With Love
(Rolltop Records)


Although he’s 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 Coffman’s 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, she’s 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. Coffman’s production is pretty flawless, enhancing Ms. Maisel’s obvious vocal gift for seducing you with a classic cover song. presents an interview with


mwe3: What’s 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?

SARAH: The 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. I’ve 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 Coffman’s. 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?

SARAH: 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 didn’t 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, and classical.

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 isn’t 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’.

mwe3: In an earlier interview, Rolltop’s 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?

SARAH: Living 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 album”.

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?

SARAH: Well, I’ll 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. I’d 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 vocal range.

After the 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, I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing him live twice. Both times were so inspiring, and I would go home and practice even more than before.

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?

SARAH: 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 haven’t had much time to myself for composition, but now that I am able to sit down and breathe, I’m 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 I’m 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 can’t help but want to share it.

Thanks to Sarah Maisel @ and to Tim Coffman @


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