Archive | August, 2018

Jake Shimabukuro Interview – The Greatest Day

Nick Cody: Hi Jake,it’s so great you have a new album coming out.So the first question is,- there’s a big range of songs on the album. How did you decide which songs to actually include in the end?

Jake Shimabukuro: Well, with this album we wanted to include some covers, because the previous album was all original material. So we tried to write a little bit, but we also wanted to try some recognisable tunes … I remember early on  we were talking about covering tunes as I know “Time of the Season” was one that was on this. And we were talking about covering  Hendrix too. But we weren’t sure which one at that moment. We also talked about “Little Wing”. My all time favourite was “If 6 Was 9”. So that’s why we did a little mashup of “If 6 Was 9” with the Little Wing guitar solo at the end.

Jake Shimabukuro: And then, yeah,  we just tried writing and coming up with some ideas. And Nolan and I got to spend a lot of time on the road, writing together and putting ideas together. So we started a lot more prepared when we went into this together this time around. And that was kind of the intention,we wanted to at least have a majority of the material ready before going into the studio.

Nick Cody: And how did you happen to be working with Jerry Douglas?

Jake Shimabukuro: Oh man. Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of his. And my manager Van new Jerry from before. And also the producer of the record, R.S. Field, he also produced the Nashville Sessions record. I think Jerry is married to his cousin, or sister. I think he’s married to his cousin. So yes, I did. They’re sort of related, too. So I know that he had also mentioned to Jerry that we would love to have him on the new record as a special guest.

Nick Cody: And I read that you were originally going to do one track, but you ended up doing three!

JakeShimabukuro: Yeah. It was only supposed to be one track. But I think he had a lot of fun and enjoyed himself. So after we did the first track, then he kind of- I guess- looked at us and was like, “You guys want me on anything else?” And we’re like, “Yeah sure.” And then after that, “Another one?” It’s like “yeah!”. So it was really awesome. We were so honoured that he stuck around for so long. And stayed in the studio. It was just so generous of his time.
It’s was really a great experience playing with him.

Nick Cody: The tracks sound absolutely phenomenal. When Van told me, he says, “Oh, and Jerry Douglas is playing on this,” I thought, “What?!!!” Because I’m a big fan of his stuff with Allison Krauss.

Jake Shimabukuro: Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah. That was my first time getting to play with him. And it was just so much fun because we did everything live. Everything was tracked live. So just Jerry, Nolan Verner on bass, Evan Hutchings on drums. And that was it. Yeah, we just did a couple takes of each tune, and picked the best one out of the several.

Nick Cody: Wow. And not only have you been playing with Jerry Douglas, but also Warren Haynes as well, at the Xmas jam.

Jake Shimabukuro: Yeah, that was another great experience being able to collaborate with him. He’s an incredible guitar player. He’s just the nicest guy as well. That was this past December actually. It was such a great show. We got invited to play that the year before, but it just didn’t work out the schedule.

Our schedules didn’t jive with that. But yeah, when he invited us again, we were like oh yeah, we couldn’t miss it the second time around. And I’m so glad I went there because getting to play with Warren and some of the other musicians out there was just a tremendous experience.

Nick Cody: Well, his shows are the best of the best of the best.

JakeShimabukuro: Yeah, they are.

Nick Cody: Do you think you might record one day with Warren? That would be something to hear.

Jake Shimabukuro: Oh, yeah. Oh, that would be. Yeah. Would love to do that. We’re actually working on a duets record right now. So I’m getting pretty excited about that. Got a few tracks already recorded. And a few to work with. It’s going to take about 18 months to put this stuff together with everything’s schedule and all that. But yeah, it’s not far off to a good start.

Nick Cody: Wow!

Jake Shimabukuro: So that’d be great to get Warren out there as well.

Nick Cody: I was looking at a YouTube clip where you were talking about different pedals. And how some pedals respond very differently because they may be great with a guitar, but they’re not necessarily with a Uke. Because obviously, it’s a Piezo, it’s a different whole set up. Have you found any new pedals since the Nashville album? Or are you pretty much staying with what you’ve had so far?

Jake Shimabukuro: Oh, yeah. No, it’s changed drastically from the last time. But yeah, it’s always just experimenting and trying new things. And I think recently, some of the things that I’m just throwing out there, I’ve got this electro-harmonics thing. It’s a freeze pedal. That is so much fun to use. And yeah. On this run, I don’t have it on my board though. But I have had it on my board the beginning of the year. And it’s just been so much fun using that. And what else? I got a new reverb pedal up there. I’m still using that JAM pedals, the Delay Llama. Still my favourite delay pedal. And let’s see, what else? I’m trying to think if I have anything else new. I set up the pause. Still using the Jam pedals from my overdrive, distortions out.

Nick Cody: Have you come across the Dude pedal, the Rocket Dude pedal which is like the Dumble set?

Jake Shimabukuro: Yeah. I haven’t tried it. But I’ve heard a couple of demos on it. And yeah, those are pretty cool. You know which one I’ve also been looking at  … Oh, what do they call it? That really freaky pedal that Game Changer Audio just came out with. It’s like a lightning rod, so you’ve got to make sure it creates that distortion sound. I’ve been wanting to try that, it’s pretty wicked.

Nick Cody: Well it’s interesting you say the freeze pedal because my friend in New York who knows Bill Frisell really well said, “Bill said, this pedal will change your life.”

Jake Shimabukuro:  It has. It’s really helped us in so many new ideas. It’s a different tone, different … Yeah, it’s just an awesome, awesome tool, I think

Nick Cody: Wow. A friend of mine in Georgia, Alan Thornton asked me this question to ask you. He said that years ago you said that the right thumb was really important in playing. How has this developed with your playing over the years?

Jake  Shimabukuro: Yeah, the thumb has always been a key part to my playing because your thumb has the thickest and the largest nail. So you’re able to, I think to reach the fattest tone out of your thumb. It’s like using a really thick pick, right? So you get a really big sound.

Whenever I play a melody, or play something, as much as possible, I like to use my thumb. Just because I can get the tone that I want.

nick Cody: Yeah.


Jake Shimabukuro: But obviously the are tines when you need to use your other fingers to play different things, whether it’s a string skipping thing, or if it’s just a really fast quick passage. And can’t just use one finger. You have to compromise the other fingers. But the thumb has always given me the tone that I like, and I’ve been trying to work on the other fingers to get a fatter sound. But yeah, it’s never ever going to be as fat as the thumb.

Nick Cody: Yeah. … Do you have a favourite track on the new album? There’s a big, there’s a really nice diversity of material on it. Is there a particular favourite that you have on it?

Jake Shimabukuro: I don’t know if I have a favourite. But I think with a lot of the tracks, there are certain things that I really like about it. Like I really like the tone of the ukulele on Time of the Season, the opening track. And especially the distortion sound of the ukulele. I thought it just had such a great colour to it. Yeah, I think it’s one of the better … It’s one of the best … This album captured some of the best overtures of sounds that I ever recorded. And I was really happy with that. And I think just some of the tones that we’re able to hone in on sounds great. I really love the way the bass and the drums sound. They just sound so big, and so live.

And I think some of the original pieces of the album turned out pretty cool. Like “Double Pangram”, Nolan and I had written that one together. And I think the idea for that one was based on the chromatic scale. So it’s a song that utilises 12 tones of the western scale. So I thought “Pangram” it’s something that uses all the letters of the alphabet. It’s good to have a cool title for the song, it uses all 12 tones. And then the “Straight Heat”one, I really like the way that one turned out. The idea for that one was kind of like you know the Joe Beam song “One Note Samba”?

Nick Cody: Yeah, yeah.

Jake Shimabukuro: I always thought that was so cool how the melody could be a single note. But it’s very interesting because the way the harmony changes around it, even though it’s the same note but at a section, because the harmony’s changing in all these different ways. It makes the sustained melodic note very interesting because it’s always functioning at the different interval, every time the chords change. So I thought it would be cool to write a piece lie that, and that’s another one that Nolan and I wrote together. And the idea was if I were to have someone jam along to that song with us, I could just tell them to just play the A note throughout the entire song, and they would be contributing to the piece. You know?

Nick Cody: Yeah.

Jake Shimabukuro: So I went through all the different key changes, and all of the different signs, the whole chord progression like the A is always present. And it’s always functioning. Maybe, in the beginning, it’s functioning as a root, and then it functions at the fifth, and then functions at the thirds

You know it just … F Sharp 11, then the 9. It just keeps changing throughout the piece. I thought that was a cool concept. Especially with the ukulele, the A string, that first string, is always so prominent in your voice.

So I just thought it was cool to move the second, third, and fourth string around it, just keeping that A open throughout the whole piece.

Nick Cody: When I had some of the mixes in Van’s basement, he has the history of box sets and music from A to Zed there. You know?

Jake Shimabukuro: Yeah.

Nick Cody: So it’s like he has everything. And I was blown away by the tracks. I think they were still being mastered at that point. And they sound absolute … The production is first class on the album. It’s really, really good.

Jake Shimabukuro: Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, we really had a lot of fun working on this record. And I can’t believe it’s only coming out now. It’s just like we recorded this years ago. But yeah, I’m glad that it’s finally coming out. But yeah, we’re just being on tour, playing all the new songs from the upcoming record. Just it’s been a lot of fun playing these live. But yeah, we just can’t wait to back into the recording studio. We’re ready to start working on the next one, and this one’s not even out yet.

Nick Cody: Oh, when you’re writing yourself do you have a … when you’re writing original material, do you have a particular way of going about that?

Jake Shimabukuro: Not really. Gosh, sometimes it’s just sitting with the ukulele and just playing for an hour or two. And then you’ll come across something that, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” It just brings up some ideas, then you just start working on it then. But I love it, Nolan and I have been writing a lot together and that’s been a lot of fun because it’s so great to have someone to just bounce ideas off of. And he can suggest things like, “Oh, we need to get this.” And I’m like, “Ah, that’s cool.” And that’ll inspire me to try and come up with a part to match what he’s doing. And so it’s really nice to have people to write with.

Jake Shimabukuro: And Dave Preston, whose out with us now, the guitar player, he’s just so creative. And it’s really good shit, you know Nolan and Dave are such great musicians. I’m so lucky to have these guys. But yeah, we’ve been talking about the three of us just coming up with new stuff. And writing things together as a trio. So I think on the next record, there’s going to be some … We’re just going to take it a whole different direction. Do something very different from the last two records. I’m looking forward to it.

Nick Cody: What I find is impressive is that you all continually developing and moving things forward. So it’s not like the same thing but slightly different. “Nashville” was very, very different. And I think when people hear the new album, and when they hear “If 6 Was 9”, minds will be blown.

Jake Shimabukuro: Oh good. I’m happy to hear that. And yeah, thanks for taking the time to listen. I really appreciate it.

Nick Cody: You’ve often cited Jeff Beck and Eddie VanHalen as influences. Have you ever been tempted to move across to the guitar at any point?

Jake Shimabukuro: No. Never had any desire to play the guitar. It’s always been the ukulele.

Nick Cody: Well, I thank you, and certainly from al the people I know for your continued development, enthusiasm, and really taking the ukulele to a different place. And showing people possibilities that most people have never, ever thought about.

Jake Shimabukuro: Thank you. I really appreciate it. And yeah, I don’t know, I’m just a big fan of the instrument. And I just love that so many people are … I just come across so many people who play it. And they share stories with me about the instrument that has transformed their lives. And it just brought them so much joy. And I love hearing things like that because that’s exactly what the ukulele does for me. And how being able to just play it all the time, and share it with people is really a dream come true. We just love doing this. And just have so much fun every night, on stage and off stage. And just constantly talking about music. Coming up with new ideas. Just trying out these things on stage in front of an audience. And it’s just a dream come true.

Nick Cody: Are you going to be over in the UK again at any point?

Jake Shimabukuro: Yeah, well we hope so. I know we’ve talked a couple times. We hope to get back there because we really had a blast the last time. So yeah, I think we’re trying to plan something for next year.

Nick Cody: Well, that would be great to meet up when you come over. It’s always an absolute pleasure to talk to you,

Jake Shimabukuro And it’s a delight to talk to you and Van.

Nick Cody :And thank you for all the work that you’re doing because it just moves the listening and the instrument to a much bigger audience. And that can only be a good thing.

Jake Shimabukuro: Thank you. I appreciate that. Thanks so much. Thanks for your time. And thanks for the support. And really hope to get back to the UK again very soon.

Nick Cody: Great, well listen, I’m going to get this interview up in the next week or so. And I’ve done a review of the album, which I think is just great as well. And I wish you all the best, you guys on the road. And take care of yourselves.

Jake Shimabukuro: Okay. Sounds great. All right, Nick, I appreciate it. You take care, and we’ll talk soon.

Nick Cody: Will do. Take care bye.

Jake Shimabukuro: Okay, aloha. Bye.


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For more information on Jake Shimabukuro, contact Erin Cook ( and Ryan Romenesko (, Jensen Communications, 626.585.9575



The Case Against Contests by Mike Turner

One of the “opportunities” that the Internet and social media sites have made available to songwriters as never before, is the songwriting competition. Some believe as Enzo Ferrari (the noted Italian carmaker) said, “Competition improves the breed” – that we as individual songwriters, and song in general, will become “better” through competition.

   Others – and this is the camp I’m in – believe that, as an artistic means of expression and communication, songwriting doesn’t lend itself to a competitive evaluation of which is “best;” and that most songwriting contests do little if anything to improve one’s technical craft. Let me explain why.

  The difference between Senior Ferrari’s field, and ours, has to do with the criteria used for judging. In the auto world (and I grew up in Detroit, and worked closely for years with the automotive industry, so I’ve had some exposure to the auto industry), and particularly in racing, there are objective criteria which can be used to measure and compare vehicle performance: which car is capable of the highest speed? Which crosses the finish line first? Which stops in the shortest distance? Which car sells the most units? These and similar objective criteria can be used to compare one car to another and determine which car is the “best” or is the “winner.”

  In the music world, there are objective criteria as well – but they tend to lend themselves to performance, versus the creative act of songwriting. For example, between two trumpet players, who hit a given note more cleanly? Who better keeps time over the course of a given piece? Again, objective criteria, as in, “The tempo is 80 beats per minute – who better achieve that timing over the course of the four-minute piece?”

  But in matters of artistic creation, objective criteria tend to fall away. Let’s think about cars again – which is more beautiful, a 1986 Ferrari or a 1936 Packard? Different, cars, different styling cues – and two different people can give two diametrically-opposed answers to the question of “prettier” based on their own tastes, judging criteria, etc

  The same for a song – each listener hears and interprets a song through the lens of their own musical tastes and experience, to determine if they “like” a song or not.

  There are of course some technical, “craft” considerations that we as writers may evaluate a song against – say, in structure, or in the avoidance of forced rhyme, or in the creation of a storytelling arc. We certainly employ those criteria when critiquing an individual song – but that’s to compare an individual song to those craft criteria, not to judge whether one song does so better than another. And of course, the average, non-writer listener doesn’t look to these craft criteria in judging whether they “like” a given song.

  In the case of songwriting contests, while judges may to a degree use some craft criteria in evaluating a song (certainly, they’ll mark down a song that evidences poor craft, such as inconsistent structure, forced or cliched rhyme, etc.), how can one then say whether one song or another made “better” use of craft? That one tells its story “better” than another? The criteria become far too subjective to carry meaning.

  And here’s my real rub with songwriting contests (and, yes, in earlier days I’ve entered a few): other than “winning,” there’s virtually no feedback to the writer on what the judges found “good” or “bad” about their song. Even if one wins or places (and, yes, I have), there’s no feedback as to “why” one did so.

  How can a writer, or songwriting in general, improve through competition, if we’re not told what the judging criteria were, or how we stacked up against those criteria? If I win a competition, does that mean that I should write all my future songs in the same way as my “winner”? The next judge in the next contest may look at the exact same song as my winner, or my future clones, and subjectively judge that this one isn’t a winner.

  Note that I’m making a distinction between contests, and peer review (as we find in some FaceBook groups, or songwriter associations). Peer review can provide meaningful feedback on songwriting craft – chiefly because (a) the criteria are somewhat objective and established (structure, rhyming patterns, etc); (b) individual songs are evaluated against the criteria, not against one another; and (c) the writer gets actual feedback from the critiques, not simply a “win/lose” notification.


   Two final points: first, many songwriting contests are actually “singer/songwriter” contests – decisions are based not just on the song, but on its performance and even sometimes on the technical production of the audio/video recording used as an entry. So, from a writer’s perspective, some judging may have nothing to do with the quality of the song itself.


   And, particularly in the FaceBook world, more and more “contests” are starting to be based on votes – which means that “winning” may be a factor of how many family and friends (and even yourself!) cast votes (repeatedly), not necessarily on the merits of the song itself.

   In my view, the music world is already competitive enough, particularly if one is in the business end of album sales, gigging, touring, etc. That’s a tough enough row to hoe. Artificially creating more competition, through songwriting contests that don’t provide any meaningful feedback to help writers grow their craft, isn’t in my mind an effective way of developing as a songwriter.

  Others, of course, may disagree – and there’s room enough in the tent for all of us. But I would suggest that, if one is interested in growing their songwriting craft, there are better ways – participating in peer reviews and critiques; studying other writers’ works; and writing, writing and writing – of doing so.