Jared Blackstone was 15 years old when he knew he wanted to perform for a living.
Growing up in Maine, the solo acoustic artist spent his childhood days listening to his parents sing and play for their church. At 18, he packed his bags—and a couple of guitars—and moved to the Big Apple to pursue his dreams.
Now, Blackstone has made a name for himself as a musical guru in Arizona, putting his own twist on signature sounds from rock to blues and country.
“When you play a song for people and it brings back memories for them, the most rewarding part is either a smile or a tear,” he tells The Entertainer! Magazine. “Either emotion is the most rewarding thing I get out of it.”
Whether it’s Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Luke Bryan or Bob Seger, variety is Blackstone’s forte. The full-time singer-songwriter can be heard at some of the Valley’s most notable wine bars, luxurious resorts and renowned country and rock bars, as well as private functions and other parties.
But some of his best performances come out of Scottsdale’s Old Town Tavern.
Before the pandemic, Blackstone, boasting long brown hair and rugged facial hair, played at the outdoor bar every Sunday alongside two other artists—all of whom were connected by one of the bartenders.
“I love playing all gigs, but Sunday is my fun day,” he expresses warmly. “There’s a certain magic that happens.
“It was just one of those things. We’ve never rehearsed or really played the same sets,” he adds. “We don’t really hang out until Sunday rolls around and we have a lot of fun.”
Although the Phoenix resident didn’t know singer Mark Zubia and guitarist Greg Simmons prior, the three have meshed into arguably one of the tavern’s most popular trios.
But the bluesy, crowd-drawing performers—powered by a blend of acoustic rock, country, honky-tonk and pop—do not consider themselves an official “band,” Blackstone says.
“We don’t really like to call ourselves a band because bands break up,” he discloses. “We’re definitely a band of brothers right now.”
It’s no secret why scores of music fanatics pack into OTT each week to hear the seasoned artists play.
Zubia was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame last summer for his role in creating The Pistoleros, a bluesy roots rock five-piece with a previous record label.
“Performing is great,” he says. “Hopefully you’re bringing some happiness or enjoyment to other people, but it’s also a personal release,” he shares.
“Writing songs is a different type of enjoyment but equally rewarding.”
Zubia continues to write, record and perform solo, with his band Los Guys and various acoustic projects, according to his website.
A music teacher, Simmons is an award-winning guitarist, known for his “titanic blues runs, subtle country picking and fierce freeform jamming.”
As a “preacher’s kid,” Blackstone grew up playing guitar to gospel and country music. His mother was also a singer, he recalls.
The aspiring musician started experimenting with classic rock and blues in his teen years, and it wasn’t long before he roped together a “kid band” as the opener for some of his friend’s fathers.
Blackstone explored songwriting in high school and quickly became the entertainment for parties and dances. After graduation, his parents were relocated by the church, but the young adult had other plans in mind.
“I kind of figured out pretty quickly that there was no music business in Maine,” Blackstone says with a chuckle. “I was looking for a way to get out of the small town anyway.”
Blackstone re-connected with a family friend living in New York City and made the move to pursue his passions professionally.
While adjusting to city life as a small-town boy, he worked as a barista and sound engineer for an off-Broadway play to support solo gigs at the Baggot Inn in The Village.
“For the first few months I kind of locked myself in an apartment and wrote songs,” Blackstone says. “I was a country boy in a big city, and things like the subway were pretty scary.”
He even played alongside legendary Gerardo Velez, who played with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, at one point.
Blackstone took another step forward when he joined a highly sought-after band as a lead singer, thanks to the advice of Velez.
The band signed with Atlantic Records in 1997, explains Blackstone, but lived a short life due to the creation of Napster, a controversial file-sharing software allowing users to share electronic copies of music.
“Little did I know that right before our record release a thing called Napster would crush the whole record industry and bands like us would be on the chopping block,” he shares.
After the checks subsided, Blackstone penetrated the underground club scene as a guitarist and cultivated his own band, Blood from Stone.
Blackstone’s unique group dominated venues, including CBGB, The Knitting Factory, Continental and Arlene’s Grocery.
In the summer of 2008, he pursued a change of scenery in Arizona, fine-tuning his brand through solo acoustic gigs along the way.
The solo artist built a credible reputation for himself across the Valley, through word of mouth, he explains, and now plays consistently at sites like the JW Marriott at Desert Ridge and The Four Seasons Scottsdale on a regular basis.
“It kind of snowballed into that. The more you play live, the more people see you and the more things kind of evolve,” he says. “So, I’m really thankful for that opportunity.”
Due to a lockdown in response to COVID-19, Blackstone is now focusing on finishing his upcoming album, as well as some Facebook Live performances—possibly including Zubia and Simmons.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for those guys,” Blackstone says. “I think when you get to a certain age as a player, you listen a lot more and learn to kind of stay in the pocket a little bit and feed off of each other.”