A talented Mexico High School graduate will perform in the Tanya Tucker band with Brandi Carlile Thursday on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" on NBC.

Jake Clayton, a recording artist in his own right, first picked up a violin in 2000 when he was 14 years old. Despite learning the instrument later, when compared to other young musicians, he quickly adapted at near prodigious levels. He later learned other instruments like the banjo and steel guitar.

"Garth Brooks was a huge inspiration,” Clayton said. “He had his TV specials back then. I didn't want to be Garth Brooks, I wanted to be his fiddle player.”

Clayton has five albums available. The most recent, "Show-Me State of Mind,” is a tribute to his home state and father, Jack.

Clayton said he has a natural ability to pick up new instruments and has learned to play 30 stringed and keyed instruments. "If it has strings or keys, I will play it," Clayton said.

He learned the logistics of a dobro slide guitar, an acoustic guitar with a metal resonating plate, in about 10 minutes, because the band he was performing with wanted to do a cover of "Harper Valley PTA," which required a dobro.

"That became a challenge every week," Clayton said. "They'd pick a song that had a different instrument, they'd bring that instrument to the show, give it to me and by show time, I'd play that instrument for the show."

But when Clayton has time and advanced notice, he likes to learn everything about what he is playing. "When I pick up an instrument, I learn it from front to back," he said.

He first started working in Nashville in 2006, moving there permanently in 2008. He has played on the Grand Ole Opry Stage more than 50 times and has played in Madison Square Garden in New York. While a majority of his career has been working with country musicians, like Tucker or Brad Paisley, he also has performed in an orchestral setting on the cello, violin or viola.

He also does the music for a variety of fishing programs on the cable and satellite Sportsman Channel.

He is just starting to get into performing music for movie scores, including a documentary about the return of Tanya Tucker as a recording artist, who on Aug. 23 released her first album of original music in 17 years, "While I'm Livin'." The album debuted at No. 68 in the Billboard Top 200 and in the Top 10 for country music. She released an album of country music song covers 10 years ago. Tracks featuring Clayton are exclusively available on the album sold at Target stores. The documentary will be released either later this year or early next year, he said.

"I've worked for Tanya since 2007 when I moved down to Nashville. I met her through the Oak Ridge Boys. I was the fiddle and steel guitar player for the Oak Ridge Boys," Clayton said.

Tucker is a living legend, he said, adding she has perfect pitch and immaculate timing every performance. "You never see her falter. She's perfect," Clayton said.

Even though a majority of the music Clayton plays is country, sometimes with a rock edge, and Americana, he wouldn't say that his passion is solely for those genres. He is an overall music lover.

"I play so many instruments for that particular reason,” he said. “If country was really my only passion, I'd play six to seven instruments. So, for me, music in general, I don't care what it is, from classical to Hawaiian, hip-hop. I really do not care. I just love music so much.”

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com