You know how sometimes you're feeling a little blah and uninspired, and then suddenly someone drops out of nowhere, sprinkles you with a little pixie dust, and reignites your passion and wonder? Singer/songwriter Jaden Larue just did that to me, and if you're similarly feeling a little blah and uninspired, I think she can do it for you, too.
Jaden recently invited me to cover her album release party at the Hotel Café, and it was a really magical night--one that reminded me how much I love the artists who flock to Los Angeles to pursue their dreams. I wanted to know more about what her journey has been like, so I called her up for an interview.
She grew up in Northern California, with a family that loved music (her dad sings and plays guitar but just for fun) and always supported her passion--she started piano lessons when she was 4 years old. But that's where any nepotism stopped.
When she was 18, she went to see a show and ended up backstage with the band. They were from Los Angeles, and Jaden knew these were the people she wanted to be around. I think many of us can identify with this feeling of having found our tribe among those who have also been called to LA. So it's not surprising that she packed her bags and headed to the big city--utterly alone.
And this is the part of the story that I love. It didn't work, not at first. It's not always a fairytale when you get to LA. Jaden admits that year was hard--it was a lot of going to shows by herself. "Magical, but hard," is how she puts it.
Chasing your dreams isn't always a constant progression. Sometimes there are some false starts. For Jaden, this first stint in LA didn't wok out, and she ended up moving back home. But while she was home, she recorded herself singing for the first time and realized that maybe...just maybe...she could actually do this. When she could have become disillusioned, given up forever and settled for a life less extraordinary, she kept an open mind--and heart. And, when she felt she was ready, she dove back in.
She moved to San Diego for awhile first, playing at open mics a lot and evolving as an artist, before she decided to try LA again. At first, she worked a job she absolutely hated; when she listened to her heart and got a job elsewhere, everything changed. Sure, it was just a restaurant survival job, but it was at a vegan restaurant among people who were more aligned with her values and priorities. And the relationships forged there gave Jaden the strength she needed to survive in LA--as she says, "we're all craving a sense of home and connectedness," and if you don't have that, LA (and pursuing your dreams in general) can be infinitely harder.
One of the things I most love about Jaden--as a person and an artist--is that she tries "to see the miracle in everything," and she believes that "friends amplify the miracle." In a world (and especially in a city) that tries so hard to be so cool, Jaden rejects "cool" for earnest wonder and positivity, and she surrounds herself with people who feel the same way. "Friends show up on the hardest days," she says, and the best of those are the "friends who can call you to your best self."
This so deeply resonates with me--one's perception of Los Angeles and experience pursuing a dream here can be SO dependent on the community that surrounds and supports you. If your community is cynical and apathetic, Los Angeles can feel overwhelmingly large and cold. But if you're surrounded--even at your survival job--by people who see and encourage your best self, the whole city can feel alive and bursting with possibility.
Jaden has resolved to stay on this path she's found, and there's no doubt it's working for her. And yeah, she's still working at a restaurant, but she knows she can break out of that. When I ask her about her plans for the future, she laughs with abandon. "I have plans, and I have no plans," she says merrily. "I go where I love--if I love something, I'll dive into it. I want to make sure that every single day of my life I am loving who I am, who I'm becoming, and what I'm doing."
This approach is what birthed the Silverlake Music Sessions, a popular monthly pop-up show that she recently spoke about during an interview on KCAL9. She hopes to one day grow the event into a music festival that features jazz and classical music integrated with more "mainstream" pop fare. It's also led her to jewelry-making; she loves jewelry and found herself inspired to create the pieces she otherwise couldn't afford--then realized her handmade jewelry would be perfect merchandise to offer at her music shows!
Wholeheartedly pursuing all of her interests isn't without cost; Jaden says that she certainly feels overwhelmed at times, and that's when it's especially crucial to have a support network to turn to. Above all, practicing self-care is increasingly important to her, and she isn't afraid to declare that "sometimes you just have to fucking cry!" But even in the darkest times, there is "never a part of [her] that thinks about quitting." And that, I think, is how you know you've found your calling.
To everyone out there on the same journey to make a life doing what they love, Jaden says, "make unreasonable requests. A lot of times, you can actually get it!" Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Words of wisdom, from an artist I'm sure you'll see a lot more from very, very soon.