Refresh, refresh, refresh.
Every three minutes, senior Charlie Jensen refreshed the search for himself on iTunes. Nothing appeared but mass murderer Charles Manson’s beading eyes staring straight through the screen of his iPhone.
“Will people be creeped out when they see my name next to someone who killed nine people?” Jensen thought to himself.
Jensen’s lifelong focus on music – singing in his church’s choir, performing in school musicals, playing the piano in talent shows and entertaining a crowd with his band, known as the Rivets – was pivotal in guiding him to his goal of publishing his music on iTunes.
“Charlie was surrounded by music at an early age because his older siblings were all participating in piano lessons and we played all kinds of music at home,” said Charlie’s mom, Shelle Jensen. “I always exposed our children to music, from the KC Symphony to Theatre in the Park.”
Jensen never entertained the thought of a music career until his family took a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. Each night, Tom O’Hara, their tour guide, played his Irish folk music with his guitar before the sun set. Jensen sat back, gazing up at the stars by the river, listening to the strum of his guitar – it hit him. He realized he wanted to be able to play more than just “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz on a guitar. He envied Tom’s ability to play for hours from memory.
As soon as Jensen got home from the trip, he purchased a guitar with a rosewood neck and maple body. It was the guitar he intended to start his career with.
“I started by being a Potbelly’s employee, and playing on Sunday afternoons at the Plaza,” Jensen said. “Then I played on the street at the Plaza Art Fair, and a guy stopped by, took my card and called me the next day. Turns out he’s a booking agent that now helps me get gigs.”
Jensen’s booking agent, Chad Bourquin, provides him with jobs at wineries, private parties and wedding ceremonies. Yet, Jensen still plays at Potbelly’s on the weekends for extra exposure.
With this limelight, Jensen finds peace writing his 37 songs alone on his roof; a place he knows he will be free of distractions to focus on himself, thoughts and music. He scratches down lyrics only to erase them and start over, eventually ending with a song he is passionate about.
After performing his music at various places, Jensen decided it was time to take his career to the next level: he needed to get his music to iTunes, Spotify and other music websites.
Last February, he and his parents took a weekend trip to Nashville, Tenn. to artist and family friend Sheryl Crow’s professional studio with a professional technician. He recorded two songs: “Call on You” and “California Gone”, which has been played 5,684 times on Soundcloud.
Crow was very honest and patient with Jensen. She made him repeat verse after verse to achieve a natural flow in his music. Once Jensen and Crow both felt that they were perfect, it was time for iTunes.
“[Crow] really helped me get the feel that I was going for and made sure it wasn’t too perfect either,” Jensen said. “I was intimidated to be there because it was where great artists like Keith Urban has been. I didn’t want to screw it up.”
Jensen first chose an aggregator, a third-party website for music distribution, to get his music onto iTunes. He picked tunecore.com and paid $10 for each song to be distributed. Tunecore then sent Jensen’s music to different music hosting websites from iTunes to Spotify to Amazon Music to Pandora and so on. His music was on iTunes four days after the approval process.
“It was a very surreal moment to actually see my face up on iTunes, and I was very anxious waiting for it to happen,” Jensen said.
Charlie is hoping to gain lots of support from the public in months to come. His two songs first were priced at 99 cents per song, then, due to popularity, went up to $1.29. Jensen receives 95 cents and iTunes gets the rest. He is counting down the days until the first week in January when he will see what his sales’ report will be for the month of November.
“iTunes is a wonderful opportunity for Charlie to share his songs to people who are interested,” said Charlie’s dad, Dan Jensen. “It is a great way for him to pursue his passion.”
Currently, Jensen is working on recording more songs individually, as well as recording a live album with the Rivets. Bourquin is working on getting them a gig at the Record Bar in Westport.
Jensen plans on carrying his career over in college, where he will be attending the University of Missouri. There will be many opportunities for him to play at bars or small coffee shops on campus.
“My goal is to stay connected with the kids I am no
w and get more songs on iTunes,” Jensen said. “But I am hopeful that I will meet new people to play with at Mizzou.”