Jake Shimabukuro, left, and friend Jeff Lau wave shakas just before crossing the finish line of the Honolulu Marathon.
Ukulele maestro pursues new passion
Shimabukuro at 30 taps more energy but also a sense of calm after his first marathon
Energized by completing the Honolulu Marathon and the success of his recent album, ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro is looking ahead to new directions in his career -- both in his music and in his concert tours.
The Dec. 10 marathon run was "the hardest thing I've ever tried to do -- not just that day, but the months leading up to it," he said. "It was a huge commitment."
Shimabukuro, in an interview, said the marathon has changed the way he takes care of himself.
"I am more conscious of the things I put into my body and seeing how much a difference it makes," he said. "I have a lot more energy and a new and refreshing take on life."
The musician said he now has "a passion for running," and hopes to run the marathon again next year and improve on his finish time of five hours and 24 minutes. About an hour after his finish, he performed in the after-marathon concert for the sixth consecutive year.
His "new lifestyle" also is affecting his music. "I feel more patient, more energized," he said.
Shimabukuro also is buoyed by the success of his album "Gently Weeps," which was released in September and includes 11 tracks he wrote. "I am hearing positive feedback from the sources I look to," he said. The album has been on Billboard's world music chart for 12 weeks, reaching as high as the No. 2 position.
Shimabukuro is known for his hyperkinetic performances in which he bounces around the stage as he rapidly strums his ukulele. But as he approached his 30th birthday in November, he moved into a more mellow and what he views as a more mature style.
Gone are the horn-rimmed glasses and the spiked hair that added to the young-kid profile.
"I'm 30 years old. I can't be standing on chairs and jumping off chairs," he said.
In his new, more serious direction, Shimabukuro hopes to learn more about other areas of music and the recording industry. That includes arranging, scoring music, doing movie soundtrack work and more songwriting.
He wrote the music for the Japanese film "Hula Girl," which required him to write for piano, string quartet and guitar. "I am breaking out beyond the ukulele," he said.
Expanding his knowledge of other instruments will help him improve on his own, he said.
The new album is mostly solo ukulele and mostly mellow except for a couple of tunes with fast strumming.
He is "getting good feedback, especially from other musicians," to his new style, he said.
"Before, I was playing fast and flashy but with not much depth," he said. "Now I'm expanding on other aspects, including harmony, coloration, tone, and with intricate complex rhythms and more complex keys."
However, a few fans expecting the exuberant Jake have expressed disappointment at his concerts. Shimabukuro said he tries to "keep a good balance. I try to program a show to make it so there is something for everyone."
While fans have favorite tunes they want to hear, he said there are none that he does not like to play. "If there is a song I'm tired of, I play it differently and make it exciting. I'm not tired of the song, but tired of the way I play it," he said.