Jake Shimabukuro continues to take the ukulele to places it has never been, and with his forthcoming album he’s gone all the way to Nashville. Fusing together genres like jazz, blues, and classic rock-n-roll, Nashville Sessions is an adventurous album composed of all original tracks. KTUH’s Steve Stoddard, host of the show Something Blue, had Jake on this week for a short-and-sweet interview. Jake’s CD release party is this Friday, October 14th at the Republik from 8pm-10pm.
Steve Stoddard (SS): He’s been called the Jimi Hendrix of the Ukulele, and we have him here on the phone. Hey Jake! How’s it going?
Jake Shimabukuro (JS): How’s it going, thanks for having me on.
SS: It’s a real pleasure to have you on Jake. I love your new CD by the way. It’s a little different for you.
JS: Thanks man! It’s called Nashville Sessions. I went up to Nashville, because of all of the songwriters and musicians up there. We wanted to get inspired to write new material, and rented a studio for six days. Basically the album was the result of 6 days of writing and recording. It was such a great experience for me, and the first time I ever did that.
SS: It’s more spontaneous than some of your other stuff. In comparison, how long does it usually take you to record a studio album?
JS: You know, it depends. You could record an entire album in a day, but it just depends on how much time you want to put into it. And depending on your writing process and all that.
SS: So you’re not one of these (artists) who over dubs, and spends weeks or months in the studio.
JS: No, I mean, I’ve taken that approach before too, but its always different. I don’t know what the best way is. For me I want to get the experience of being there, and learning about the studio. The studio is an instrument in itself, and it takes a lifetime to master all the sounds. Its so interesting. But I kind of leave that to the engineers to do their thing.
SS: And you’re usually working with good ones like Milan Bertosa here in Honolulu.
JS: Oh yeah, Milan is great. I’m very fortunate to work with him. We have such a great pool of engineers and producers and great musicians (here in Hawai’i). We’re so lucky to have all of that in Hawaii!
SS: There really is a lot of talent out here. Tomorrow at the Republik is your CD release party! Do you have any special guest; are you going to play the entire CD?
JS: Yeah, we’re pretty much doing the whole record tomorrow night. It’s going to be over at the Republik, and its my first time playing at the Republik so I’m very excited because its different. Normally my shows are theater type shows, so everyone’s seated and it’s very quiet. But this is nice, because … there’s a full bar and kitchen which is different from my normal concert where you just sit there and watch for two hours without moving. I think it’ll be a nice change.
I wanted to do that, because when I first started performing in Hawai’i, I played in little coffee shops or in restaurants, I used to play at Chai’s Island Bistro all the time. Or the willows restaurant, and that’s where I got my start. I kind of want to bring that very casual vibe back to the show. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun! Looking forward to it. Of course I love the theater type venues as well, but it’s nice to change it up every once in a while.
SS: That’s why you have such a great weekend planned! you not only have this show, but you have a show in the Hawai’i theater.
JS: Its going to be a packed theater. We’re doing the Republik on Friday… and then on Sunday I’ll be playing over at the Hawai’i Theater, but that one is part of a concert series. And we’re there to celebrate the centennial year of Kamaka Ukulele from Hawai’i.
SS: So you’re not the focus on Sunday, but you’re certainly going to be playing there and so are a lot of other talented ukulele players from what i understand.
JS: It’s going to be a night of great music. We’ll be celebrating the greatest manufacture of ukuleles—
SS: And you of course play Kamaka’s?
JS: Yes, I’ve been playing their instruments my whole life. In fact when I first started playing at the age of four, my first ukulele was a Kamaka that my mom had when she was a teenager! Now they’re so expensive, but back when my mom was a teenager you could buy them over at the ABC store for 20 bucks.
SS: Wow, times have changed. We just heard Hemiola Blues from your CD. Do you have anything to say about that song? Anything in particular you’d like to share.
JS: Well that’s the shortest song on the record. Its just an introduction to the album, because I thought it show cased the ukulele. The technique that’s used in that one is a very specific technique, its a pick and pull technique, and its how you get this triple pattern. Because this album is so different—its a lot of electric ukulele—I wanted to make sure that with the first song people knew it was an ukulele album. With the last song, called Kilauea, which was inspired by Van Halen’s Eruption, there’s a lot of electric ukulele on there. If you listen to that, and didn’t know it was an ukulele, you would think it was a guitar.
SS: Yeah, and with the effects, you would never know.
JB: Right! Growing up in Hawai’i my influences were traditional Hawaiian musicians, people like Eddie Kamae, Sons of Hawai’i, Peter Moon, Kaʻau Crater Boys—those were my influences. Guy and I used to be in a band together called Colón back in the day. He was one of my favorite singers! When I was playing with Guy, and Lopaka in that band Colón, that’s when I started experiment with effects, distortion and all of that. Because Guy cruise loved rock-n-roll, he loved when I would use different effect on the ukulele to bring that sound out.
So a lot of this album came out of that. I grew up listening to Hendrix, Halen, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, John Cipriani—outside of Hawaiian music—all those players. Those were my influence. Hopefully people will be able to hear those influences with this album.
SS: So is this a change in direction or is this just a detour?
JS: I think it’s a little bit of both. Of course (at the republic) i’ll be doing the whole album with a little bit of acoustic stuff.
SS: Will you have the same band as the album?
JS: Yeah, I’ll have the same bass player, his name is Nolan Verner, he’s from Nashville. He played on the record… and the drummer on the album Evan Hutchins, couldn’t make it out for this event. We’re going to be just bass and ukulele. My whole family is coming out to the show. I always get nervous when friends come out to shows!
SS: We’ll thanks for your time Jake, I know your a busy man.
JS: And thank you. I always appreciate your time and support. Its always a pleasure to be here, and to play at home. There’s no place like Hawai’i for sure.
SS: Why don’t you go ahead and introduce the next song i’m going to be playing called 6/8.
JS: Sure, this is probably the longest song on this record. It starts out in the time signature 6/8 and it moves around a lot. I love jam bands like the Grateful Dead, Phish, all those bands. And this song is kind of a tribute to that, because in the middle section we go into this long extended jam session.
SS: Well I think its a great introduction to your music for all our listeners out there. Thanks so much for you time, and well see you at your show tomorrow!
JS: Yeah, looking forward to a wonderful weekend!
SS: Alright, aloha!