RICHMOND, Va. — Jake Nielsen doesn't sing in his car just because it's a great way to get away from the noise and three children in the house.
He believes the acoustics in his minivan and his SUV provide a sweet and proper background for his songs.
When he changed locations one day and recorded inside his home, the sound changed. The engineer mixing Nielsen's music noticed.
"What did you do different?" asked his friend. "The sound doesn't match."
So Nielsen has gone back to singing in his car and recording on his laptop in his garage.
"I think for recording purposes, it really did have a lot of the same properties (as a recording studio booth)," Nielsen said. "It's a blessing as I definitely couldn't have afforded the traditional studio."
Nielsen has just released his debut CD "Perspective" and hopes it's just the first of many.
At 40, the full-time piano teacher, part-time FedEx delivery man, member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, husband and father, is anxious to move ahead with his dream.
"I spent 15 years trying to make it with a band. Things kept coming up. People would leave. The band members would change. I just wanted to get these songs mixed and done and out there," Nielsen said.
"Perspective" was released mid-September and the reviews are positive. "You can hear echoes of Billy Joel, yet with a classical music style ramped up by a progressive rock injection; it's a vibrant interpretation," said Craig Hartranft, of the music review site dangerdog.com.
Steven Gizzi, with AudioIntimacy.wordpress.com, said Nielsen's music is "a unique blend of music that combines the complexity of progressive rock with more melodic singer/songwriter leanings," music that "captures the energy of contemporary and classic prog alike, and it combines it with meaningful Christian philosophies. The result is highly entertaining and passionate music."
"Jake surprised me with quality, originality, and some mad music skills...Jake Nielsen is a diamond and this album is a jewel," said Rick Dante, of the blog Danteprog.com.
The album is available on iTunes and Amazon and his website jakestunes.com.
Nielsen describes his music as progressive rock patterned loosely after the music of Billy Joel, a combination of keyboard and hard rock mixed with messages of truth and hope. He wants the world to hear his music but he doesn't want to live on the road.
"When I was 12, I heard and saw Billy Joel in concert," Nielsen said. "I had no doubt about what I wanted to do. Growing up in the (LDS) Church I knew I wanted to make music but not live the lifestyle of the road."
When he returned from serving a Mormon mission his desire intensified, but he married and has been busy raising three children. He recognizes they are his priority.
So Nielsen is trying to keep his bread-and-butter job, care for his family, fulfill church callings of organist in the Mechanicsville Ward and the Young Men president in the Richmond Virginia Stake, and makes his music. He's the principal of the Richmond School of Rock.
Someday he hopes to perform on limited tours and interest a record label in his music.
In the meantime, he's happy in the car, singing his songs.
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.