Jamming with Jared

Aggie turns pandemic boredom into online sensation
Graphic of Jared Shult on TikTok
Graphic of Jared Shult on TikTok
Pranay Dhoopar

Jared Shult was never interested in music. But in 2020, when millions of people boarded up in their homes and rooms, he said that all changed after he found his grandpa’s old guitar on their family ranch.

Jumping in head first, Shult said he dusted off the guitar and dedicated empty time from quarantine to learning every day. It didn’t take him long to buy his own Yamaha, graduating two years later to a Taylor.

Now, roughly four years since the beginning, the Texas A&M communication junior finds himself and his music a TikTok sensation. Currently standing at over 233K followers on TikTok and 27K on Instagram, Shult said his socials catapulted his recognition over a short period of time. Shult started going live on TikTok in summer 2023, mostly for his own practice as well as to connect with people through song requests and feedback.

“I think my consistency of playing on those livestreams on TikTok really helped me gain the confidence to play actual gigs,” Shult said. “If you’re playing in your room by yourself, it’s kind of hard to tell, ‘Okay, am I actually good? Am I actually bad?’ whatever. It’s hard to gauge that, but when you have consistent viewership and they give you honest feedback … it’s like, ‘Maybe I’m not terrible.’”

Shult can be found Thursday nights hosting The Backyard’s open mic night. He said the idea started after previously doing marketing for the owner’s different business, Burger Mojo.

“They had the idea since I do music stuff and have a social media platform that we kind of combine that, and I can get people to come for an open mic night,” Shult said. “It’s not all about my own talent or what I can do musically, but also about my ability to get other people to show up and other people to come play and connect and create this whole environment.”

Shult has opened for several artists, including Jackson Randolph and Mike Call. Since opening for someone is different from his typical open mic nights, Shult said reading the audience is essential to keep them entertained and engaged in order to create a good environment. To do this, he usually avoids original songs and puts his all into requests or covers of his musical inspirations.

“I play a variety of genres, including some folk and pop, Noah Kahan, Caamp, even some Harry Styles,” Shult said. “I think my style of music suits with country and folk style the most but can also fit well with any singer-songwriter-type genre. I have recently added harmonica to my list of instruments I play; I am still learning, but it has been a lot of fun.”

When accepting requests, something that gives him peace of mind is a phone holder, which he uses so he doesn’t forget lines or a chord progression.

“Some people are critical; they think that you have to memorize everything in order to be a performer,” Shult said. “Sometimes even the biggest artists forget lyrics … I have to remind myself that even in my mind, I’m my biggest critic and so if I notice something that I did wrong, chances are most other people didn’t notice it so I just have to stay confident and roll through it even if it’s not exactly how I expected it to be.”

As he navigates his confidence and nerves, Shult said he also faces harsh critics online. Although he values feedback, he’s careful with what to take personally, trying to avoid biased opinions.

“The fact that I’ve gone from never playing four years ago to performing weekly on Northgate, I feel like for me right now, that’s something I can sit back and be proud of,” Shult said. “I can kind of lean back on that when I do see hate coming from people, it’s like, ‘Hey, they don’t know me, they don’t know my full story.’”

Shult is currently working on original music; he said he has about four or five songs written that he feels confident about but is taking his time to put out something worthy and exactly how he wants it. Despite his current online momentum, he is still hesitant on how this might pan out into a permanent career.

“It’s different for everybody,” Shult said. “A lot of the people I know that show up to play, music is their whole thing … They make other sacrifices to go after music. For me, I also value a lot of other things in my life, so it’s kind of a balance of something I’m trying to figure out right now is, ‘What do I love doing the most?’ That’s been the biggest hindrance to me writing more original music, has been my commitment to other stuff and also allowing myself to rest, because I struggle to do that.”

At 20 years old, Shult said he tries to be self-aware when it comes to turning a hobby into a career. His parents are supportive of his journey but see him doing stuff beyond music as well. He’s still figuring out exactly what he wants to do with it.

“Right now, I’m kind of in this discovery period of figuring out, ‘What do I value the most? Is music the thing that I want to do above everything else? Or is it something that I just want to keep on the side?’” Shult said. “I do believe if I put all my effort into it, I could make it somewhere with it, but it just depends on what I want and how much time I’m willing to put into it.”

Despite his newfound audience, Shult still sees music the same way he always has: something he does for himself. He said it’s helped him go after his ambitions regardless of others’ opinions. And, whether Shult decides to pursue music or not, he plans on playing guitar and singing for the rest of his life.

“I think it’s made me more enthusiastic about playing because it was fully my decision,” Shult said. “I take more pride in it because it was fully me.”

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  • J

    Jared ShultMar 28, 2024 at 8:14 am

    Thank you for the interview! Loved talking with you Theresa!