When teenagers reach a certain age, they start venturing out at night, hanging out at shifty, sketchy places and mingling with all sorts of suspicious types. Jazmine Chesson, 17, has been doing a lot of that lately. The only difference is she’s often doing it with her father, Eric, beside her.
“I rather her be there with me then with somebody else,” says daddy Chesson, 38.
The pair has been frequenting many nightspots recently as part of a band that’s been playing around the state.
Called Urban Soil, the band was conceived last spring when Jazmine was hanging around downtown Raleigh, and she met a saxophone-playing busker named Austin Barnard.
“I was, like, doing parkour,” remembers Jazmine.
“Lame parkour,” adds Barnard, 24.
“Really lame parkour,” throws in Jazmine.
A classically trained violinist ( she’s currently in the orchestra at Broughton High School), Jazmine started playing with Barnard, doing jazzy, improvised riffs on Fayetteville Street. At the same time, she was doing open-mic stints with her dad, a guitarist and veteran of the Raleigh music scene since the ‘80s.
Eventually, the old man met his daughter’s new buddy and, soon, they all started collaborating. Eric eventually called on bandmates from his old band, Wax Planet (drummer David Flores and bassist John Wolk), to fill out this new collective.
“I never expected to find myself in the music scene that I am in now, because I’ve always played in orchestras – like classical music,” says Jazmine, who also shares vocal duties with her dad.
“And, so, going from that – like, the transformation from that to a rock-and-roll band – it was something that I never really thought would happen. But I like it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Their first official gig was at the Guardian Angel Jam in Mebane last summer, where they wowed audiences with their newfound roots-rock, jam-band stylings. “Americana, I think, is a good, broad generalization,” says Eric, about their music.
“It’s a mixture of a lot of different things,” adds Jazmine. “It’s just fusion really, because we have musicians from all different backgrounds. (Eric) is a rock god. (Austin) plays jazz like it’s easy. And I play the fiddle and the roots, bluegrass kind of stuff.
“And then we’ve got the kind of Latino drum guy, who you can kind of tell the influence of his culture and his drumming. And then you have our blues bass player. So, it’s just a complete fusion of different backgrounds of music.”
While some 17-year-old girls wouldn’t pay much attention to their parents and go off to do their own thing (especially if they’re fronting a rock band), Jazmine often defers to her father’s knowledge of the local music scene. “I just lay low, you know,” says Jazmine. “Like, I let him show me what to do. I don’t ever try to take the lead.”
“But she is the face of the band,” interjects Eric. “She’s the frontperson.”
“In that sense, I take the lead,” adds Jazmine. “But when it comes to the relationships with venues and booking and all this other stuff that he’s an old hand at, I just let him have it. And I’m learning from him, really.”
“I just kind of show up,” pipes in Barnard.
Certain admirers have been also known to show up at Urban Soil shows, admirers who are particularly fond of the nubile-yet-innocent Jazmine. “There have been awkward situations,” admits Jazmine, “like guys coming up to me and trying to like, ‘Oh my God, you are awesome, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ And, then, they start hitting on me and I’m like, ‘OK now.’ And, then, [Eric] walks up and he’s like, ‘What’s up, fellas?’ ”
Of course, the real fun happens when she lets these guys know where she matriculates.
“And, then, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I go to Broughton.’ ‘Wait, you go where?’ ‘Broughton. High school.’ And they’re like, ‘Ohhhhh!’ ”
Even though it appears Jazmine is a youngster with a good head on her shoulders, she knows she has band members who will always have her back – including one who would be seen as an unfit parent if he didn’t.
Says Jazmine, “We all love each other and we’re all there to produce something that evokes whatever emotion. Like, it’s a very personal thing – music.”