"Basically, what I do is
a simplified version of classical music.... but rather than trying to compose something
complex and significant, I keep things simple and to the point....
I like to describe my music as "George Winston meets Chopin, with a
twist of Pink Floyd."
- David Nevue, Sept. 2003
The following interview was given for Mainly Piano in February of 2004. (Others are available from 2007 and 2011.
If you like this interview, see also see this one from Oct. 2003, or this one from 2002.
You'll find a 2009 interview in audio form that you can listen to on Jory Fisher's web site.
And another short interview with the Pianist from the Inside blog.
David Nevue (pronounced NEV-yoo) is something of a Renaissance Man. He is a composer and a performing pianist, runs several music-related websites, launched an Internet broadcast called Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio, authored a book on Internet music promtion, organized piano concert showcases and more. He wears many hats and does
all of these things exceptionally well.
David and I have had an email correspondence for several years, so it was really fun to have a long phone conversation to learn more about him and where some of these ideas have come from. Weíre talking about doing a workshop in the near-future, so this will serve as an introduction to this very interesting man.
David Nevue was born in North Bend, Oregon in 1965. An only child, Davidís father worked in a lumber mill when he was growing up, but had glue poisoning when David was twelve, and had to go on disability. At that point, Davidís family moved to Colorado so his father could attend Seminary. He became a preacher and an evangelist. They lived in Colorado for five years, and David returned to Oregon for college. His mom was a cook for many years and is now retired; his dad passed away in the fall of 2003.
David started piano lessons at age 12, and went through three different teachers in three years. After the third year, he quit altogether. He played trumpet for three years as a child and currently plays piano, bass and acoustic guitar for the worship band at his church. David cites Rush, U2, Kate Bush, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, and Renaissance as the artists who influence his musical style the most, and his favorite classical composers are Chopin, Debussy, Lizst, Ravel, and Rachmaninoff.
Outside of music, David enjoys going out to eat (ďa bit too much, perhaps!Ē), car races, bowling, football, and finding time to go off and be by himself in the forest - ďI love a good waterfall!Ē He is married and has two young children, and the family resides outside Eugene, Oregon.
Here is the interview we did in February 2004:
Where did you go to college, and what was your major?
I went to George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon from 1983-87. I started out as a music major, but after being disappointed with the music department, I dropped the music major after my first semester, and was undeclared for about a year and a half. After that, I was heavily involved in theater, but since a theater and drama major wasnít available at the time, my theater credits went to a Communication Arts major, with a minor in Music Theater. I was also one credit away from
a minor in Writing Literature; I was writing a lot of poetry at that time.
So youíve always been very diversified.
Yeah, at that time in my life I really wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be involved in theater. After I got out of college, I interned with a local theater group. That ended when the founding couple divorced, and I never really pursued theater after that. My focus was starting to change, anyway, and I began to delve more into music composition. I had a rock band phase, and after all the dust settled, I ended up being
a solo piano artist. The only poetic prose I write now is the liner notes for my CDs.
It seems like the majority of pianists in the new age/contemporary instrumental genre compare themselves to George Winston and name him as an influence, but with you, that seems to be especially true.
My college roommate used to play Winstonís music all the time. I had never heard anything like it, and was fascinated by it. When I first started to compose for the piano, I remember thinking about his riffs and seeing if I could find that sound, trying to get that vibe. I canít imagine being a solo piano player had I not heard his music. It was one of those things where youíre exposed to something new,
and the light goes on. Winston was my primary musical influence early on. I found my own sound with my second album, and then I kept on developing that.
You wrote your first piano piece at about 20?
In my junior year of college, I was asked to compose a soundtrack for a theater presentation of C.S. Lewisí ďScrewtape Letters.Ē I composed the music for that on keyboard, but later on, I recorded a couple of those pieces as piano solos.
I remember your announcement two years ago that you were quitting your day job to become a full-time composer/musician. What was your day job back then?
I worked at Symantec Corporation, which makes AntiVirus and Internet Security software. I was there for eight years, and spent my first year in telephone support. I hated that! Then I did online support for three years, and really enjoyed that. Later on, I moved into quality assurance management for the e-commerce team.
So thatís where you really got immersed in the Internet.
Oh yeah, totally! I started promoting my music on the Internet in Ď95, but at that time all I had was a web page to promote my second album. I didnít really know what I was doing, and I donít think anyone else did at the time, either. At the beginning, most people looked at the Internet as a kind of video game. I donít think anyone really expected it to become the culture itís become. I got on there early,
and then I wrote my book the end of Ď97 on how to promote your music on the Internet. Iíve been updating that every few months since, so thatís a big part of my life and my income. I also I have the Music Biz Academy, which is my educational website for musicians. And then I have my CDs and sheet music, so I have a lot of different aspects to my online business as well as the various partnerships that Iíve
formed. As my business grew, it got to the point where I was making as much money on the Internet as I was at Symantec. I worked both for a year to be sure that it wasnít a fluke, and saved enough money to live on for a year if the rug was suddenly pulled out from under me. I left Symantec in November 2001, and Iíve been doing this full time ever since.
Is your book in a hard copy or is it something that is downloaded?
Itís in both hard copy and pdf format.
You really do it all!
Thatís just part of who I am - Iím very much an idea person. Itís really cool because the performance part of my career is really taking off now. Two years ago, gigs were rare, but now Iím playing almost every weekend. The Whisperings Radio group concerts are really taking off as well. We did our first one in Seattle, then San Francisco, and coming up are Portland, Birmingham, St. Louis and York, PA. I really think
that when people experience these concerts, theyíll want to go again and again. Once we get this process rolling, we can do events in many different areas of the country on a yearly basis. The Whisperings Solo Piano Radio broadcast is going gangbusters. Itís filling up everyday now, and listeners canít always get in because weíve maxed out our bandwidth. About 70,000 people are listening to it each month.
Can you expand the bandwidth or start a second broadcast?
Yes, I'll continue to expand the bandwidth. We've also just launched Whisperings with our first syndicate, AudioFeast. And I'm talking with other companies about carrying the program.
When did ďWhisperings, Solo Piano RadioĒ start up?
The first official broadcast was August 1, 2003. Iím very confident in our ability to continue to grow and seriously create a brand of solo piano music.
How does the Internet radio work? I have no clue about how the music gets onto the Internet.
Itís really very easy. I pick songs from CDs that are appropriate for the broadcast. I listen to submitted albums 15-20 times to see which songs really stand out to me. Next, I take the songs that Iíve chosen and save them to MP3Pro format. Then I upload them to the broadcast on Live 365. I can tell the program to play the music randomly or in order. Aside from some technical adjustments, thatís all there is to it.
The biggest part of the job is listening to the music and deciding what to use, and then contacting the artists and getting them on board. Because of legal issues, Iím required to have them sign a license agreement, and they have to give me direct permission to play the music royalty-free. The music must be original, and no one else can own any part of the song. All this legal stuff was kind of a nightmare in and of itself. The thing I hate about dealing with licenses or contracts is that they make things impersonal,
but, unfortunately, itís necessary. I have to protect myself, both from piracy and from anybody saying that Iím using the music without permission. Iím really trying to create a community, and I want artists involved who believe in the concept. Our list is growing every day. Some of the better-known artists are David Lanz, Suzanne Ciani, Wayne Gratz and Robin Spielberg, and it's a thrill to have them participate. Hopefully the radio exposure will help the others become well-known, too.
Did you travel with your dad when he ministered in other countries?
No, I didnít. My dad was a street preacher. He would go to downtown Portland, with kind of a tent-trailer on the back of his rig that opened into a platform. Heíd stop at rest areas, and would pull out his Bible and preach. A pretty dynamic guy, my dad. He was the pastor for a couple of churches, but his gift was always more toward evangelism. There is a difference between teaching and preaching, and
Dad was a preacher. A bishop from Kenya who was visiting the states heard him preach and invited him to come to Africa. My dad was a very strong person with a strong personality. That served him well in using the gift that God gave him in terms of his preaching. He was in Africa for many months at a time - in Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia. He was a great man in that not everybody is built that way - he was able to be in front of strangers doing something that he knew was going to irritate some people. People responded
either very negatively or very positively to my dad with everything. I think that Africa was where he had his most successful ministry. Here was a short white man who had such a power about him. He was 5í6Ē, but he was like a giant with his personality. My faith is the best thing my father ever gave me. We didnít the best relationship, but I think I inherited my drive and go-get-it-ness as well as my ability to persevere from him. However, I'm a much more sensitive person than my father was, and that I got from
my mom. Itís like I got the hard edge from my dad and it was softened by my mom.
Since your faith plays such a big part in your life, how does that affect your approach to composing?
I think it does a lot of things in my composing because I feel so strongly that I have been gifted - I know that sounds kind of arrogant, but I do not feel like I ever really had to work for the ability I have with the piano. Iím not someone who spends five hours a day at their instrument - I never have been. I probably practice seven or eight hours a week, plus my weekly performances. When I started composing for piano, it always felt like it came naturally. Iím not saying that
I havenít worked at it - I have - but sometimes I look at what Iíve done and wonder where it all came from. That's why I feel strongly that it was a gift - something that God infused me with. Because of that, it feels so important to use that gift, to the best of my ability, to glorify Him, to express Godís love and mercy through my music. Where my dad was a preacher, Iím more of a teacher. The cool thing about the music is that, with a lot of people, when you start talking about Jesus and your faith, there is
this wall that goes up, but when the music is involved and itís an artistic thing, people accept that art as a legitimate way to express faith. At a house concert, I often share Bible passages that have influenced songs. I bring my faith into it, not to preach to people, but to explain where the music came from. People really respond well to that, and I feel that if I have the opportunity to use my music as a means to honor God, thatís the best thing I can do. In terms of my writing, my faith is always involved.
A lot of my inner world is wrapped up in prayer, and my music is often an expression of that prayer or an emotion that Iím feeling. My music is about the wonders of His creation and the wonders of the places I go. My music is the soundtrack of my life and my faith.
You have said that most of your recorded music is very composed as opposed to improvised. Once they are finished, do you play your pieces pretty-much the same each time, or do they evolve?
They might be a little bit different in terms of phrasing and pacing, or sometimes my mood will affect how I play or perform a piece. The nature of an event where Iím performing can also affect the playing of a piece, but the notes that I play very rarely change. When they change, I think to myself, ďOh man, I recorded the song before I was really finished with it!Ē With a few exceptions, once a piece is recorded, thatís pretty much how it is played.
Do you record your albums in stages?
Yes and No. I like to record the music when itís still really fresh and Iím excited about it, so I like to record them as close as possible to when they are finished compositions so that they'll retain that newness and creative energy. Because of that, most of my albums were recorded in three or four sessions over several months. That's not the case, however, for my next CD, Overcome. I felt it important, for personal and emotional reasons, to record that
album all at once. So it was recorded in one three-day session.
Do you have any words of advice for young people who are studying music now?
In terms of playing the piano, do what you like to do. Go for whatever excites you musically. If classical music doesnít excite you, what does? What do YOU want to learn to play? Get the CD, sit down at your piano, and see if you can pick out the song. Find the melody, figure out the chords and song structure, and be determined to learn it. Next, be willing to compromise. Once youíre working on songs that
you actually WANT to learn, take some time out every day to work on your music theory, even if you dread doing it. In the end, the music theory that you learn will give you the understanding you need to better play the songs you really want to play. I never had a chance at becoming a serious piano player until I understood basic music theory. In fact, it was the point at which I began to understand that my musical ability really took off.
Is there anything else youíd like to talk about?
Iím just extremely thankful to be able to do what Iím doing. I cannot imagine my life without music. I think the music itself creates a real drive in me. Itís like each of the compositions and each moment at the piano is itself like one single note in the grand composition that is life. Music, for me, definitely has a purpose, especially as it relates to my faith and my belief that it came from God. Itís
what God gave me to do, and Iím going to do it to the best of my ability. Iím not the perfect piano player, Iím not the perfect composer. Iím just fortunate to write and play music that people enjoy. That was what made me realize that maybe I could do it as a profession. Itís a marvelous thing to be able to compose and do something you love, and have other people relate to it and really appreciate it.