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Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele says it all

Published April 29, 2014 2:03 pm

Music • Virtuoso's 2012 album has ties to "Abbey Road" and "Dark Side of the Moon."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jake Shimabukuro calls his instrument a "humble four-string Hawaiian ukulele," but he, more than anyone else, has shown the world what a ukulele can do.

The 37-year-old fifth-generation Japanese-American was raised in Hawaii, picked up the ukulele at age 4 and hasn't dropped it since. The world got a taste of his virtuoso skills in 2006, when a video of him playing the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" went viral and since has picked up more than 12 million views.

Since then, Shimabukuro has had several albums shoot to the top of Billboard's World Music charts, including 2012's "Grand Ukulele," produced by legendary rock producer Alan Parsons at Parsons' request. That album featured a 29-piece orchestra and rhythm section. Not bad for a humble little instrument.

Shimabukuro will perform at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden on Friday, May 2, and in preparation for his visit he answered questions posed by The Salt Lake Tribune about the instrument, his famous admirers and if he would ever leave Hawaii to live anywhere else.

Your latest album, "Grand Ukulele," was produced by Alan Parsons, who was instrumental in the production of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and the Beatles' "Abbey Road." What did you learn from him?

Working with Alan Parsons in the studio was truly inspiring. He hears everything — and he's so musical. Watching him work with the orchestra was amazing. The way that he captured the sound of the strings and horns was magical. Everything was so rich and full-sounding. He's simply amazing.

You've toured with Jimmy Buffett three times. What is touring with him like?

Jimmy Buffett is such a wonderful human being. He loves what he does and he's the same energetic, free-spirited person offstage as he is onstage. His music lifts people up and his fans absolutely love him.

Tell me about your encounters with fans Eddie Vedder and Warren Buffett.

I've never actually met Eddie Vedder, but he mentioned my name in a couple of interviews that he did a couple years ago. Of course, I was shocked to discover that he knew who I was. Warren Buffett is a big fan of the ukulele and I got to meet him backstage after one of my concerts. He's actually a pretty good player himself. It was great to see that someone who could have anything in the world loves the humble four-string Hawaiian ukulele.

Did you think your video of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" would rack up more than 12 million views? How did that happen?

I never dreamed that a video clip of mine would ever go viral. It's amazing how powerful the Internet is. I'm a huge fan of YouTube and I'll keep posting videos. Maybe I'll get lucky again one day.

What are some things about the ukulele that most people don't know?

One thing that people are surprised to discover is how easy it is to learn. I once taught a group of senior citizens how to play a song in just 5 minutes.

What does the rest of 2014 hold for you?

I'll be touring throughout the year and will probably head into the recording studio in the summer. I'm looking forward to working on my next album. Not sure what it'll be yet. I'm just writing and working on new material for now.

Tell me about your past Utah experiences.

I love Utah. I have a cousin who lives there so it's always nice to visit family. My grandfather also retired there and spent the last years of his life in Salt Lake City enjoying the snow.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

I don't think I could ever leave Hawaii. I love the 12-month summers and I'm a real beach person. I love the ocean life — fishing, diving, surfing, etc.

What video or song of yours is your favorite?

I don't really have a favorite. I actually don't like listening to or watching myself perform music. I'm quick to point out everything I wish I had done better. —

Jake Shimabukuro

When • Friday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Where • Peery's Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd., Ogden

Tickets • $30 to $45 at SmithsTix