Local California blues musician Jake Nielsen personifies the old cliché “If somebody gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Born with the neurological disability cerebral palsy Nielsen encounters difficulties the average person likely struggles to appreciate. His cerebral palsy turns ordinary tasks like standing and walking into challenges. Growing up the disability affected the blues musician’s opportunities to fit in socially. While interviewing Jake Nielsen he shared he comes from an active athletic family which left him feeling lost as his cerebral palsy prevented him from playing sports. At 13 years old however Nielsen found his way to fit in.
Besides sports the Nielsen family demonstrated a love for music, specifically blues music. Jake’s uncle purchased his nephew a bass guitar when Jake was 13 years old. Playing music gave Nielsen the belonging he desired. Given his family’s interest in blues music the new musician naturally pursued that genre. Stevie Ray Vaughn amongst other blues artists influenced Nielsen’s sound. His kin encouraged Jake greatly but the musician soon faced not so positive attitudes.
The Nay Sayers
Attending jam sessions with other blues musicians left Jake Nielsen encountering negative critics. Nielsen recalls some older musicians believing Jake’s cerebral palsy would physically prevent him from entertaining live audiences. Ironically, as time progressed the opposite occurred. During one performance Nielsen accidently hit his guitar with his crutch, creating a sound he compares to a car shifting. The crowd warmly received the sound and at his next show Nielsen did it again, this time on purpose. “People went crazy” the musician explained, adding “I thought I need to do this more.” These days playing guitar with his crutches serves as one element which enables Nielsen to standout from other local acts.
Musical Turning Point
Jake Nielsen further established himself as more than just another local act when he played the Monterey Blues Festival. His performance captured former Little Richard drummer Derrick Martin’s attention. The famed drummer wished to work with the up and coming musician. Nielsen brought Chris Wienress his bass player from a former band aboard and the Jake Nielsen Band formed. The trio played together for the first time in studio. About the moment Nielsen stated “It was magic, we knew we had something.” He hopes the group’s debut album “Triple Threat” will see release in November. The title “Triple Threat” celebrates the talents all three members bring to the trio. When asked who the band sounds like Nielsen responded “John Mayer.”
The Overall Goal
Ultimately Jake Nielsen hopes his music inspires others, no matter their hardships. When asked about his goals as a musician Nielsen said “To touch people, to let them know you can keep going.” His purpose resides in the accompanying picture. The photograph gives a statement to those who told Nielsen he couldn’t succeed due to his cerebral palsy “I may be handicap but I’m here doing my thing.”