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.


Jake Shimabukuro Tour Dates: http://www.jakeshimabukuro.com/tour







For more information on Jake Shimabukuro, contact Erin Cook (erin@jensencom.com) and Ryan Romenesko (ryan@jensencom.com), Jensen Communications, 626.585.9575


2 Responses to Jake Shimabukuro Interview – The Greatest Day

  1. Alan Thornton 30th August 2018 at 2:47 am #

    Swell interview. It was interesting and went into more depth than most similar discussion s get to. The siesta record could be great, too. I’d enjoy hearing Jake and Warren Haynes jam together. Two great players.

    Thanks for getting in my question about the single string thumb playing. And the fact that he is big on the Freeze pedal like Frisell is. It was great watching Bill up close when we were all in NYC this year. It was like taking a master class and I’ve never even used pedals before except on a bike.

    • nick cody 30th August 2018 at 8:03 am #

      It’s a great record and should connect with a much wider audience than standard uke based music. Jake is really pushing what is possible with the uke and a reminder for all those in the uke community to think outside the box, BRAVO!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.