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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jake says everyone's career path differs

 •  Stretching out to grasp stardom
 •  'Idol' alum keeps career flame burning
 •  Three Idolized Islanders

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Jake Shimabukuro never had to stand on stage in front of Simon Cowell and be judged on his "American Idol" potential.

Even though he's a rising star in Japan and on the Mainland, Jake Shimabukuro still makes time for Hawai'i clubs and bookstores.

Andrew Shimambuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

He's never been called "Dawg" by Randy Jackson, and he never got a pep talk from Paula Abdul. He's also never had to sweat out a night of voting results.

What he has done, however, is mix local appearances and commercials with international performances — in his case, in Japan — while cutting CDs that are popular with Hawai'i audiences.

It's a course similar to the one Jasmine Trias is mapping, though the similarities are more coincidence than planned.

Shimabukuro, the 'ukulele wizard, has a string of endorsement deals ranging from high-speed Internet clips to furniture advertisements.

Trias is doing TV commercials and appearing in print ads for a furniture company that also featured Shimabukuro. She released her first single by joining forces with Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. She's also a hit in the Philippines, where her face is plastered on buses, on billboards and in store windows.

Time will tell if Trias' path leads to success, but it's been working for Shimabukuro, who has maintained local ties without impeding his national and international rise.

In April, Shimabukuro guest-performed at Jimmy Buffett's sold-out concert in the Waikiki Shell. His appearances, whether at a furniture store or the Shell, draw throngs of fans.

The biggest difference between Trias and Shimabukuro may be summed up in one word: experience.

Shimabukuro has about six years under his belt, including earlier stints with two groups he outgrew, Pure Heart and Colón, before breaking out as a soloist.

Trias is releasing her first full-length CD this summer.

"The most important thing you really need to do is ... not rush into anything," he said of building that bridge from unknown to star.

"I always try to build a solid, strong foundation first — and I guess that's the best advice someone once gave me.

"Take the time and surround yourself with people you enjoy working with and trust; someone who shares the same vision, the same goals."

While he didn't want to comment directly on Trias' career, Shimabukuro tells anyone seeking the spotlight to stay diligent and focused, look at the opportunities presented and act accordingly.

Each person, he said, has to find his or her own path — his way isn't the only way.

In April, Shimabukuro became the first uke player to sign on with J. D'Addario & Co., a maker of strings for instruments. The company's sponsors celebrities including Beck, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper and John Mayer.

He said endorsement deals help legitimize his artistry and his talent.

"I think it's important to be affiliated with any kind of 'name' thing, because it reflects something positive," he said. Among his other ties: Kamaka, his favorite brand of uke. "They have been my biggest supporter," Shimabukuro said of the Honolulu ukulele manufacturer.

Internationally, Shimabukuro is a tourism spokesman representing Hawai'i in the Japanese market, a move intended to woo visitors.

He was the first from Hawai'i to sign on with Epic Records of Japan, which released his first solo CD in 2002.

He also appears in numerous Hawai'i promotional events in Japan, a marketing path Trias may be able to follow in the Philippines because of her popularity in the country.

As for overall career planning, Shimabukuro doesn't have a blueprint for success for anyone to follow.

"I don't plan well — but luckily, I can do the music part," he said.

His manager, Kazu Flanagan, brings order to his datebook, coordinating schedules with a booking agent based in Tennessee and his record label mentors here and abroad.

"Once a month, our team will get together and talk about what's coming up," Shimabukuro said.

"We're all on the same page. Now, that's really important."