Jake Thistle, recording artist and Rutgers freshman, juggles studying with gigging

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Jake Thistle will perform at the Avenel Performing Arts Center, Dec. 11, and release a new single, Dec. 16.

The first semester of your freshman year in college is a hectic time for anyone. But just imagine what it must be like for singer-songwriter Jake Thistle, now in his first year at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

In addition to keeping up a busy performing schedule — including singing lead and playing guitar and piano in the Jackson Browne tribute show, Late for the Sky, whose next booking is at the Avenel Performing Arts Center, Dec. 11 — he is preparing to release a new single, “Ghosted Road,” on Dec. 16, and working on a full album. (DEC. 16 UPDATE: I have added the video below).

“I’ve remained busy (as a musician) from when I was in high school, and even middle school a little bit,” says Thistle, who grew up in Paramus. “So I’m pretty used to balancing the school side and the work side. The new challenge was, I’m living on campus in New Brunswick now, instead of Paramus. So, ‘What equipment are you bringing?’ I kind of brought the minimum I could do a gig with, without having to run home every time. So that’s come in real handy. But sometimes I do have to run back.

“But, you know, I really like school. And I really like playing music. So I don’t mind figuring out how to make it work.”

He has not settled on a major yet, though he is thinking about communications or English.

“I’d like to do music full-time, the rest of my life, if I can,” he says. “But I don’t need a degree for that, so I’ll try to get into something else. That way I have a fallback because it’s tough (to make a living as a musician).”

Joe D’Urso, who produces Late for the Sky, says “there is no doubt in my mind that he’s going to make his living from playing music. Now whether that’s original music, cover music, being a music teacher … he’ll definitely have payments his whole life from music.  Obviously, the goal is from original, creative stuff.”

Jake Thistle’s “Ghosted Road” single comes out on Dec. 16.

Thistle, 18, played all the music himself on his debut album, Down the Line, released two years ago. “Ghosted Road” represents the next stage in his development as a recording artist.

“It’s a full band, and it’s in a professional studio,” he says. “It’s really the first time I’ve been able to do that. It’s really nice to hear my songs realized with the full band.”

Down the Line, he says, was “just a collection of songs,” recorded as if they were demos. But it also was a learning experience.

“I find that I am writing new songs now with the sense of like, ‘OK, what can I do with this? Is this an album?’ ” Thistle says. “I’m almost thinking about the order of the album as the songs are being written, or the band arrangements: I’m almost arranging them at the same time as I’m writing them.”

Artists such as Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, John Prine and John Hiatt — as well as Browne, of course — have been major influences on Thistle. Late for the Sky debuted in March; D’Urso came to Thistle with the idea for it.

“I like to focus on my originals, so I was a little hesitant,” says Thistle. “But it really has been such a blast: It’s always just a great time all the way through. And yeah, Jackson’s a huge influence on me.”

Being in a college environment, he says, “will definitely help my songwriting. Especially the artists I’ve listened to … most of their songwriting came from when they’re getting to be around my age. A little bit older, obviously, when some of their first albums came out. So to be around other people my age, I think it’ll just help my ideas and, you know, writing about this experience. So that’s going to be really interesting.”

The Avenel Performing Arts Center presents Late for the Sky, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. Visit avenelarts.com/events.

Late for the Sky also will open for Fleetwood Mac tribute band Tusk at a Light of Day WinterFest concert at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Jan. 13 at 7:30 p.m. Visit ticketmaster.com.

And Thistle will perform with Willie Nile, Guy Davis and others at the Light of Day “Songwriters in the Round” concert at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m. Visit outpostintheburbs.org.

For more information and updates, visit jakethistle.com.


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