US TIME is a collection of songs from the native Texan who now resides in Oklahoma reflecting on his own dreams that openly shares with his longtime fans. “This project is a tribute to my fans. We have developed a strong relationship and I appreciate all of them,” says LaRue. “ Together, we have built a compilation of fan favorites from the live shows that reflect the complexion of our time together in music, it is simply our US Time, “ he continues. This sentiment rings even louderafter LaRue took a hiatus from touring this summer to re-center his life that seemed to be lost.
LaRue says, “Being able to record such timeless songs as “Empty Glass,” “Into the Mystic” and “Wichita Lineman” aside some of original tunes, all selected by my fans make me feel validated as an artist and hopefully it gives the fans exactly what they are looking for.”
Being able to connect with fans the way we can today is mind blowing to LaRue. When this journey started over 15 years ago, communication was restricted mainly to the stage, written letters and before show meet and greets. Today’s instant social media connection is what helped generate this collection of songs. “I just kept a list of songs that fans would either request via Twitter and Facebook or yell to me on stage,” says LaRue. “Us Time is a very collaborative effort with them. Also, having RS Fields as the producer on this project was a good call. This is our first time working together and he totally nailed the production and we totally were in sync on how it should sound. I am very happy with the end result, it feels live and it feels real, and that is what music is all about,” he continued.
Independently charged, LaRue has sold over one million records over his career and plays 200-plus shows a year. His songs have seen the top of the charts, most recently his hit “Golden Shackles” from his eOne Music debut, Aviator, in 2014.”]
“My mom played, and I kept bugging her to teach me,” he recalls. “So one day we sat down on the floor and she put her old Kamaka ukulele in my hands. I remember being so nervous. Then she showed me how to strum the strings and taught me my first chord. I fell in love with the ukulele immediately. From that day on, you had to pry the instrument away from me in order to get me to do anything else.”
That first brush with musical fate took place in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where Jake was born and still makes his home. Growing up, he studied and played a number of other musical instruments—drums, piano and guitar. “But none of those instruments spoke to me the way the ukulele did,” he says. “There was something about the uke that was different. Music was my passion, but I had no idea that I could make it as a musician. I always thought that maybe I’d be a school teacher and incorporate music into the classroom, rather than being on a stage performing in front of people.”
Of course, Shimabukuro would end up performing on many of the world’s most renowned stages. Starting his career in Hawai’i, he took his inspiration from some of the islands’ great uke players—Eddie Kamae, Ohta-San and Peter Moon. But he quickly expanded his scope from there, drawing influences from across the musical spectrum.
“As I got older,” he says, “I realized that I could also learn from guitar players, drummers, violinists, pianists, singers and even dancers. And then I started to observe athletes. Athletes are artists too. I was heavily influenced by people like Bruce Lee and Michael Jordan – applying their philosophy and intense, mental focus to music performance.”
As a member of the group Pure Heart, Shimabukuro became a local phenomenon. From Hawai’i, his fame next spread to Japan. He was signed to Epic Records (Sony/Japan) in 2001 as a solo artist. It was the start of what would become a deep catalog of solo albums, noted for their dazzling fretwork, ambitious repertoire and wistful melodicism. And in 2005, Shimabukuro became an international phenomenon when a video of him performing the George Harrison song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on YouTube.
“At the time, I didn’t even know what YouTube was,” Jake laughs. “Nobody did, especially in Hawai’i. But I had some friends who were going to college on the mainland and they sent me a link to the video. By the time I saw it, it already had millions of views. My name wasn’t even on it then. All it said was ‘Asian guy shreds on ukulele,’ or something like that. That’s what opened up the doors to touring in North America, Europe, Asia and beyond. It was a big turning point for me.”
By adapting a guitar hero anthem for the ukulele (Eric Clapton had played lead guitar on the Beatles’ original recording) Shimabukuro made a significant statement: The ukulele, with its humble four strings and modest two-octave range, is an instrument limited only by the imagination and creativity of the person playing it. Along with his own original compositions, Jake became noted for his solo uke arrangements of such varied pieces as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Schubert’s “Ave Maria” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
“A lot of those are just songs that I really love,” he says. “I’d sit at home and work out how to play some of them on the ukulele. A lot of it is for my own curiosity. I always wondered, ‘Man, what would “Bohemian Rhapsody” sound like on a ukulele?’ And then it’s my stubborn nature not to give up until I’d figured out how to do it.”
Widespread acclaim brought high-visibility collaborations with a wide range of artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Jimmy Buffett, Bette Midler, Cyndi Lauper, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Dave Koz, Michael McDonald, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Tommy Emmanuel, and Marty Friedman. Jake Shimabukuro has topped Billboard’s World Music Chart on numerous occasions, and has sold out prestigious venues and festivals such as the Hollywood Bowl, Lincoln Center, Sydney Opera House, Wolf Trap, Bonnaroo, SXSW, and the Playboy Jazz Festival. He even played for Queen Elizabeth II at The Royal Variety Performance in Blackpool, England.
Shimabukuro’s busy touring schedule—140 dates a year—is complemented by a rich and varied catalog of albums that capture the many moods of the uke. His most recent CD, Nashville Sessions, is one of his most adventurous, multifaceted and engaging records to date, blending elements of jazz virtuosity with heartfelt melodicism.
A husband and father of two, Jake balances his stellar career with
family life and community service. He travels to schools around the world spreading positive messages to young people, encouraging them to live drug free and find their passion—just as he did at age four when his mother gave him his first ukulele lesson. In the time since then, he has played a key role in the current revival of interest in the ukulele.
“When I first started touring the mainland,” he recalls, “everybody would say, ‘Oh man, I didn’t know you could play that kind of music on that thing.’ But now there are so many iconic artists playing the ukulele, like Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder, Train, Jimmy Buffett, Michael McDonald, Dave Mathews and Taylor Swift. Even popular cartoons like ‘Peg + Cat’ and ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ have ukulele soundtracks. The popularity of the ukulele keeps growing every year. And I’m constantly discovering new sounds, styles and expressive possibilities within the instrument through projects like the Nashville Sessions album. By the time we finished that recording, I already had tons of ideas for the next album. I can’t wait to get back into the studio and experiment some more.”
Universal Records – South
eOne Entertainment – Nashville
Cross Canadian Ragweed