The first time I heard Jayleigh Ann & the Lost Boys play, I was at the Holiday Crafts and Antiques Bazaar at Mighty Tieton. As I was walking through the crowds of holiday shoppers, I heard the most beautiful music coming from the next room. And when we rounded the corner and saw the stage, my eyes couldn’t believe my ears. The music was coming from three kids — all under the age of 16.
Jayleigh Ann & the Lost Boys became a band less than three years ago, but if you listen to them, you’d think they’ve been playing together their whole lives. Jayleigh Butler, 15, is the lead vocalist but also plays guitar, ukulele and the keyboard. Isaac Gambito, 15, sings, plays guitar, ukulele and keyboard, and his little brother Nico, 11, plays cajon, drums and ukulele. They play gigs almost every week and have booked over 200 shows — in Yakima and across the Northwest.
But these “kids” aren’t just talented musicians. They are honor students, athletes, mentors and are devoted to their families. Did I mention that they also have written over 25 original songs, 12 of which they are putting together for an album? Jayleigh, Isaac and Nico are an inspiration to kids and adults alike — and they aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Here’s a glimpse into their stories, in their own words. (Answers have been edited for length.)
How did you meet and begin playing together?
Isaac: “Nico and I met Jayleigh at Melody Lane Music Academy. We did not talk to each other much at first. In fact, I’m pretty sure she hated me and I was too shy too talk to her. But the day after I got a ukulele I brought it and she happened to know the words to the ONLY song I knew the chords to. We sat on a wall behind the school and sang. And that was it.”
When and where was your first gig? How did it bloom from there?
Isaac: “We started playing at the Yakima Farmer’s Market. It was pretty much just Jay and I at first, then Nico joined in with the cajon. Then, Jay came up with this idea to go to Paris to play in front of the Eiffel Tower. Our parents said if we earned enough money we could go. So, we figured out that if we played 120 times at like $50 each time, then we’d have enough money to go. The more we played, the better we got, and people began to pay us more than $50 per gig. We ended up earning enough money to go to Paris and we played in front of the Eiffel Tower just as we had wanted to.”
Who are your musical mentors?
Issac: “Deb Hardy is my vocal coach. She helps with more than just our voices. She helps guide us through life in music and life in a band. She taught us to take care of each other. The first time I met Cody Beebe, I looked up to him. He has supported us from the very beginning. He brought us into schools to talk to other students about music. And he let us play at Downtown Summer Nights and Chinook Fest. In May we are going to a play at a fundraiser in Everett for a project that buys instruments for kids that can’t afford them.”
Jayleigh: “At 6 years old, I began voice lessons with Debra Hardy, an amazing teacher that has brought me to where I am today as a singer. Growing up, my biggest inspiration was Hannah Montana. I was in love with the thought of someone who could walk among everyone they love and be completely normal, then go and play shows at night and inspire the world. She was my idol before I even knew real artists.”
Tell me about your upbringing and how it has affected your music.
Isaac: “Church is where I found my love for music. Right around the age of 5, I was asked to sing solos for church plays and I happily obliged. However, one of my first mentors in music was my Satus Elementary teacher, Mrs. Traub. She taught me the basics of music. I also learned to never give up. And it helps when my music conflicts with other things like my social life. I don’t get to do as many social things because of music. I wrestled this year and missed some tournaments that I really wanted to be at, but my team understood.”
Jayleigh: “My biological parents were in and out of jail when I was young, so for the first two years of my life, I was placed in and out of six foster homes, then back to my biological mom, them to my dad, then to my biological mom’s parents, until I was finally adopted by Hazel, the woman I call ‘Mom.’ My whole entire life has been based around music. Before I had even grown in my first set of teeth I could already hum a melody and stay in tune. Growing up, my mom would play music instead of having the TV on. Starting tap, jazz, and hip hop at 3 years old at Melody Lane Academy, I got used to rhythm and being in the moment of the music. I focused on my music all the way through elementary school into middle school, dealing with bullying every step of the way. Music is my therapy and if I had a bad day, I would just come home and play the piano and sing.”
Nico: “I started getting into music when I was 7. I began to bang on things anytime music came on and my dad began to notice — so he bought me a little drum called a cajon. After that, music just became a big part of my life.”
What have you learned?
Isaac: “To anyone trying to make it in music — don’t stop trying. Become part of the musical community. Yakima has the best one. Take risks. I meet so many people that are so talented, but they’re afraid to try for some reason. Just do it — you won’t regret it.”
Nico: “If something bad happens, use that as inspiration for the things you love. Sadness can’t drive away sadness — only happiness can do that.”
Jayleigh: “For only being 15, I am proud to say I don’t regret or want to change a single thing that has ever happened in my life. Everything has led me to where I am now and I don’t think I could be any happier than I am with Isaac and Nico.”