NEW! LISTEN to this 2019 "River of Calm" podcast interview where David discusses his musical beginnings, inspirations, struggles and the events that led to his new album, In the Soft Light of Grace. David also covers his advice for piano students, his writing process, and many other thoughts on what it means to be an "artist." It's a great "Beyond the Music" style show. The postcast is also available via Huffduffer.
And here's an interview David gave in 2014 on playing and arranging hymns.
You'll also find a 2009 interview in audio form that you can listen to on Jory Fisher's web site.
Finally, there was a LONG thread in the PianoWorld.com forum called "Let's Ask David Nevue Lots of Questions" that's a lot of fun to read!
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. We’re talking about doing a workshop in the near-future, so this will serve as an introduction to this very interesting man.
"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
David Nevue was born in North Bend, Oregon in 1965. An only child, David’s 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, David’s 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 (“a bit too much, perhaps!”), car races, bowling, football, and finding time to go off and be by himself in the forest - “I love a good waterfall!” He is married and has two young children, and the family resides outside Eugene, Oregon. Here is the interview we did in February 2004:
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 wasn’t 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.
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.
My college roommate used to play Winston’s 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 can’t imagine being a solo piano player had I not heard his music. It was one of those things where you’re 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.
In my junior year of college, I was asked to compose a soundtrack for a theater presentation of C.S. Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters.” I composed the music for that on keyboard, but later on, I recorded a couple of those pieces as piano solos.
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.
Oh yeah, totally! I started promoting my music on the Internet in ‘95, but at that time all I had was a web page to promote my second album. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I don’t think anyone else did at the time, either. At the beginning, most people looked at the Internet as a kind of video game. I don’t think anyone really expected it to become the culture it’s become. I got on there early, and then I wrote my book the end of ‘97 on how to promote your music on the Internet. I’ve been updating that every few months since, so that’s 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 I’ve 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 wasn’t 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 I’ve been doing this full time ever since.
It’s in both hard copy and pdf format.
That’s just part of who I am - I’m very much an idea person. It’s really cool because the performance part of my career is really taking off now. Two years ago, gigs were rare, but now I’m 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, they’ll 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. It’s filling up everyday now, and listeners can’t always get in because we’ve maxed out our bandwidth. About 70,000 people are listening to it each month.
The first official broadcast was August 1, 2003. I’m very confident in our ability to continue to grow and seriously create a brand of solo piano music.
It’s 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 I’ve 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, that’s 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, I’m 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, it’s necessary. I have to protect myself, both from piracy and from anybody saying that I’m using the music without permission. I’m 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.
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. I’m 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. I’m not saying that I haven’t worked at it - I have - but sometimes I look at what I’ve 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 God’s love and mercy through my music. Where my dad was a preacher, I’m 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 it’s 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, that’s 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 I’m 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.
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 I’m 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, “Oh man, I recorded the song before I was really finished with it!” With a few exceptions, once a piece is recorded, that’s pretty much how it is played.
Yes and No. I like to record the music when it’s still really fresh and I’m 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.
In terms of playing the piano, do what you like to do. Go for whatever excites you musically. If classical music doesn’t 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 you’re 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.
I’m just extremely thankful to be able to do what I’m doing. I cannot imagine my life without music. I think the music itself creates a real drive in me. It’s 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. It’s what God gave me to do, and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I’m not the perfect piano player, I’m not the perfect composer. I’m 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. It’s a marvelous thing to be able to compose and do something you love, and have other people relate to it and really appreciate it.