When Eddie Vedder starts name-dropping you in Rolling Stone and is inspired to record an album full of ukulele songs because of you, it's safe to say that you've arrived. Or maybe it's when Jimmy Buffett takes you on tour with him for three years. Or when you perform a cover of a Beatles song with Bette Midler in a performance for the Queen of England and Queen E. chats with you afterward. Or when a documentary gets made about you that focuses on how you're revolutionizing the use of your instrument? Yeah, you've arrived.
Hawaii's resident ukulele rock star, Jake Shimabukuro, has experienced all of these things during his short musical career, and he still can't believe any of it. But if you check out his latest release, Grand Ukulele, you'll see what all the fuss is about. We asked the uke man, why this of all instruments, and he told us about changing the channel when a commercial he's in comes on the tube.
New Times: So why the ukulele? As a child, when you were getting into music and instruments, what was it about the ukulele that made you say, "Oh yeah, that's it for me?"
Jake Shimabukuro: One of the main reasons is because I grew up in Hawaii and the ukulele is very popular here on the islands. A second reason is that my mom played the ukulele and she was actually my first teacher. And the third reason is that was the only instrument we had in the house, so I really didn't have a desire to play anything else beside the ukulele.
A documentary about you premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival earlier this year. What was it like having a documentary done on your life and career? Did it ever feel surreal having that sort of attention paid to you?
Oh yeah, definitely. CAAM [Center for Asian American Media] approached me and said they wanted to do this documentary on me. It took about two years to put everything together. And actually what premiered at the festival was just the first cut. It actually was completed about a week ago. We got to show it at Pixar that week, and that was great. Tonight it's actually going to be premiering at the Hawaii International Film Festival, so I'm pretty excited.