While many would consider the ukulele to be a beachside campfire staple, and/or a sonic tool for touristy gimmick, Jake Shimabukuro, however, sees it as his four-stringed form of artistic expression. Since gaining his earliest worldwide recognition through viral videos of himself covering classic songs on YouTube, the Hawaiian-born musician has revolutionized the utility of the small instrument, and in doing so, has won a slew of notable awards along the way, two of which being Grammys for his collaborative work.
In support of his latest full-length release, Grand Ukulele, which was produced by a fine fellow named Alan Parsons, Jake and his uke stopped by the Baeble backyard to strum through a few of his wondrous new songs. With a beautiful, bamboo backdrop (complements of our trusty gardener), Shimabukuro, proved to us why the world would be a much happier place if everyone played a ukulele.
- I love the city. I love New York City. The energy here is amazing and the people are very inspiring. You know, I love the pace of life here. My ukulele touring career really started here so coming back to New York City, after all of that, really means a lot. It's a very special place. - I have a brand new CD out. It's called Grand Ukulele and I'm just very excited about this project because it was produced by one of my heroes, the great Alan Parsons. Alan Parsons who worked with The Beatles, did Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon so it was just a tremendous honor to work with him in the studio. And I got to tell you, he brought in an amazing cast of musicians. People like Kip Winger, Simon Phillips, Randy Tico. He even brought in a 30-piece orchestra because he's Alan Parsons. He can do that, right? But the coolest thing about this album, and I think it's probably what Alan and I are most proud of is there are no overdubs on this record. Everything was recorded live. I mean, even when we played with the orchestra, we were all in the same room and we all played together. They were all live takes and so that was a lot of fun. That was such a... It's rare that you get that kind of opportunity so it was really fantastic. - One of the things I love about the ukulele is that everyone has their own take on it. For some people, when you mention the ukulele to them, they think of Tiny Tim and Tiptoe Through the Tulips, which to me, is great. I mean, that's a big part of the ukulele's history and that's a big part of the culture. And then for some people, it's like Israel's Over the Rainbow or for some people, it's like Don Ho singing Tiny Bubbles or Elvis Presley and one of his movies. For some people, it's George Harrison and I think that's great. I mean, the ukulele is definitely branching out to different genres of music and it's lending itself, I think, great. I mean, in pop and rock music, which is kind of new. It's fresh. But the most important thing to me is whenever I'm doing a concert or a show, I just want the audience to walk away smiling. I just want them to walk away feeling good. I mean, for me, I'm having so much fun when I'm on stage and playing. I want that positive energy to . . . I want it to be infectious. I want people to feel what I'm feeling and I think, so far, it has been fun. I hope it's fun for the audience because I'm having the time of my life when I'm on stage.
In his young career, ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro has already redefined a heretofore under-the-radar instrument, been declared a musical hero by Rolling Stone, won accolades from the disparate likes of Eddie Vedder, Perez Hilton and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, wowed audiences on TV (Jimmy Kimmel, Conan), earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, and even played in front of the Queen of England.
With his new record Grand Ukulele, Shimabukuros star may burn even brighter.
An ambitious follow-up to 2011s Peace, Love, Ukulele (which debuted at #1 on the Billboard World Charts), the Hawaiian musicians new record finds him collaborating with legendary producer/engineer Alan Parsons, best known for his work on Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon, The Beatles Abbey Road and his own highly successful solo project. It was very organic how it happened, says Shimabukuro (she-ma-boo-koo-row). He attended a couple of my shows near where he lives in Santa Barbara and the concert promoter put us in touch. I was stunned. I mean, THE Alan Parsons? We ended up having dinner before the show and he casually mentioned the idea of possibly working together on a project. It was a priceless opportunity I didnt want to pass up hes a genius.
Parsons ended up helping Shimabukuro expand his sound, bringing in a 29-piece orchestra and a big-name rhythm section, including drummer Simon Phillips (The Who, Toto), session superstar bassist Randy Tico and Kip Winger (Winger, Alice Cooper), who helped with the orchestration.
The best thing was that, even with all those people, we recorded everything live with no overdubs, says Shimabukuro. It was great, tracking live with an orchestra and a rhythm section. We picked up on each others subtle emotional cues you could feel everyone breathing together. It was like the old days of recording when everyone tracked together theres a certain magic that happens.