these, it’s no wonder he recently signed with a recording agent in Los Angeles.
In fact, four new tracks are available on iTunes on a project called Waking Up, and within two days they were on the top 100 recommended songs on iTunes with one of the cuts reaching number three.
He’s also released his first music video for Cupid, so it’s certainly been a busy season for the gifted young man who has also done voiceover work and contributed to film, radio, commercial and television projects as well.
Meanwhile, the tracks on Waking Up were recorded last summer in Los Angeles, and the video shoot for Cupid followed this past September in the ‘City of Angels’ as well. Choosing to cover Cupid was mainly his grandmother’s idea, he adds, chuckling.
“She played the song for me and I liked it,” he recalls. Initially, some industry insiders weren’t convinced it was the best way to go, encouraging the recording of an original tune.
But Jase’s grandma, Maggie Hewitt, said they’d likely be surprised at how Cupid would take off as the major first single. “I said the eight to 12-year-olds will go nuts for Cupid, and those 40 and up will, too. I said, you have to remember all of these women who sang this song are 60 now and we grew up with it.
“I thought they did a wonderful job of producing it.”
Jase, who has also signed with LA-based Drew Right Records, provided his own harmonies and background vocals in all of the aforementioned tracks, which were produced by Andrew Lane who has worked with the likes of the Backstreet Boys, Irene Cara and the High School Musical project.
There could be another major opportunity coming his way soon as well. Jase landed an audition for Matilda this past October in New York City.
“Last February, his manager emailed me and said they were casting for Matilda in New York so I sent the whole package in.” Seven months passed, and one day an audition request came in.
“We went down, and they loved him,” said Hewitt. Jase had to perform a few numbers and do some choreographed dancing from the Broadway show – and had a blast all the way through.
“He had an amazing audition, and to us, that’s the biggest part of the process. And it encourages him to do other auditions as well. If he doesn’t get it, it’s still a success.”
Jase agrees. “It also gets my name to her (the casting agent), so she can later pull up my name.”
There are loads of parts for young people, so Jase is hopeful a door will open.
By age six, Jase had already performed the national anthem for events including the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet. He had also been a headliner act for the Daines Cowboy Picnic as well as the annual Festival of Trees fundraiser in Red Deer.
Later, he was taking on much bigger challenges including the Calgary Stampede and a trip to Los Angeles to take part in the International Presentation of Performers (iPop).
His singing career began when his grandmother heard him sing along, word for word, to a Justin Timberlake song on the radio.
“It came up on the CD, and I was backing out of our driveway, and he started singing it. We pulled out on the street, and I turned around and said do you like to sing? He said, ‘I love it’. I said, would you like to take some singing lessons and he said, ‘Yes’. He was only four at the time, and started singing publicly at age five.
And for the next two years he performed on more than 30 stages entertaining audiences across Alberta. At six, he auditioned for the role of Chip in Beauty and the Beast, won it, and really discovered a passion for the stage.
“Two years later I auditioned for Gaston in Beauty and the Beast and won the part in Edmonton and Cookie in Newsies,” he said.
“Because I loved acting and singing so much I started spending all my time training and attending any available workshops that I could get to,” he notes on his web site. “I take every opportunity given me to audition for TV, film and stage as well as continuing to perform vocally every chance I get.”
These days, Jase spends hours each week training on a number of fronts. He studies voice every week with Calgary-based Brian Farrell who has worked with Paul Brandt and Sarah McLachlan among others.
Looking ahead, he’ll continue to balance his Grade 7 home school studies with a flurry of projects, which will include shooting music videos for the other cuts from Waking Up.
He also has written a children’s book, Jake and the Snowman, which he and Hewitt hope to see released early in 2015. As his proud grandmother points out, there isn’t much that the energetic, friendly young fellow won’t try.
“I don’t know anyone who works harder than this boy.”
Check out www.jasenelson.com.