Editors Note: Due to a busy week here, we will be replaying our interview series. Since I interviewed Seeso back in February of 2009, he has continued to spread peace and democracy with his magical ukulele. The evil minions of the underworld took down the video that originally accompanied this interview, so it has been replaced with a much better original Seeso song that is impervious to their copyright weapons.
A mostly fictional Marvel Comics style origin story of Seeso in honor of his fanboy proclivities: Young Narciso Lobo had a destiny. His father, Dr. Lobo, always thought it would be the family business of medicine, but fate had other plans.
Donnie Bubbles: Okay, so the origin story is a little exaggerated. How did you really come to play the ukulele?
Seeso: I’m afraid your story is much more exciting than the truth. I picked one up in the Old Town School of Folk Music here in Chicago one day a couple of years ago, and instantly fell in love with the sound of her. I like the way she felt in my hands, and the portability was a factor. I bought it on the spot and haven’t looked back. I’ve been almost exclusively playing the ukulele ever since. I’m grateful that I have a store in my neighborhood that carried ukes. Most people don’t have that luxury.
DB: You have been hosting an Open Mic Night at the Subterranean in Chicago for more than five years. What has this experience taught you as a performer?
Seeso: First and foremost, hosting an open mic for so long has taught me that you have to earn your audience. You can’t just play and expect people to quiet down and listen to you. You have to make them shut up. This doesn’t always mean being loud and jumping around. Quietness sometimes works better. Usually, in fact.
Playing every week has also taught me how to play nice with other musicians. Jamming etiquette is a lost art. Oftentimes, performers will ask me to play with them during their set, and I’ve had to learn how not to step all over their parts. Knowing when not to play is just as important as knowing what to play.
Lastly, it has taught me to be myself. Earlier in my performing career, I tried too hard to be somebody that I wasn’t. I’d try to sound like Eddie Vedder or whoever. When I found out who I was musically, my audience seemed to respect that. I’ll never be able to sing like Otis Redding or write a song like Bill Withers. What I can do, is write from my own experiences, be specific, and sing in my own voice. It may sound obvious, but it’s a discovery that not many musicians make. I’m grateful that I was able to identify the problem, and now I can continue down the road of self-actualization.
DB: While scouring the Internet for details about you, I stumbled on a table read you did for the Frank Chin play, The Chickencoop Chinaman, and it was a very convincing performance. Was the play ever produced? Is acting something you are pursuing?
Seeso: I’ve actually been a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association for about 5 years now. I do theater here in Chicago. That particular play was never produced, but I have done work for that company (A Squared Theatre Workshop) in the past. Acting is my first passion, music comes second.
My proudest theater moment was the production of “The Romance of Magno Rubio” at the Victory Gardens in Chicago. We were nominated for two Jeff awards, which is like New York’s Tony awards. The play is about Filipino migrant farm workers in California in the 1930′s.
DB: From when you were first learning the ukulele, can you remember one skill or lesson that you felt had the biggest impact on your playing ability?
Seeso: The one lesson that helped me was to just know that the ukulele is a different animal, a different beast. You have to be in a certain headspace when you play the uke. I’d been a guitar and piano player for years, so I had to understand that I wasn’t going to be able to play it like a guitar. If you go in expecting a guitar sound, you’ll always be disappointed. Once you accept that, you can let the ukulele be what it is. The ukulele is the most pleasing sounding instrument in the world. If I had to choose one instrument to play for the rest of my life, it would be the deceptively simple, versatile, humble ukulele.
DB: What new adventures can we expect from you this year?
Seeso: I’m finally going to record my album this year. It’s tentatively titled, “Elvis and Autumn Leaves.” Look for it to be released in late Spring, early Summer. I’m working on new songs at the moment, and I’ll post them on YouTube when they’re ready for human consumption. I’ve also got some more collaboration videos planned. They’re great fun.
Twank is the newest addition to T-Pain’s Nappy Boy record label, so I have high hopes for that little tune. Keep your fingers crossed! I’m really proud of that little song that could. I know it’s against all odds to have a hit ukulele hip hop song, but who knows? Stranger things have happened.
If you’ll allow me the indulgence, I’d just like to take some time to thank all my YouTube subscribers. The effect of your support has been immeasurable. I was just about to give music up, really. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Here in frigid Chicago, I’m warm and cozy when I read your comments and emails.
There are several ways to stay up to date with my shenanigans -