Life's changed quite a bit for Jake Shimabukuro over the past five years.
Ever since a video of the lightning-fast ukulele player performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in Central Park went viral online, doors have been opening left and right.
"That little four-minute video has made a career for me," said Shimabukuro, who will perform on June 29 at Chautauqua Auditorium in Boulder. "A touring career as a solo ukulele play, which is unheard of."
In the past few years alone, the 33-year-old Hawaiian native has toured with Jimmy Buffett, recorded with Yo-Yo Ma and played for the queen of England. He even has a cameo in Adam Sandler and Nicole Kidman's next movie, "Just Go With It." But don't look for him to make a full conversion to the silver screen any time soon.
"Acting – that's way harder than being a musician," he laughed. "I don't know how they do it. When you're playing music, you just have to think about the music, that's all. But when you're acting, when you're in front of the camera, you are constantly on. Even when you're not saying anything, you have to be aware of everything."
Shimabukuro has played at venues around the world – 46 shows in three continents so far this year – and said he misses the comforts of his Hawaiian home at times. On his last few trips to Colorado, he made stops to L&L Hawaiian Barbecue to get a taste of home.
"It's always nice especially when I'm away from home for a long time, it's like comfort food," he said.
When he's not on tour, Shimabukuro has been working on his latest CD, which is slated for a Sept. 28 release. It is his first studio album in four years and will have songs that prominently feature his ukulele play, accompanied by a variety of different instruments.
"Most of the time I'm performing solo, by myself, but when I write these songs, I hear bass parts or drum parts and different lines going on," he said. " ... The idea behind this album was to present the song the way I hear it and the way I feel it with the other instruments."
The album will be filled mostly with original compositions, he said. The opening track, "143," is a love song that refers to pagers and his days in high school.
"When I was in high school, we didn't have cell phones and all that, we only had pagers," he said. "So if you were dating someone, you had these numeric codes and '143' was the numeric code for 'I love you.'"
"Go For Broke" is a song he wrote that is dedicated to the Japanese-American veterans who fought during World War II.
"It's a song to honor their legacy and just to remind people of their story – the sacrifices that they made and all the difficulties that they faced with," he said. "It's truly inspiring and we need to be reminded of their story."
The only solo ukulele piece is a cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," a song, he admits, was difficult in arranging.
"I worked really hard on that one and it was tricky," he said. "There's so many things going on in that tune so to really try and simplify it and arrange it for an instrument that only has four strings and two octaves was quite the challenge."
Shimabukuro said he thinks of his songs as simply, "happy feel-good music."
"I always believed the ukulele is instrument of peace," he said. "If more people played it, the world would be a better place. And that's what I want my music to be. I want it to bring a little bit of joy to people."