Uni and her Ukelele
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Uni and her Ukelele

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"UNI AND HER UKELELE HELPS SHATTER THE PERCEPTION OF THE UKELELE AS MERELY A NOVELTY INSTRUMENT AT RECENT AMOEBA MUSIC IN-STORE"

UNI AND HER UKELELE HELPS SHATTER THE PERCEPTION OF THE UKELELE AS MERELY A NOVELTY INSTRUMENT AT RECENT AMOEBA MUSIC IN-STORE
by Billy Jam

The one-woman powerhouse Uni and her Ukelele is single-handedly out to change the general public's perception of the ukelele as merely a novelty instrument. And at her Amoeba Music, Berkeley in-store performance on Saturday afternoon, November 11th, the talented singer/song-writer/instrumentalist, who sometimes performs with a band but played solo for this date, made several steps towards that goal by delivering an always engaging, heart-felt, half-hour set of mostly her own compositions, mainly drawn from the San Francisco artist's new CD "My Favorite Letter Is U." "How many of you have ever seen a real ukelele player before?," she asked in the middle of her set. With only about half the Amoeba shoppers present responding "yes" to this question clearly Uni is introducing a whole new audience to the instrument. But more importantly she is not introducing the ukelele as merely a novelty instrument.

Decked out in a knitted-hat, white high-heel granny boots, and an eye-catching, black & white striped, and brightly colorful pink and purple outfit (she makes her own clothes!) Uni and her Ukelele began her set, perched atop the Amoeba Berkeley stage (the Telegraph Avenue store's transformed info booth) with just her small-string instrument, her powerful voice, and her props (two stuffed unicorns - one white, one pink which are constantly referenced in her lyrics) to accompany her. And with that she ripped through a great set that included the songs "Love is a Lost Art Now," "Mahalo Maui Rose," "Twinkle Twinkle," "I'm On My Way," and "The Wedding Song" which is a new song that she introduced by saying "I wrote this song after I got back from Montana where I went and played a wedding."

She also did the seasonal song "Christmas on Tattowen" culled from the CD collaboration, Uni and Dr. Trucker's "Christmas Is The Best" album. Before launching into this song she explained to the small but totally engrossed audience that the song was about a Star Wars planet. She finished her set with the in-stores only non-original song, "True Love Will Find U In the End" by one of her favorite artists:

AmoebaMusic.com: What did you think of today's in-store?
UNI: It was fun. I don't get to play in the East Bay enough. And I liked playing on the information counter (laughing). I also liked the dad and his two kids blowing bubbles at me. I liked seeing my friends Lew and Steffy Sue and i loved being able to play for people that might not have ever seen me perform before. Afterwards one girl said she wanted to buy a ukelele herself and learn to play.

AmoebaMusic.com: You come across as a really positive person. To what do you attribute this mindset?
UNI: I think there is so much negitive, hurtful, sly mindsets in the music business nowadays, and in human beings in general just connecting with one another. Of course I suffer from my own setbacks so I can't say that I'm always positive, but I really do try to share happiness and pure emotion with others in my real girl life and onstage.

AmoebaMusic.com: During your set you made references to your MySpace and I notice you also have postings on YouTube. To what degree does this current digital age's access help get your music out there compared to say, a few years ago, when MySpace and You Tube didnt even exist?
UNI: MySpace has totally helped me. I'm not at all that computer savvy but MySpace is easy enough to update my work on and consequently people from all over the world have found me. I'm an independent artist and I don't know how I would have gotten this far without tools like Youtube and MySpace.

AmoebaMusic.com: When/how did your interest in unicorns begin?
UNI: I've loved Unicorns since i was a little girl. They are good-doers and they are compassionate to others. They are strong and magical. I guess some people think of themselves as thugs, some think of themselves as trekkies but me, I think of myself as a Unicorn!

YOU CAN FIND UNI AND HER UKELELE's NEW CD AT AMOEBA MUSIC

FOR MORE INFO ON THE ARTIST GO TO:
www.myspace.com/uniandherukelele
www.unicornbread.com - Ameoba Music


"That Blonde Venus hair..."

"That Blonde Venus hair, those frilly outfits, that sweet, sweet voice: It could only be Uni & Her Ukelele. The uke's pink, usually, and the girl's obsessed with unicorns; the overall effect is the musical and sartorial equivalent of sucking on a jawbreaker while drinking whiskey straight from the bottle. Although Uni claims both Ol' Dirty Bastard and Stevie Nicks as influences and strays a long, long way from traditional, she does perform a tune called "Mahalo Maui Rose" that brings the old-fashioned plinky romance."

- Michael Leaverton & Hiya Swanhuyser for SF Weekly, November 16, 2005 - SF Weekly


"Consider the ukulele..."

"Consider the ukulele — which, roughly translated, means “jumping flea� — developed in Hawaii by way of Portugal and wielded ably now by Uni, a petite and soulful singer who is to wacky sexiness what the nitroglycerin dot is to firecrackers. Channeling the spirits of Tin Pan Alley and Joni Mitchell, she’ll unveil songs from her new album, My Favorite Letter Is U (Unicornbread), with her electrified ukulele, Sally Luka — think B.B. King’s Lucille, but with the personality of a fierce kitten. If all you know about the ukulele is Tiny Tim or that kid on Google Video who rips through “Classical Gas� on his uke, you owe it to yourself to have your mind properly blown forthwith."

- David Cotner for LA Weekly, July 14, 2006 - LA Weekly


"Had it with the guitar?"

Had it with the guitar? Consider the ukelele. Heather Marie Ellison, aka Uni, was sold on it the moment she heard a friend play a Prince song on one a couple years ago. In a flash as bright as the glitter she wears onstage, she realized she'd found her instrument. Soon after, Ellison acquired a pink ukelele and christened it Sally Luka - Uni and her Ukelele have been inseparable ever since.

With its small size and fanciful name, the ukelele seems a natural fit for a unicorn-obsessed gal who sews her own frilly stage costumes. But Ellison picked the ukelele based on more than quirk appeal; it was also a practical key to creativity and independence. "I was trying to find an instrument to accompany myself, because I'd always been the chick singer in the band," says Ellison, whose formal training was mostly as a vocalist. "I wanted to be able to play, to be able to rely on myself. I was working on guitar, but it was intimidating. And I realized anything you can do on a guitar, you can do on a ukelele. It's just a guitar with two less strings. It's really easy to learn on. And it's forgiving, you can't really hit the wrong note."

Ellison discovered the ukelele was perfect for both learning and songwriting because it was portable enough to go anywhere; she could play it on her lunch break at Amoeba Music in San Francisco. In teaching herself, she bypassed the traditional ukelele repertoire of Hawaiian songs and Tin Pan Alley tunes to create a unique pop sound of her own making. Lyrics emerged alongside her fingering as she made up songs to go with the chord progressions she learned.

Uni and her Ukelele began performing to a warm reception throughout California, interspersed with Ellison's many other projects. She's been spotted in the funky aerobics outfit Get in Shape, Bitch! and the bizarre cooing electroclash duo Lil' Miss Juju B and Uncle Kenny, as well as the Paper Dolls, a ukelele trio that plays mostly covers. After building up confidence both solo and as a member of the Dolls, Ellison decided to focus her formidable energy on putting out an album. "When I do covers, I feel good, but when I get off-stage, I don't feel the same as with my own songs," she explains. "As much as I love covers, I wanted to give my music a chance."

The result of plenty of do-it-yourself elbow grease, plus some help from musically-minded friends, is My Favorite Letter is U, a self-released debut album with a homemade cover that's a fantasia of rainbows, unicorns, and striped stockings. It's a dish of jangly, whimsical pop confections whose irresistible sweetness veers between girlish disingenuity and womanly wryness. All its songs were written on the ukelele, and though other instruments - keys, drums, bass - drop in to say hello, the ukelele's gentle, rhythmic strumming remains Ellison's most constant companion, the weightless support that keeps her aloft.

To be fair, it's not all about the ukelele. Ellison has a gorgeous, throaty voice that vibrates softly around the edges, but purrs into pitches dead on. A trace of huskiness remains when she rises to a breathless falsetto, singeing the sugar of her voice as it turns dryly humorous, or catches with yearning, or gives out an excited squeal. The tones of both innocence and knowledge converge in it, like hearing a grown-up speak from the safe space of a child's room, and Ellison's lyrics mine this ambiguity with artless guile.

"Oh Henry" is a comic but tender song about both a bratty pony and taking another chance on love. On "See your face again," a grown-up heart asks a child's question: "How can I love you when I live here in LA?" And the lilting sigh of the titular refrain on "Love is a lost art now" seamlessly marries the jaded sophisticate and the starry-eyed ingénue.

Ellison strikes a similar balance between chutzpah and humility in approaching her music. While admitting she was insecure about putting her songs out, she says she overcame the obstacle simply by sucking it up and setting a deadline. "I thought, 'It's gonna be raw, no matter what, because I don't have thousands of dollars to put into it.' And I set a date. I said, 'I'm just getting it done and putting it out.' And that's what I did... It was a good learning experience and I'm, well, proud of myself. I figure it'll only get better if I play more and write more. People like to see you grow."

- Rebecca Johnson for Performer Magazine, October 2006 - Performer Magazine


"school paper project"

With sweet tunes like ..See Your Face Again,.. ..Home,.. and the title track of her newly released album ..My Favorite Letter is U.. you can..t lose!
The San Francisco songbird Heather Marie Ellison, aka Uni, and Sally Luka, her pink ukulele, came together to create Uni and her Ukelele three years ago[this December]. Together they have played many of shows throughout California, dazzling audiences with her frilly outfits and breathtaking vocal ability.
In my recent interview with Miss Uni I learned how it all began..

What..s the story behind ..Uni and her Ukelele?..
I love unicorns and my ukelele so it just came to pass.

Why a uke and not some other instrument?
I tried learning the guitar- too big. I want to learn keyboards now, learning the ukelele has helped my ear and songwriting.. it..s a great beginning instrument.

Are you happy as an independent artist or would you prefer mainstream?
I want to make a living as a songwriter/performing artist, being indie is awesome.. but hard. I could use some help. I wouldn..t mind being on a label that doesn..t want to make me into a joke, if they understood that I do this for love, and they wanted to get my music to the world, I would sing. No one has asked yet- we..ll see. I..ll do it anyways.

What are some stresses of choosing music as a career?
Well, that..s a good question. There are many stresses. Music is something that everyone loves, but everyone has their own idea of it. Since I..m writing my own songs I..m showing my insides as well as my outsides, I..m up for judgment, and that..s hard. Not everyone likes what I do, but I have to remind myself that I do this ..cause I love it.

Describe two or three positive aspects:
I get to express myself
I feel free
It makes life worth living
I get to meet people, and
I get to inspire people.

Describe two or three negative aspects:
It..s a lot of work, with little in return.
It can be lonely, and I have to be strong, even when I..m scared inside.

What kind of advice would you give someone wanting to pursue music?
Do it! There..s a place for all of us.. do what you love!

Where can people learn more about you?
My MySpace page- www.myspace.com/uniandherukelele
And my website- www.unicornbread.com
Uni..s album ..My Favorite Letter is U.. is available now at www.cdbaby.com - Interview by Tiffany Montgomery


"The little ones of the world love Uni"

Uni and Her Ukelele My Favorite Letter is U Another SF local. She's got a rad voice and puts on a great show. She sings about everything in the world, but in this song she sings about rainbows and unicorns. And, she dresses real pretty and she's sparkly, which always appeals to the littles. Her songs are really heartfelt and genuine. She's a beautiful woman, inside and out. Max loves her songs and whenever we see her, he gets really happy. He drew her a picture once of a unicorn in a rainstorm and he loves listening to her music. He wants to know what all the lyrics mean. Doesnt even dance to it, just listens, even though it's pop at its finest!
http://smallages.blogspot.com - small ages blog


"Ukelele's are the new black (or pink...whatever)"

http://songsillinoismp3.blogspot.com/2006/07/ukeleles-are-new-black-or.html
Friday, July 28, 2006
Ukelele's are the new black (or pink...whatever)(Uni and Her Ukelele or my attempt to get picked up by Boing Boing!)


Uni And Her Ukelele has a goal. And it's to be the best damn opening act in the world. I like humble people and attainable dreams. She also wants to free the Unicorns and spread pixie dust all over the world...I can't get with that one.

These are fairly simple songs from a freaky performance artist, to see her live with all her sparkles and fairy outfit is probably the best way to hear these songs. I'd call it twee but it's too damn weird and openly sexual for those kids. These two songs are from her new record My Favorite Letter Is U available now on CD Baby. She just got written up by LA Weekly (and I couldn't have said it better myself, although maybe I did?)

"Consider the ukulele which, roughly translated, means jumping flea developed in Hawaii by way of Portugal and wielded ably now by Uni, a petite and soulful singer who is to wacky sexiness what the nitroglycerin dot is to firecrackers. Channeling the spirits of Tin Pan Alley and Joni Mitchell, shell unveil songs from her new album, My Favorite Letter Is U (Unicornbread), with her electrified ukulele, Sally Luka think B.B. Kings Lucille, but with the personality of a fierce kitten. If all you know about the ukulele is Tiny Tim or that kid on Google Video who rips through Classical Gas on his uke, you owe it to yourself to have your mind properly blown forthwith."

My Favorite Letter Is U
Sean

P.S. If this doesn't get picked up by Boing Boing I don't know what the hell will!!

MP3, Music

posted by craig at 2:22 PM - songs illinois


Discography

Uni and her Ukelele's debut album "My Favorite Letter Is U"

Photos

Bio

"Had it with the guitar? Consider the ukelele. Heather Marie Ellison, aka Uni, was sold on it the moment she heard a friend play a Prince song on one a couple years ago. In a flash as bright as the glitter she wears onstage, she realized she'd found her instrument. Soon after, Ellison acquired a pink ukelele and christened it Sally Luka - Uni and her Ukelele have been inseparable ever since.

With its small size and fanciful name, the ukelele seems a natural fit for a unicorn-obsessed gal who sews her own frilly stage costumes. But Ellison picked the ukelele based on more than quirk appeal; it was also a practical key to creativity and independence. "I was trying to find an instrument to accompany myself, because I'd always been the chick singer in the band," says Ellison, whose formal training was mostly as a vocalist. "I wanted to be able to play, to be able to rely on myself. I was working on guitar, but it was intimidating. And I realized anything you can do on a guitar, you can do on a ukelele. It's just a guitar with two less strings. It's really easy to learn on. And it's forgiving, you can't really hit the wrong note."

Ellison discovered the ukelele was perfect for both learning and songwriting because it was portable enough to go anywhere; she could play it on her lunch break at Amoeba Music in San Francisco. In teaching herself, she bypassed the traditional ukelele repertoire of Hawaiian songs and Tin Pan Alley tunes to create a unique pop sound of her own making. Lyrics emerged alongside her fingering as she made up songs to go with the chord progressions she learned.

Uni and her Ukelele began performing to a warm reception throughout California, interspersed with Ellison's many other projects. She's been spotted in the funky aerobics outfit Get in Shape, Bitch! and the bizarre cooing electroclash duo Lil' Miss Juju B and Uncle Kenny, as well as the Paper Dolls, a ukelele trio that plays mostly covers. After building up confidence both solo and as a member of the Dolls, Ellison decided to focus her formidable energy on putting out an album. "When I do covers, I feel good, but when I get off-stage, I don't feel the same as with my own songs," she explains. "As much as I love covers, I wanted to give my music a chance."

The result of plenty of do-it-yourself elbow grease, plus some help from musically-minded friends, is My Favorite Letter is U, a self-released debut album with a homemade cover that's a fantasia of rainbows, unicorns, and striped stockings. It's a dish of jangly, whimsical pop confections whose irresistible sweetness veers between girlish disingenuity and womanly wryness. All its songs were written on the ukelele, and though other instruments - keys, drums, bass - drop in to say hello, the ukelele's gentle, rhythmic strumming remains Ellison's most constant companion, the weightless support that keeps her aloft.

To be fair, it's not all about the ukelele. Ellison has a gorgeous, throaty voice that vibrates softly around the edges, but purrs into pitches dead on. A trace of huskiness remains when she rises to a breathless falsetto, singeing the sugar of her voice as it turns dryly humorous, or catches with yearning, or gives out an excited squeal. The tones of both innocence and knowledge converge in it, like hearing a grown-up speak from the safe space of a child's room, and Ellison's lyrics mine this ambiguity with artless guile.

"Oh Henry" is a comic but tender song about both a bratty pony and taking another chance on love. On "See your face again," a grown-up heart asks a child's question: "How can I love you when I live here in LA?" And the lilting sigh of the titular refrain on "Love is a lost art now" seamlessly marries the jaded sophisticate and the starry-eyed ingénue.

Ellison strikes a similar balance between chutzpah and humility in approaching her music. While admitting she was insecure about putting her songs out, she says she overcame the obstacle simply by sucking it up and setting a deadline. "I thought, 'It's gonna be raw, no matter what, because I don't have thousands of dollars to put into it.' And I set a date. I said, 'I'm just getting it done and putting it out.' And that's what I did... It was a good learning experience and I'm, well, proud of myself. I figure it'll only get better if I play more and write more. People like to see you grow."

- Rebecca Johnson for Performer Magazine, October 2006