Gerald Ross is multi-instrumentalist who has been fairly recently bitten by the ukulele bug. He plays great arrangements of swing tunes and oldies on his aNueNue signature model and Dave Talsma electric ukuleles. I had an opportunity to interview Gerald via email about his music:
Live Ukulele: You’ve been playing guitar for a long time, but how and when did you get started playing ukulele?
Gerald Ross: I bought a uke as a Christmas present for myself in 2004. Quite frankly, I thought I was the only person in the world still playing this instrument. I wanted something small that I could leave on the coffee table that could easily be grabbed to play a song or work out a tune. After a month or so I recorded a couple of instrumental tunes, posted them on the Flea Market Bulletin Board and those songs rocketed me to stardom in the ukulele world (laugh). I now travel the country with my uke making hundreds of dollars! Seriously, I’ve been having the time of my life over the past five years traveling around and playing ukulele festivals. Ukulele people are a lot of fun, are great conversationalists, know where the best restaurants are and always wear very cool shirts.
LU: Tell me about the electric ukulele that Dave Talsma built for you. How/why did that come about and do you use any different gear when playing it?
GR: Dave Talsma can build both traditional style ukes and experimental models. He creates beautiful, great sounding instruments no matter the style. I wanted a uke that I could use as a lead instrument for gigs where I sit in with a band. I have been using it with five/six piece swing bands around Ann Arbor. It sounds great! No special gear is needed. I just plug it into either a Roland AC-33 amp or a Fishman Loudbox. It has a fantastic sounding MI-SI pickup mounted under the saddle. Here are two videos of me playing the uke through the AC-33:
LU: What is the most important thing you have practiced, and how has it improved your playing?
GR: I am really lazy when it comes to practicing. But I’m not lazy when it comes to working on fresh material. Each song I learn teaches me something new about music, music theory and the neck of the instrument.
LU: What is your process for arranging a song?
GR: I first get the “plain vanilla” chords down comfortably under my fingers. After that I try to find a key that facilitates easy fingering and “not too hard to remember while in performance” chord shapes. My main goal is to create music in a relaxed setting so that my audience is comfortable and happy. I am not interested in participating is a musical/gymnastic event. I want to have fun performing the music and have my audience enjoy a stress free, fun listening experience.
LU: Do you have any new projects in the works?
GR: I am working on a Christmas/Hanukkah CD which should be out in the fall of 2010. It will feature both uke and steel guitar just like my other disks.
Thanks for the interview!
LU: Thank you!
For many audio samples of Gerald playing and more general info, check out: http://www.geraldross.com/