hes best known as a surf-rock guitar stylist with numerous recording
credits to his name, San Diego based Tim Coffman is also a
wonderful music producer and he puts his pedal to the mettle with
With Love, Sarah Maisel, the 2012 CD from singer
Sarah Maisel. While Coffmans own solo albums are primarily
guitar based instrumentals, as a producer he brings out the best in
Maisel. In addition to her innate vocal ability, Ms. Maisel is an
excellent ukulele player and backing herself on uke, shes assisted
by a fine band including steel guitarist Gordon Freitas. For
her With Love album, Sarah delves deep into the Great American
songbook, sounding like a modern day Mary Ford, while carving out
a new niche with sublime Hawaiian inspired Slack Key based covers
of a number of classic standards by Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington,
Motown, Steve Goodman, The Beatles and more. Coffmans production
is pretty flawless, enhancing Ms. Maisels obvious vocal gift
for seducing you with a classic cover song. www.RolltopMusic.com
presents an interview with
Whats the inside story behind the making of the With Love
album? How is it different or complimentary to your other CDs
released on the Rolltop label? Who did the production and a&r
(choice of music) and who plays with you on the CD?
past two albums have been great, but for this one I wanted to capture
my current sound. It was important, to me, to do an album that would
be what folks would hear when they hear me perform. Ive been
performing with Paul Tillery (upright bass) for over two years now.
He is a phenomenal player, as well as a good friend of mine. He has
been a great person for bouncing back arranging ideas.
I am incredibly fortunate to have Duncan Moore and Gordon Freitas
on my album. Duncan is one of the best San Diego jazz drummers in
town, and Gordon is known in Hawaii as an artist and songwriter. Both
are incredibly talented.
This particular album, I felt captured our live sound. The song choices
were mine and Tim Coffmans. I absolutely love jazz standards,
so those are my favorites, of course.
mwe3: When and where did you start with the ukulele and other
instruments? Where did you grow up and where do you live now and how
did that impact your musical training and experiences over the years?
Music has always been a part of my life in one way or another. My
father told me that music started for me on the car ride home from
the hospital, after I was born, when he put on Count Basie. I am originally
from Birmingham, Alabama and my elementary school had a great music
program. I started violin in 1st grade, took lessons at my school,
with a rented violin, and then eventually did private lessons until
I was 16. I did mostly classical music and was a part of the Youth
String Orchestra for several years. During that time I also studied
piano for 3 years. Even though I stopped lessons after three years
I still spent ample time practicing and learning new songs. I focused
mostly on Ragtime music; it was my favorite at the time.
I stopped playing music at 16, however, to pursue a career in theater.
Because of the demands of theater, I just didnt have time to
play much music. I listened to it constantly, however. The music I
have surrounded myself with has always been a large mix, but my main
stays have always been jazz, mostly between 1930-1960, classic rock,
I moved to North Carolina to attend college and still did not play
music. Once I graduated with my BFA in Costume Technology (pattern
making), I moved out to California. I was able to find a job in San
Diego which is where I still live today.
The magical moment for me happened in 2006. I had never seen or heard
(in person) a ukulele. I knew nothing of Hawaii or of Hawaiian culture.
A good friend of mine told me about this pizza place where they had
Hawaii Night and everyone played ukulele. I had to check
it out; it was one of the craziest things I had heard about. I went
and was instantly hooked. The joy in the room was amazing. It had
been so long since I had played music, I had forgotten how important
it was to me.
For me the uke isnt just an instrument, it is also a type of
therapy. Any time I feel sad, or upset, all I have to
do is pull it out and practice and I immediately feel better. I jokingly
call it my life preserver.
In an earlier interview, Rolltops Tim Coffman talked about meeting
you while recording with some Hawaiian musicians. How would you describe
the approach you and Tim have taken on your new With Love album?
It sounds like an Island type of album but with a West
Coast pop kind of sensibility. When did you first start listen to
Hawaiian music and who are your favorite Hawaiian singers and musicians?
in San Diego has really opened my eyes to Hawaiian music. I have met
so many Hawaiian people that live here; many will tell me that it
is the closest you can get to Hawaii, on the mainland, as far as climate,
but the water is much colder here. Honestly the first time I had listened
to Hawaiian music was in 2006. I feel embarrassed to say so, but it
is true. The artists that have spoken the most to me are Teresa Bright
and Herb Ota Sr. I also really enjoy Daniel Ho. I have several of
their CDs and love their styles.
As far as the approach to the album, I really was looking at it more
from a jazz point of view. That music is my passion, and I feel that
it lends itself to the ukulele very well. The albums prior, for me,
felt more pop, and I wanted this one to stand out as more of a jazz
mwe3: Who are your big pop, jazz and rock and guitar/uke influences
musically and what are some of your most influential albums and artists?
Ill have to approach this question from a Before the Ukulele
and After the Ukulele stand point. Before I started the
uke, I have to say my biggest influences have been Duke Ellington,
Ella Fitzgerald, George Benson, and The Beatles. Id have to
say, though, out of all of those, Ella is the most important to me.
I always use her vocals for any standard as a reference. I am particularly
fond of her phrasing; she just had such an amazing talent and a huge
uke however, I have a different list of artists that have really influenced
me. The two biggest ones are Lyle Ritz and Benny Chong. Once I heard
Lyle, that was it. I knew at once that I wanted to play jazz on the
uke. Then after researching and finding Benny Chong, I lost my mind.
I love his voicings and song arrangements. I used to spend hours just
watching as many videos of Benny that I could find. I wanted to sound
like him... (and) I still want to sound like him. Living in San Diego,
Ive only had the pleasure of seeing him live twice. Both times
were so inspiring, and I would go home and practice even more than
Of course I must add, when you find Benny Chong, you then find Byron
Yasui, another phenomenal musician.
Another person that has influenced me greatly is Joe Pass. Yes, he
is not a ukulele player, but I had never paid him much attention earlier
on. I was listening to a recording I have with Ella and noticed that
there was just one other person playing with her... Joe Pass. The
way he uses the guitar is amazing. Even though it is guitar, some
of his techniques can still apply to the uke. I wish I could fill
space the way he does. The album of his that I listen to on a regular
basis is Virtuoso.
mwe3: What are your plans moving forward into 2013 as far as
writing, recording and performing music?
Now that I am no longer contracted to be in the studio, I am planning
on doing a small tour in California, and possibly Oregon. I have been
writing and arranging originals and plan to record this year or next.
It is very exciting! I havent had much time to myself for composition,
but now that I am able to sit down and breathe, Im working things
out rather quickly.
Recently I received a ukulele from Mike DaSilva. I LOVE the uke and
want to show it off to everyone I can find. It is just an amazing
instrument with such intense clarity. I feel very fortunate and Im
lucky that Mike happens also to be a friend of mine as well.
Of course I do hope to travel as much as possible. I would like to
share the joy of the uke with as many folks as I can. It is just a
fantastic instrument and the music means so much to me, I cant
help but want to share it.
Thanks to Sarah Maisel @ www.SarahMaisel.com
and to Tim Coffman @ www.RolltopMusic.com