Bruce Off Broadway headlines at Connecticut Ukulele Festival

Photo of TinaMarie Craven

Jim Boggia will be bringing his Bruce Off Broadway show to the Connecticut Ukulele Festival in Southport. The musician will be headlining the festival on Sept. 21 at the Pequot Library, which offers concerts, food and ukulele workshops. Boggia’s ukulele tribute to Springsteen will be held at 7 p.m. where he will perform selections of Springsteen’s vast musical catalogue on his ukulele. During his 20-year career he has worked with a variety of musicians including Joan Osborne, Aimee Mann, Juliana Hatfield, Tracy Bonham, Bernadette Peters, NRBQ’s Big Al Anderson and the Fab Faux.

TinaMarie Craven: When did you become interested in music?

Jim Boggia: That sort of happened before I can remember. My mom claims that I was singing melodies along with the radio before I could talk. I remember having records when I was three or four years old that my aunts and uncles would give me because I would learn how to sing them and they thought that was amazing. I started begging my folks to play guitar at age four and my hands were too small. Finally when I was five, I think my dad slipped some money to the guitar teacher and said ‘look just start teaching him.’ When I first started playing guitar I could only reach the bottom four strings, I couldn’t reach the low E or the A strings.

TC: What inspired you to learn how to play the ukulele?

JB: A friend of mine had one and I picked it up and it immediately made me think about being a little kid and playing the guitar for the first time. When I first picked it up and played it, I had an immediate sense of what the instrument could do or what I could do on the instrument and it was just very exciting. It was close enough to a guitar that my skills could transfer over but it was just different enough that there were new things to learn and new challenges. I just got kind of obsessed with it.

TC: What inspired you to do a ukulele tribute to Springsteen? A ukulele isn’t exactly the first instrument people think of when they think of him.

JB: One of the first songs that I worked up when I was learning the uke was a version of “Thunder Road” and that came about just because early on I was just messing around on the instrument and I’d play a little phrase that would remind me of a certain song so I would say, ‘OK, can I learn this song on a ukulele?’ The opening piano part that starts on “Thunder Road,” I played something on the uke that sounded like that and got an arrangement together for it. I started playing it at shows and people really loved it. When Bruce started doing the “Springsteen on Broadway” people were talking about how it’s like $800 for tickets and it just seemed funny to me, like ‘oh, I could do Bruce Off Broadway and charge like eight bucks’ so the idea was almost like a joke at first in response to him doing the Broadway show but then I thought about it and it made sense, he’s got this amazing catalogue of tunes that dates back 40 years and I knew if I dug in there would be plenty of songs that I loved that people really like that work really well on the ukulele. So I set it as a challenge for myself to see if I could find an hour and a half of stuff that worked on the uke that I really liked playing.

TC: Do you have a favorite Springsteen song outside of “Thunder Road”?

JB: Yeah, right now I’ve recently added “Rosalita,” which is fairly early in his catalogue. Early on Springsteen had a very 70s kinda thing where the songs were epic and they these different sections to them, making these musical suites and you’d have these songs that there seven, eight minutes long. It is such a challenge but so much fun to play and it really is a rousing song. I’d say “My Home Town” is such a beautifully written song, that lyric is really like a short story, there’s as much detail and as much of a narrative arc as there is in short stories that people write on the page. I always like playing that song and it’s a nice change of pace emotionally. On the ukulele, people think it’s strum, strum, strum, happy, happy, happy but it’s a delicate sounding instrument and if you’re playing singer style, — like I do on the instrument — it can be very beautiful so it’s nice to show that aspect of both the instrument and his songwriting.

TC: What do you want people to take away from the festival?

JB: First thing I want them to have fun and enjoy themselves. The thing that I do with this show and with everything I do on the uke since I started playing it, is to show that it’s a real instrument and it has a range of things that you can play on it and with it that is broader than the traditional idea of Tiny Tim (who was awesome). Kids tend to get it, kids have come up now where ukulele is the kind of instrument a lot of people play. A lot of time older folks and that’s to say over 30 and say ‘wow, I didn’t know you could play that with a ukulele’ and that always makes me feel good because that’s the thing I’m trying to get across. It’s a real instrument, it’s a worthy instrument for musicians to take up and treat seriously. At the end of the day it’s always a lot of fun.

For more information about the Connecticut Ukulele Festival visit,