Talented young Calgary drummer has big musical dreams

At just 17, drummer Jaxon Smith has been impressing audiences near and far for the past decade

By Leanne Murray | July 14, 2022 |5:00 am

Drummer Jaxon Smith hopes his name will one day be on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Photo: Submitted

Most people will never know what it’s like to have a video go viral, especially at six years old.

However, Jaxon Smith does — because he did it. 

The Calgary musician got his first drum kit when he was just three or four years old, and taught himself how to play.

When he was six, a video of him playing the Foo Fighters song Pretender amassed more than a million views in just a few weeks.

That prompted an invite to NBC studios in New York City to perform live on the Today Show

Riding the viral wave

The years following were also full of excitement — from Pearl Jam paying a tribute to Jaxon during a 2013 concert at the Saddledome, playing a Rush song for 15,000 people at the Brier at nine years old, followed by an invite to Rush’s soundcheck at 10 and a chance to play on the drum kit of one of his heroes, Neil Peart.

Jaxon is now 17 and looks back fondly on playing all 10 nights of the Calgary Stampede Grandstand show when he was nine.

“That was probably one of my favourite performances of my past. It was just so fun to do that,” he says.

While he always enjoyed drumming, it was around that time that Jaxon realized his true love and passion for it. He went on to be part of the School of Rock all-star house band from ages 11 to 15.

“That’s kind of where I started playing with other musicians and getting used to keeping the beat with a band, playing different types of music. That’s really when I fell in love with playing because playing on your own forever, it’s a lot of fun, but nothing beats playing live.”

Music in the bones

Jaxon’s dad, Kevin, believes his son was born to be a drummer, laughing about how he was putting dents in the coffee table with spoons at just a year old.

“My mom was a music teacher, my dad was a music teacher, my wife was a dancer, so there’s lots of rhythm through his family,” says Kevin, adding he also has an ear for and loves music.

Kevin says the trip to NYC after Jaxon’s viral video was something special.

“This isn’t just a dad who’s really proud of his kid. Obviously, other people out there see the talent, too,” Kevin says proudly.

In fact, Jaxon has caught the attention of some of his biggest musical influences over the years.

Connecting with his heroes

He met Matt Cameron of Pearl Jam when he was eight, and more recently Josh Dun of Twenty One Pilots at 14.

And thanks to the power of social media, Stewart Copeland of the Police and Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine have liked Jaxon’s videos.

“Some notable guys that are all incredible musicians that I look up to,” he says.

“It’s quite awesome to have drummers that are inspiring, to be able to reach out to them, they’ve seen my stuff. Just a really cool thing to say, ‘Hey, I can be that one day.’”

Talented yet humble

Kevin says he’s equally proud of Jaxon’s talent as he is of his hard work and humble attitude.

“I’m proud of the kid that he is. He does well in school, he is always drumming at home and always trying to get better. He’s pretty awesome at 17 and I can’t wait to see what he does in the next few years,” Kevin says.

As for the future, Jaxon has one more year at Springbank High School and then he hopes to move south of the border to the epicentre of the entertainment industry: Los Angeles.

“Musicians Institute is one of the schools that I’m most interested in. It’s on Hollywood Boulevard,” Jaxon says, adding there are a few others in the LA area that are also pretty cool. 

“But I think Hollywood is where I want to be. It’s where all the opportunities are, where all the connections are, and amazing teachers. You’re right in the centre of everything. I think it would be amazing for my talent. I could showcase it and meet some very cool people.”

Jaxon Smith on stage at the Blind Beggar Smokehouse. Photo: Leanne Murray

Giving young musicians a chance

Until that time comes, Jaxon plans to play as many shows and venues as possible.

Despite his age, Jaxon can get a permit to play in 18+ venues with a few weeks’ notice.

For the past year or so, Jaxon has been able to grow his on-stage skills on Thursday nights at the Blind Beggar’s open jam with house band The Accomplice.

Doug Dumelie has owned the Blind Beggar for 17 years, and the last two proved to be the most challenging.

Like so many other businesses, Dumelie had to pivot and make adjustments to stay open. One of those changes was to transition into a restaurant.

Dumelie says they got rid of their VLTs and became a smokehouse, allowing them to have all-ages musicians in until 9 p.m.

Jaxon has taken full advantage of that.

A stage to learn and grow

Dumelie says Jaxon has grown so much because he’s had real stage time and has been pushed, having to adapt to whatever songs the house band has planned when he’s jamming with them.

“You can’t go to school for that, you have to live it. You have to get on stage in front of people and mess up and screw up and hone your skills to be able to adapt like that,” he explains.

The Accomplice will be wrapping up a four-year stint as the Thursday night jam hosts at the end of July.

However, the venue also hosts an original music showcase where bands of all genres and experience can sign up and are judged on things like stage presence, voice projection, and song hooks.

Dumelie says they give honest feedback so bands and musicians can improve.

Improving with stage time

Kevin says it’s been fun to see how Jaxon has progressed since playing at the Blind Beggar jam nights.

“I’ve really seen his skills explode in the last year. Getting to do solos every Thursday, and some nights the crowds are big, some nights the crowds are small. But, regardless, he really plays like a pro and gives it his all, even if there are five people in there.”

Jaxon agrees playing the jams has improved his skills. He’s able to adapt to songs and considers himself a chiller, tighter musician who’s more in tune with the music.

He says his favourite thing about playing live is when the crowd gets into it.

“There’s a lot of energy and it’s high quality sounding as well. Everyone’s just connected and everybody can enjoy it. And when the band’s in tune, it just sounds amazing. The atmosphere is incredible.”

What the future holds

Jaxon’s goal is to continue taking his music to the next level, eventually getting to a point where he can play big events, shows, and tours and ultimately inspire others the way his heroes have inspired him.

“See where that goes, pursue it, that’s the dream,” Jaxon says, adding he hopes his music can help people who are going through tough times.

“Helping people, that’s always what I love to do.”

As for Kevin, he just wants his son to be happy.

“If it ends up being music, awesome. If it ends up being something else, that’s awesome, too. I don’t put any pressure on him to make it in music. I just want him to be happy.”

A video of some of Jaxon’s latest performances can be found on his YouTube page.

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Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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