Jake Heaton - Chorley's budding guitar hero
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 October 2016
Stardom beckons for Chorley's Jake Heaton who stunned guitar legends with his virtuoso playing, writes Roger Borrell. Photography by Glynn Ward.
Next time your children complain about having to listen to your favourite pop music, tell them the tale of young Jake Heaton.
Ten years ago his mum and dad, Stuart and Linzi, returned from seeing Bon Jovi performing in Manchester with a CD as a souvenir from a memorable night. Next trip out, the car rocked to the sound of the American band but instead of putting his fingers in his ears, five-year-old Jake became entranced by the electric guitar.
‘I think he’d had one of those plastic, blow-up guitars when he was three or four,’ said Stuart. ‘But no one in the family is very musical. His mum plays the piano a little but I can’t spell music let alone play it!’
Jake was insistent so the family approached a guitar teacher called Mark Eastham from The Lost Chord music shop in their home town of Chorley and asked if he taught five-year-olds. He replied: ‘No. But I’ll give it a go.’
It was the start of what his dad calls ‘an obsession, but in a good way.’ While most youngsters dream of playing the guitar in a rock band, Jake is living the dream. By the time he was 15 he had reached Grade 8, described as the Black Belt for electric guitarists, and he’s now studying for his diploma.
Under Mark’s guidance, Jake didn’t just become a proficient guitarist he became an exceptional one. So, when Sky contacted his teacher to ask if he had any good guitarists who might take part in their televised Guitar Star competition, he replied: ‘No, but I’ve got a great one.’ From thousands of applicants, Jake was whittled down to the last five in Guitar Star, auditioning on stage at London’s Royal Festival hall.
The programme involved Jake, 16 this month, competing against guitarists of all types and ages and being mentored by legendary musicians as well as performing in famous venues.
During the programme Jake, then a pupil at St Michael’s School had lessons and played with Tony Iommi, of Black Sabbath, Jamiroquai guitarist Toby Smith and jazz guitar legend George Benson at the Church Road Studios. Benson’s reaction after listening to him play was ‘Wow’ while American record producer Tony Visconti announced on stage that Jake was destined to be a rock star. Another notable gig was playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London’s Soho.
‘Looking down from the balcony at the Royal Festival Hall, watching him on stage, was really something,’ said Stuart. ‘I know he’s my son but he really is very good and extremely knowledgeable.’
So has it gone to the head of the boy who wants to attend the Royal Northern College of Music when he finishes at Cardinal Newman College in Preston? ‘He’s just a normal lad, he plays squash and watches football. I do sometimes remind him that he also needs to concentrate on studying his maths and English but he’s very level-headed.’
Jake added: ‘Throw TV sets out of hotel bedrooms? I can’t afford to do that! And I certainly haven’t been asked for my autograph. A few people have recognised me from Guitar Star, which is cool.’
He’s too busy to be swayed by the attention. He has his own four piece band playing classic rock, he plays in an eight-piece at weddings and parties and, the ultimate compliment to his playing skills, he now teaches guitar at The Lost Chord, which is also the title of his band. When Lancashire Life talked to him, Jake was preparing to play three gigs in one night!
His next step is to learn the art of songwriting. ‘It’s something I’m struggling with but I’m determined to get there. My ambition is to make a career of being a professional performer with my own band.’
So just how noisy is it living with a guitarist, especially one who confesses that he does occasionally ‘whack it’? Stuart said: ‘The neighbours are very good and we’ve built him his own music room but I do sometimes have to tell him to knock it off at 10pm when I have to be at work at 6am.’
Potentially, there’s some bad news for the neighbours. ‘Jake needs a second instrument to get into college,’ said Stuart. ‘He’s bought himself a drum kit…’
Grandma on drums
As well as the guitar, Jake is a keen drummer and he used to practice in his grandma’s kitchen using her pots and pans. In fact, she used to join in. Gran died recently and the eulogy at the service referred to the fact that she was probably the only 82-year-old who knew all the words to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer!