Published May 26, 2011In addition to celebrating Pearl Jam's 20th anniversary, grunge god Eddie Vedder is releasing a stripped-down collection of ukulele songs called -- you guessed it -- Ukulele Songs. Now, he has spoken out about his love for the humble instrument.
The songwriter told NPR that he first came across the ukulele in a Hawaiian convenience store in the '90s. It quickly became a way to assuage his feelings of loneliness, apparently.
"If it weren't for the ukulele, I would have been by myself," he said of that time. "The songs were just written for my own benefit."
Many of the tracks date back to that earlier period. Vedder called the songs "works of fiction," but admitted that there are dark undertones to much of the album. Still, the ukulele helped keep things from getting to depressing.
"It is a happy sound, and by using it to process some emotions that were less than joyful, it somehow balanced it out to where it didn't sound like suicide music," he noted.
Without the explosive electric guitars and thundering rhythm section found in most of Pearl Jam's work, the ukulele gave Vedder more sonic space to develop his skills as a lyricist, he said.
"I think for some reason it might be more difficult to tell a story in a band song," reflected Vedder. "Every time we accomplish that, the outcome seems to be positive, in terms of how it connects to people who hear it. This, there's so much room for it."
This makes it easier for audiences to relate to the material and become involved in the live show, he observed. "It's such a small instrument. People are like, 'Let's help it out!'"
Vedder is hoping the instrument's interactive element comes across on Ukulele Songs. He's even releasing the album alongside a chord chart so that fans can play along at home.
"I know for the vinyl version of the record there's going to be a real book included, with the music and the notation and whatever bizarre chords I've come up with -- a legible version of the notebook I was creating all those years," he revealed. "I'm just encouraging people to turn off the TV and play these songs, if you want. Some of them are really depressing. But have fun with it."
Read more about the details of Ukulele Songs here, and take a listen to the whole thing here.
Ukulele Songs will officially be out May 31 via Monkeywrench/Universal, and will come packaged with a live DVD. Catch Vedder in person on his solo U.S. tour and on Pearl Jam's Canadian tour.