S1E7 – Life OFF the Road With Herb Ohta, Jr.

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Herb was one of my very first ukulele mentors. We go all the way back to 2008 and have since shared the stage and taught together.

In this episode, I catch up with Herb after a long year of staying home. He’s normally touring multiple times a year, but COVID has forced an end to all plans and instead he’s been enjoying the home life and getting to know some of his peers better.

Episode resources:


Edited for clarity.

Aloha! Welcome to The Live Ukulele Podcast my name is Brad Bordesa. I’m your host every first and third Saturday of the month. Be sure to subscribe, if you aren’t already, so you hear about the latest episodes. Check out my website, Live Ukulele for many, many ukulele learning resources.

BB: Well, I’m very happy to bring onto the podcast one of my first ukulele heroes, one of my mentors over the years, my good friend, Mr. Herb Ohta, Jr. Thanks for joining me.

HOJ: Sorry he couldn’t be here so I’m here.

BB: We’re doing our best, we’re making due. You got lost in 2020 somewhere along the way.

HOJ: Yeah… 2020 is just totally the worst year ever.

BB: What have you been doing with your 2020? You’re usually a very busy guy who’s touring multiple times a year over in Asia. What have you been doing on your time time off?

HOJ: Nothing. But no I mean, when this pandemic hit and we all had to go into some sort of lockdown. I say some sort of lockdown because not everyone was locked down. But um I said to myself, “Oh, should get a vaccine,” you know, or “It’s gonna go away.” May comes… June comes… Right? And July I’m like, “Oh, I gotta do something to get income!” So um I ended up uh trying to upgrade a lot of my technology stuff. I mean, I got a new computer because… See because right now I’m using a Macbook Air – my laptop, but I bought a new desktop. And um because graphics card is very important from what I hear. So I had to get a stronger computer to do more online stuff. I’ve done three workshops during the pandemic. I’m planning to do a performance thing in November. And then um I’m help I’m producing Jake’s workshop. Which I can’t say when it is yet.

BB: Or where people might find out about it?

HOJ: Well yeah. I mean, well, you know… That man, he has uh, you know, his management team and he has people on payroll, man. So there’s certain rules and regulations that he needs to follow. So we can’t push anything yet.

BB: Nice… So adapting like the rest of us.

HOJ: Well, how have you been, man?

BB: Well, I’m just hustling with the website stuff, trying to bring that up you know in the Google search results and working on the course and updating the books and keeping everything as relevant as possible. Because as soon as COVID started whatever dream I had of being a performing artist kind of went completely out the window. I mean, it’s already been hard to pursue that on Big Island, but it’s like “Well, teaching’s where it’s at. Good thing I have this online platform.”

HOJ: Well, I mean, you know, not all of it sucks – of 2020. I mean, I’ve been home. Um… I’m probably been the healthiest I’ve ever been during the course of the year. I’ve never used so much hand sanitizers in my life. I haven’t… It’s the first time I think I washed my hands more than in one month than I did like the whole year last year. But I mean, but there’s a positive… There’s always something positive. So I think I learned quite a bit in terms of… I mean, I’m using a webcam, you know. I’m using this microphone and… I think it’s going to be like this for a while. So I might as well just get used to it.

BB: Right. Which is kind of funny for you to say because you’re the reason my family ever got into Mac. Because long, long ago you said, “Hey, you should get a Mac so we can FaceTime!” And so my mom supported the buying of a Mac so I could video chat with Uncle Herb.

HOJ: But, you have to say though, that Macs are… I mean, come on now. You open anything from Apple, there’s no directions on how to use it. I think their engineering and design are… They’re made for… just people, that it just makes it simple to use.

BB: Right. It’s straightforward. My only gripe is that it’s so proprietary and if you try and use anything third party a lot of times you end up with major compatibility issues and zero support. But it’s just the way it goes… And you suck it up and we say, “Yes, thank you.”

HOJ: True that. True that.

BB: So have you been writing or playing much in this time? Are you feeling like it’s inspiring to be home or is it kind of a, I don’t know, does it cloud up your musical mind?

HOJ: You know, it’s so funny, we have this Ukulele Friends Hawaii panel thing that we do Monday and Thursdays. Brian Tolentino, this was his brainchild. But it was just something that we just got together just because we’re on lockdown. We weren’t able to see each other or anything like that. So it was one way of just keeping in touch, you know? So we were doing that – we’re still doing that.

And then I did an album in January after the NAMM show. I got home, went to the studio, planning to go to Japan five times this year. And I was supposed to go in March. So I, you know, I was driving my engineer and co-producer nuts because it was like towards the end of January already. I needed product by March. So we worked our butts off for like a week and a half and then manufactured the product. We got the thing in March. It’s like, “What pandemic?” “What lockdown? …What?” So I knew my first trip was gone. I was like “Oh yeah, okay, no problem.” My May trip was cancelled. “What?!” So by July was like, “Oh yeah, the rest of the trips are canceled.” So um I have a closet full of cds – or room – I should say. Room full of cds. But that’s about it.

But in terms of writing: no. But what I was going with with that Ukulele Friends panel thing was, like, in the beginning, like from March to, like, May, we’re all talking – and Jake’s part of it too – and we’re all on screen talking, like, “Hey, when’s the last time you touched your ukulele?” Right?! I mean, it’s like, wow yeah, you know. So I did this workshop in September – beginning part of September. And I did a performance after the workshop and Jon Yamasato played with me. And then we’re tossing out songs like… We’re like, uh you know, “What key was this in? How did the song go again?” And you realize that if you don’t even touch your… You know, if you don’t touch ukulele for like a week and you play again for like one or two hours – your hands become sore! I mean, there’s some sort of tightness, right? Because you’re not using these muscles, right? Imagine not playing for like a month and a half, you know, and then you pick up your ukulele again. It’s like, “Maybe I should downsize to a concert or something.”

BB: That’s so interesting because I’ve, you know, definitely experienced that; where I’m not as inspired to just play all the time. But also, you realize that the the performing is the practice, you know, at a certain point you’re not playing in your bedroom and practicing quite as much as you ever were. So that’s interesting to hear that you guys are experiencing that as well.

HOJ: Well yeah, and then, you know… And then all of a sudden everyone needs to adapt, right, because of this pandemic. The funniest is Jake. Because he has… normally he has everyone else doing stuff for him, right? So for him to download Zoom… I mean, the funny part was that when he hosted his …you know we take turns hosting, right, who’s gonna host and who’s gonna moderate and who’s gonna check the Facebook chat line and all that kind of stuff. And then Jake said, “Oh, I’ll host.” And then the funny thing is that he hosted it to his personal Facebook page. Which not everyone knows he has. Right, because he has an artist page. So we’re like, “Um, Jake? Uh where…?” He goes “Yeah, we’re live!” We’re like, “We’re on the Ukulele Friends Hawaii page you’re like, oh no, you’re not….” He goes, Oh yeah, we yeah, I’m live. It says we’re live.” And then he was live on his personal Facebook page.

So all of us I think collectively we had to adapt or learn more about computer technology; getting interfaces so we could plug in their instruments and microphones and all that kind of good stuff. And then we have Craig Chee, right? Craig and Sarah was part of our panel. And I remember the first time I really hung out with them and Sarah told me that Craig would be the most expensive friend that I have. And sure enough, everyone was like buying webcams and desktop mic stands and microphones and interfaces… And then at one point we’re like – and none of us are working – “Are we supposed to save money? What’s going on here? Why are we spending money? What’s going on here?” Yeah, but, you know, the writing part is not there. I mean, I think if everyone went to write songs during this time it would be so sad. I don’t know. I’m pretty sure a lot of people are gonna start writing once election is over with. Whether it’s good or bad. And hopefully next year is a better year, you know.

BB: We have… It’s all b-sides this year!

HOJ: Okay that’s a good way of putting it, I guess. Who else have you been in touch with in terms of ukulele players?

BB: James. I ping him back and forth. We’re always kind of emailing back and forth. Just one-liners, like, “Hey, have you used this? Hey have you tried this?”

HOJ: He still doesn’t have a cell phone, yeah?

BB: I think he might now. Yeah, the world has moved on… Yeah. I talked to Neal Chin the other day for a podcast thing. Got to kind of get to know him a little bit better. We’d never – we met very briefly at a gig in Seattle, but other than that I haven’t really talked to him before. And then I have my, you know, local guys that I played with here and there and we’ve been in touch just, yeah, just kind of more as friends than anything. But it’s been pretty quiet. I don’t know, Big Island by itself isn’t very exciting as far as music goes in the best of times. And, you know, right now it’s just like, you might as well just do your own thing.

HOJ: Right. Exactly. I talked to a friend and uh he’s a local boy but he lives in Okinawa. He’s a retired military. He got married there, he has a family there. And so his wife still works, right? His kids are out of the house, the kids are out in college. So he tells me, “Yeah man, you know, I wake up in the morning, water the yard, cook breakfast, go on the computer, check emails, search the web, and eat lunch.” And then he takes a nap, then he wakes up. When his wife comes home they prepare dinner, they eat dinner, watch a little television, then he goes back to sleep for the evening, right? And I’m always teasing him, “Wow, just like me!” No. I’m just… It’s just very different during this time. I mean I was talking to uh some other musicians and it’s like, yeah, we all unpacked our bags, our suitcases. Normally we keep some stuff still packed because we know we normally leave like in two or three weeks, but now it’s like, “Uh oh yeah I have that stuff in my suitcase, let me take it out.” You know? So it’s kind of weird, but, I mean, it’s good too that we’re home.

BB: Do you feel rested?

HOJ: Over. Yeah, over rested. I mean, it’s come to a point sometimes like, I wake up during the day going, “What should I do today?” You know it’s like, “Hmm, well…” Then I end up watching Netflix or… I just hope that this vaccine comes out and everyone can be – everyone decides – I hope everyone decides to get vaccinated. I mean, that’s the thing. The vaccine can come out, but not everyone… You have a choice of getting, you know, taking it or not, right? And I know there’s some people out there that think that this COVID-19 thing is a fluke. But you can’t tell that to families of personal loved ones passing from it. Which is sad. It always hurts when you get a headline that says whatever so many amount of cases, but one COVID death or two covet deaths or, I mean, it’s always sad because family members can’t see them, right?

BB: That’s the hardest – what sounds like – the hardest part of going through that. I mean, we had we had the veterans home over here and in Hilo that got blasted like 20-25 I think, around there that all passed. Just like boom, boom, boom.

HOJ: So come on man toss me questions. Go, go, go, go, go, go! I’m ready.

BB: Too dark? Well um you’ve been talking about not playing. Has that brought any kind of perspective to your music? Like when you’ve gotten back on the instrument like, “Oh, I never realized this, that, or the other thing.”

HOJ: No. You know me, man. It’s just… it’s like…

BB: Rusty, not rusty?

HOJ: Rusty meaning… I define rusty as trying to remember how my songs go. Or arrangements go. But other than that, um it’s like riding a bike. You know how it is, right? You pick it up it’s like, “Let me play some songs.” But… This is the cool part. I would play a song that I haven’t played in years, right? I would just play, like, say, for example, Eagles, Love Will Keep Us Alive. I recorded it back in 2005. So I’m like… because I heard it on, I watched them performing on Youtube, right? Or – I watched the Eagles documentary on Netflix. So I start playing it. I’m like, no, that’s not how it went. But wow that sounded pretty cool. You know, but, I mean, I think that the muscle memory is there, but my brain is hearing it different. Sometimes when you play, you go back and you try to play old stuff and then you come out with different phrasing. Then I’ll be like, oh wow that’s different. But if you ask me to play it I again, I probably couldn’t. Because once I get back into the song then it’s like my brain starts, “Oh yeah, that’s… No, that’s not how it went. This is how it goes.”

BB: Right. So almost that emptiness in your mind allows for you to find things that you never would have found otherwise.

HOJ: Probably. Because you’re always on the go right when you know you have normalcy in the world. And it’s like, I travel, I come home, I travel again, I come home. But I’m performing these songs and it’s like, the songs are always with you, right? Because you’re constantly playing. Then you stop playing, when you stop performing, it’s like, “How does that song go again” Then you play and it’s like, “That’s not how it goes, but wow that’s pretty funky how I did that.”

BB: How have you developed a sense for arranging over the years? I know you’ve always been a big proponent of taking a song and keeping what you have to keep but otherwise making it your own. I know you always encouraged me to do that to kind of find my own voice and create my own intros and outros. How did you get to a point where that was kind of how you approached a song?

HOJ: When my father, like, lectured me. I played a song for him and then he just said that, okay anyone can play that. And I said… I used to say… ask him like, “What do you mean?” and he goes, “Well, if you’re going to record a cover, you’re going to have to make it your own.” Meaning, when someone hears an introduction they know it’s you that’s playing it. Or they know it’s your arrangement kind of thing. So I kept that too heart when I started recording. After my first solo project, I really got into trying to arrange stuff. It was my first time trying to do that. So the second… For my second album in 1999 I started charting things out for the musicians and um try to develop introductions and outros to make it different, but yet familiar.

BB: And do you have a process for making that happen? Is that like the odds and ends of songs that you haven’t finished that end up as intros or outros or…?

HOJ: No. It comes from playing the song. And then once I get a vibe of how the song goes in terms of what the composer did, then… I listen to the original. Some songs you can’t, well, this is just my opinion. There’s some songs out there that you can’t change. It has to be the same. If not don’t even play it. You know? Because for me… I’m sorry. Eagles. Hotel California. You don’t have that intro like, you know, like what that 12-string guitar player…

BB: What’s the point?

HOJ: Yeah. What’s the point of you doing it? So you do all that… I can make up an intro and then just start playing the song, but no one remembers… No one’s gonna remember the intro because it’s so embedded with everyone the original version, right? So there’s some songs you can’t even touch in terms of doing an introduction or outro.

BB: So do you gravitate towards playing stuff that’s a little more B-side, kind of less famous songs? It seems like there’s a happy medium maybe where it’s not so iconic that you can’t mess with it, but still is recognizable.

HOJ: Good question. There’s popular songs that I truly like. But there’s other songs that I like, but you may not like. When you’ve heard an original version of it and you go, “meh.” And then when I play it you’ll be like, “meh.” You know? I’ve come to a point in my life or my career that if it’s a cover tune, it’s a song that I like. You know, easy as that.

BB: I’ve been able to watch you teach over the years and learn from your teaching and you’re always – I don’t know… I think of you as kind of like a cut and dried teacher in the best sense of the phrase. If there is one thing that you could like work on an ukulele student with, what is it normally that you drill them on or encourage them to do?

HOJ: Practice!

BB: Cut and dried, I’m telling you.

HOJ: Well I mean… It’s so funny. My way of teaching has changed over the years. I realize that I can’t put kids in the corner of the room anymore. You know, if I do that now then it’s like, you know, abusive and I’ll probably get thrown in jail. But um, you know, because at that time I was like, okay, you know, you’re gonna do it this way and if you can’t do it this way then you shouldn’t be here, kind of thing. Which I still believe, but everyone has their own way of learning, right? Or their own speed, or their…. They go through a process on their own. They don’t… Not everyone’s the same. So I realize that and I realize that when you travel around the world, everyone learns differently.

BB: Culture wise?

HOJ: Culture wise. And what everyone wants to learn is different. Like if you go to the mainland and the mainland US and then you’re teaching… say you’re teaching an intermediate-advanced level class. Everyone wants to learn technique. They want to learn how to improvise. They want to… Because they’re trying to expand their um playing ability, right? I go to Japan; everyone wants to just play a song the way I play it. So they want to learn exactly what I do for a particular song, note for note, strum for strum. And to me, I realize that everyone has their own way of learning and what they want to learn.

So what I’ve been preaching to my students now is: patience. Because they all want to run before they walk. I think patience is very important. Practicing is still important, but if you’re passionate enough, you don’t have to tell someone to practice, right? So to me, I tell them straight out. I say, “If you don’t practice, then there’s no sense of you paying anyone to teach you.” Right? If you wanna just play stuff on your own, then that’s fine, right? So if there if there’s an understanding there at that level, then I start preaching, “Okay, you’re getting frustrated because you’re not patient with yourself.” You’re just gonna have to work your way through it. So I’m normally telling my students, if you get to a frustration point, stop, go do something else, you know. And then come back and try to work it again. But it’s how you approach it, right, if you approach it going, “I gotta conquer this part today,” “I gotta learn this part today,” or “I gotta learn this technique today,” “I gotta get it down today,” right, if you approach it that way, then you’re putting so much pressure on yourself that once you can’t do it, like, once or twice, you’re already at that frustration tipping point. But if you approach it going, “Let’s see if I can do this today,” right thinking, “If not, I’ll try tomorrow.” That’s more of a positive way of thinking, you know? So I think a student just has to learn to be patient. Yeah. It’s like that Karate Kid movie, right?

BB: Totally. It’s so true.

HOJ: Right? It’s like, put on your jacket, take off your jacket, put it on the ground, pick up your jacket, put on your jacket, take off your jacket… and Will’s son was like, “What the heck?” You know, I want to learn how to punch, kick, block, whatever, and you’re telling me to just put on my jacket, take it off, throw it on the ground, pick it up, you know, kind of thing. But during that process you have to explain to them why. I mean don’t be like that, you know, Karate Kid teacher and just, you know, just put on your jacket and stuff and not knowing what, why. Yeah, so I think I’ve changed in that sense quite a bit.

BB: Do you notice culturally that some people or peoples, like a culture, are more equipped to approach music with that sense of patience and therefore succeed easier or advance faster than others?

Because I taught a single weekend workshop in Germany and the first thing I noticed over there is that everybody is, like, tuned in. Like, way more than any other class I’ve ever taught. It was unbelievable. They were there to learn and they were there to suck as much information out of me as possible. And I had never experienced that before and it was just… I was stoked, it was super fun because they were just getting stuff left and right, but it was also a very stark contrast to what I’m used to where everybody’s kind of like, I don’t really get it, or, you know…

HOJ: But it also depends on, you know, like how you say, like, okay Germany. They might be the more serious.

BB: Well no doubt.

HOJ: Right. But it depends on what part… See, because if people know me or people know of my music or my style of playing, it’s melody, it’s finger picking, right? I, yeah, I can strum, but I can’t strum an instrumental song just strumming. I mean. I could if I was. you know. if I wanted to play like Lyle or Benny, but if I was to just strum chords as an instrumentalist, you gotta have melody. Right? And for me, the cleanest melody is to pick.

If people know of my music and they know what they’re getting into when they’re taking a lesson from me, right, I may not be a suitable teacher for people in the United Kingdom because a lot of people in the United Kingdom, from what I’ve experienced, they love to strum and sing, right? And I’m talking about… They’re very passionate about the ukulele, but they love to strum and sing. They don’t, they don’t stop when they’re tired, they stop when they pass out. They’re like, okay I can’t play anymore, and they just go to sleep. Japan, very serious. China, very serious. Korea, very serious. I think Asia, in general, they’re very serious about learning as much as they can. I’m not saying they’re better, you know, which country or what part of the world is better than the others because everyone has, like I said, everyone has their own way of learning or what they want to learn. You know, so as an instructor you’re gonna have to adapt, I won’t go to Japan and teach, you know, Frank Sinatra The Way You Look Tonight song. I would do that in the mainland or something. Like Japan they would they either go for originals or they want to learn like, real, real, real popular songs. You know, it’s just different.

BB: Have you done Dynamite yet?

HOJ: No, I have not.

BB: Who’s going to do it first? Britni?

HOJ: Probably. Probably. Probably. I mean I did a video… I mean, it’s so weird… During this pandemic I downloaded the Acapella app and um I made our friend Asa Young, he downloaded the app. I never thought of doing this song – playing it, but I learned it and I, we did an acapella version of it. Of Bee Gees, How Deep is Your Love, you know. And it’s, like, wow, that’s pretty cool. No, I mean the way it came out. But I would never have thought of, you know, I think was because of the pandemic that I was just like let’s try something different, you know?

I mean right now, I’ve been trying to do Master Blaster. I’m waiting for my bass player to actually learn the part. So once that happens then, you know, I’ll be ready to go. So you know what’s cool is that everyone… I know I play a lot of slow songs and I know I record a lot of slow songs. Jon Yamasato calls me like the ballad… ukulele ballad king, or whatever it is, because I always play slow songs. So when I come up with something fast, everyone’s like, what? So I can’t wait till Master Blaster finishes. But in actuality, we started doing this Acapella thing three months ago. I don’t remember how to play it.

I think that whoever has the passion to learn, the instructor just has to adapt. If they can’t adapt then, you know, they gotta get someone else. But it’s cool that during the pandemic everyone wants to learn. You know, because I thought doing stuff online, it’s not good because you can’t play really with them. I know there’s, you know, a friend of ours is always trying to tell me to try use Jamulus. Have you tried that?

BB: I haven’t. I’ve had several people tell me that I should try it though.

HOJ: So it’s like, “Oh, you know, you guys can all play together and do all that,” right? And I’m like, mmm… But I think it depends on everyone’s internet speed, yeah, right.

BB: That rules me out.

HOJ: So I was pretty hesitant on doing more online stuff. You know, because it’s hard, you know, you want to play with your student, right, or the student wants to play with the instructor. But the comments I’ve been getting after doing the workshops is, “Oh, this online stuff is the best because we can actually see what you’re doing.”

BB: Because you’re close.

HOJ: Because you’re close. Right. Because if, you know, if you go in a room, the person in the back, well, obviously, with my height in the front, they’re not going to be able to see me. Unless they stand up or they come closer to me.

BB: Standing ovation.

HOJ: No but, right? But with this computer thing, people can actually see what you’re doing. You know, because when I do online workshops now I offer a video of me playing the material, the worksheets, and then a copy of the workshop. The recording of the whole workshop. So they have all of that. I mean, normally, if I’m there in person, people won’t even have that. Right, they just get the handouts and that’s it.

So yeah, it was hard for me to even start thinking about doing online stuff in the beginning of this pandemic because everyone was hurting. Everyone was losing jobs. Right, no one was working. Except for grocery market peoples or essential businesses. But, in general, most of us weren’t working. So it’s hard for me to… Okay, I’m going to put out a workshop and this is my fee. It was hard for me to even do a performance and put like a tip jar or, you know, if you can you donate, you know, you can donate if you like my music, donate, or tip me, or whatever. It’s hard for me to ask. Because, you know, my father told me, you know, because I thought wow, you know, before when I first started I go gig somewhere and it’s like, oh yeah here’s a wine bucket – ice bucket – you know, just leave it out front and people can throw money in. Right? So I go home after my first gig and I show my dad – I got like 20-something bucks in tips and my dad goes, “I never collected a tip, you know.” And I said, you know me, it’s like, “Why?” And he goes, “Because I put a jar or something or a bucket in front of me for tips, it’s like I’m begging.” Once he told me that, I never… Or wherever I gig I never have a tip jar. Because it makes sense.

BB: It’s tough though. Then the entire business rides on that fee for the workshop, or whatever, so it’s kind of a give and take.

HOJ: Right, right, right, right, right, right.

BB: And that’s, you know, just by nature going to exclude some people. And that’s something I’ve wondered about is like, how do you incorporate the people who really are hurting who have the passion. Cause I’ve always thought that, you know, I grew up, you know, with Keoki doing the workshop, and it was always scholarship students and that’s just the way it was: you shared with the people who were up and coming and really had the fire for playing and wanted to learn, even if they didn’t have the funds to do so. And it seems like trying to facilitate that online is even more tricky because you can’t meet the people. And that’s something that I would really like to see more of, or figure out – be able to kind of scale that cliff.

HOJ: Yeah, I mean, because, look, yeah. My cd, it’s a two disc set. It’s 24 songs, right? Because it’s celebrating my 30th anniversary this year. So all that celebration just went out the door.

BB: [Sings Happy Anniversary]

HOJ: Exactly. But, see, once I got it manufactured it’s storage. And everyone’s telling me, “Oh, you should just release it, you should just release it.” I said, “No, I feel funny releasing it right now.” You know, it’s like, yeah everyone’s hurting, but I have a product. I have a new product. Buy my product. Right? But after several failures of opening and going back into lockdown and opening and going back into lockdown, um I just said, “Oh, heck with it, I’m just gonna release it,” but only off to my website. It’s not even on iTunes. And I don’t push it, I don’t push it, I don’t promote it. So you can delete this part of the video. So um, it’s hard to balance that in terms of what you feel is right or what you feel is morality, you know, morally correct. But not everyone thinks like that.

BB: Yep. We’re navigating uncharted waters.

HOJ: Totally. You know, I’m happy my family still smiles at me when they wake up in the morning and they see my face, you know? Because I’m normally not home, you know? I’ve been talking to several musicians and they’re like, “Yeah, you know, I kind of like it.” You know, some musicians that I know that always travel they’re like, even though I’m not working, I kind of like being home. You know, of course, you get used to it, right? So it’s like wow… And I’m talking to someone that always travels. So they’re telling me, “Yeah, I’m used to being home now. I wouldn’t know what to do, like what to pack anymore.” So that’s kind of weird, but the main thing is that everyone stays healthy. I mean, we don’t want to lose any more lives than we have. That’s the sad part.

So how’s your folks? Are they happy to see you every day?

BB: So far, pretty much so good. Hanging in there.

HOJ: That’s cool.

BB: Yeah. There was definitely an adjustment period. But yeah, definitely got the team team spirit going on, for sure, which is very, very cool.

Well thanks for chatting with me and catching up and sharing what you’ve been up to. herbohtajr.com, is that the best place that people can find out about your workshops and albums and stuff?

HOJ: Yes.

BB: herbohtajr.com. Great.

HOJ: Or just search for me on Facebook or something.

BB: Nice. Do you have any upcoming workshops going on?

HOJ: On November 21st I’m probably going to do a performance. It’s like celebrating my cd thing, but um and I’m giving away – not giving away. I’m not giving away, I’m raffling off a concert Kamaka ukulele. Jon Yamasato… Will Tofola will be playing bass, and um I think Jake will be a special guest.

BB: Sounds great.

HOJ: That’s kind of weird, you know. It’s like, during this pandemic I’ve gotten to really know – I mean, I’ve known Jake, but not really known. I mean we didn’t really uh talk as much because we’re both busy, but during this pandemic stuff… I’m going to give you an example. When Josh Green got COVID. The lieutenant governor gets COVID, it gets plastered everywhere, right? He calls me. And he goes, “Hey Herb, you heard? Josh Green got COVID!” And first thing that comes out of my mouth is, “Dude, you must be bored out of your mind. Because you’re calling me just to tell me Josh Green got COVID?” I’m like, you know what? Just get the car, put the boys in the car, your wife… Just drive around the island. Think about it: no traffic. Just go! Just go to the gas station, fill up your tank, and just drive around the island and just check out scenery or something. Well, sometimes I have to get in my car and just drive. Like, I’ll just drive around my town and come back home. We just, you know, I just hope and pray for everyone out there that tunes in, that um everyone stays safe and healthy. And especially you, your brother, and your parents.

BB: Thank you, you too.

HOJ: Yeah, um well, I’m trying my best.

BB: That’s all we can do.

HOJ: Exactly. So thanks for having me, man.

BB: Yeah, anytime. It’s always a pleasure and we didn’t get to catch up at the workshop this year.

HOJ: You want to do this tomorrow?

BB: It’s either me or Netflix, is that what you’re saying?

HOJ: No, no, no, no. I mean, it’s, you know… I think um those of you listening and or tuning in, Brad Bordessa is a student of the instrument. Meaning… And it’s not degrading you at all. It’s a compliment. Because not every musician out there that are performing and they consider themselves professional, they’re not a student of the instrument. You see what I’m saying? So I want your listeners and your viewers to understand that when they see you or they hear you, that you’re passionate about what you’re doing. It’s not for money, it’s not for popularity. It’s not a popularity contest with you. You genuinely have passion for the ukulele. That means you’re a student and you’ll always be a student of the instrument. So I want people listening and tuning in to understand that when they hear you, they see you, they listen to your cd, or something, that they understand that.

BB: Thank you. I’m just doing my thing; that I tell everybody. It’s what I like to do.

HOJ: Yeah, of course, but not everyone is like that. And I think people will appreciate that… I think people appreciate anyone that’s a student of what their craft is and not doing it for any other reason. But just genuinely passionate about your craft. And I want people to understand that you are passionate about your craft.

BB: You heard it here first, folks!

HOJ: But, you know, that’s the only compliment you’re getting from me this year, so…

BB: I get one per year.

HOJ: You know, I don’t know how bummed you were when they canceled June’s workshop. I was like, “oh man.”

BB: Yeah, Auntie Nancy sent that email, it’s like, “Oh yeah, it’s going to be a long year.” They were really early on it, I thought. I mean, they were yanking the plug like, what was it, April… March, April, like just the first signs of COVID we’re coming into Hawaiʻi and Auntie Nancy’s like, “Yep, sorry that’s our clientele is everybody who’s at risk. So stay home, folks.”

HOJ: Yeah, but I think it will be very exciting, very high energy, everyone will be happy when everyone gets together again for these camps. And I’m looking forward to it.

BB: We’ll be long overdue. Very good, sir. Thank you for your time.

HOJ: You take care now.

BB: Yep, you too.

HOJ: All right.

BB: Be sure to find out more about Herb’s performance coming up later in the month. You can subscribe to his mailing list through his website, herbohtajr.com, and also find out about taking Skype lessons from him as well. If you haven’t heard his music already, in my opinion it’s some of the essential music that every ukulele player should hear. I remember that his Ukulele Breeze album was actually one of the very first ukulele albums I ever heard and it really just knocked my socks off, and ever since then I’ve been a huge fan and can’t believe that I get to call a friend and a mentor. And I’m so grateful for him and all the guidance he’s given me over the years.

I’ll catch you in the next episode. Be kind to one another, stay safe out there, and I’ll see you back here the first and third Saturdays of the month. Aloha.