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Interview: Ukulele Virtuoso Coming To Reno

Image of Jake Shimabukuro performing on-stage
Artown / Jake Shimabukuro

Artown is underway in Reno, and along with some big names, this year’s month-long celebration of the arts also includes a master of a small instrument: the ukulele.

Reno Public Radio’s Noah Glick caught up with ukulele musician Jake Shimabukuro over the phone during his current tour.

KUNR: Who would you say are some of your biggest influences, musically?

JS: Aw, man. Everything that I listen to, everyone. There’s so many great artists that I admire. Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile, all the usual suspects, like [Jimmy] Hendrix and Jeff Beck.

I think any name you throw out there, if I’ve heard them before, then I’m sure they’ve influenced me in one way or another.

And a lot of my influences come from not musicians, like athletes. They were a big inspiration because [of] how they’re able to focus mentally and how they train, develop their bodies physically to do what they need to, how they need to react in the game.

When you go to sit down and write a song, what’s your approach?

When you’re writing creative, it’s very different from performing, like being on stage. I think when I’m on stage I take more of that physical approach to it. But when I’m writing or if I’m practicing, it’s more like the locker room approach, you know? Where you’re thinking about things, trying to come up with ideas, changing your vantage point, changing your perspective on something, or sometimes it’s just getting out.

You come home with a concept and then you take that concept or even a feeling or emotion, you take that and then you start to build around that.

What can people who come to see you expect at your performance?

We play a good mix of original music and cover tunes, so I think hopefully when people come to the concert, I just want them to have a good time and walk away smiling and feeling good. That’s really all we really want, and we’re just looking forward to returning to Reno and just connecting again with our audience and the people there.

Jake Shimabukuro is performing July 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater in Reno. As a point of disclosure, KUNR is a media partner for Artown.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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