The following interview was given for MusicDish in October of 2003. If you like this interview, see this one from 2002 also. The two have very different questions.
No, not at all. I was raised in a totally non-musical family. In fact, my dad is totally tone deaf. I've been told that if you go back two generations, our family was VERY musical. I think the gift skipped my dad and fell to me.
As for my earliest 'musical' memories, as crazy as it sounds, it boils down to my watching the Monkees TV show as a kid. I credit the show for my interest in music at a young age. Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike - THEY were my musical family. At 7 years old, I wanted to be in a band just like that.
"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
I'm not sure I have many 'mentors', per se. Of course, I credit my high school and college music teachers, Brad Peterson and John Bowman, for giving me the foundation I needed to become the musician I am today. And keyboardist Jeff Johnson gave me good advice and direction during my early years. I definitely considered him a mentor.
But the biggest influence on me, really, was simply listening to music. During college I immersed myself in the music of Rush, Pink Floyd, Kansas, Clannad, Kate Bush, U2 and Renaissance. Somewhere, in the midst of all that listening, I took away the elements that shaped my musical style.
I suppose what drew me to these artists initially was that every one of them has their own, 'signature' sound. I mean, no one does Rush better than Rush. The same with Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, and U2. Each of these artists has brought something unique to the world of music. And it's that uniqueness, I believe, that caught my ear and kept my attention.
Listening to Rush, for example, has had a major influence on my own compositional style. While my solo piano works may not exactly inspire memories of '2112', every composition I write is driven by my desire to create interesting, ever changing, thought-provoking works. I want every composition to be unique, to have it's own voice, and to sound like nothing else I've ever written. I demand that from myself, and I think that expectation, to some degree, came as a result of listening to, and appreciating, the complexity of Rush's work.
As for the other bands, some are meaningful to me simply because of their ability to create an emotional impact with their music. Pink Floyd, Clannad and U2 are perfect examples of this. You can FEEL their music. In a like manner, It's my desire that my listeners feel mine.
As for Kansas, Renaissance and Kate Bush, I just really appreciated the keyboard work. It's nice to hear something now and then where the piano is the featured instrument. Some of my recent favorites, Tori Amos, ColdPlay, Charlotte Martin, and Ben Folds appeal to me for the very same reasons. I remember the first time I heard Ben Folds 'One Angry Dwarf...' on the radio, I was like, "Wow, there's a piano on the radio!" and I cranked it up. You don't often hear driving rock like that where the piano is the driving force.
It really was a combination of things. I was playing keyboards for garage bands during my college years. I enjoyed that very much, but ultimately, I found more enjoyment and less frustration just doing my own thing. I'm kind of a musical control freak, not to mention an extreme perfectionist, so I don't think I was the easiest to work with in a 'band' context.
Anyway, while the whole 'band' thing was going on, my college roommate introduced me to the piano music of George Winston. That's what really turned me on to the piano. Prior to hearing Winston's music, my idea of 'solo piano' went no further than classical music. Winston's sound was unlike anything I'd heard before. So, inspired by his piano solos, at the age of about 20 I sat down at the piano and starting playing with some of my own musical ideas. And that's what I've been doing ever since.
I would describe my music as "Neoclassical." Basically, what I do is a simplified version of classical music. My compositions, though, are totally melody-driven. Rather than trying to compose something complex and significant, I keep things simple and to the point. I have a musical idea, develop it, put a twist on it, and then wrap up the song.
I like to describe my music as "George Winston meets Chopin, with a twist of Pink Floyd."
I don't actually compose music with the idea of writing something relaxing or meditative. I just try to write a melody that conveys the image or emotion I'm going for. What's the song's message? Is it love? Faith? Winter? Water? Whatever it is, I keep that in the forefront of my mind as I compose. Then I come up with a song title, usually early in the composition process. This title becomes the music 'goal' I work toward, in a manner of speaking.
Everything I release to CD is composed. My compositions generally start out as improvisations, but by the time they reach the recording studio I've played them hundreds of times and their final forms is, in most cases, set in stone.
The album, as is probably obvious, was inspired by a trip my wife and I took to Germany and the surrounding areas in 1998. The trip was such an amazing adventure. Germany is a magical place, filled with ancient castles and cathedrals. And the countryside, particular in Bavaria, is simply stunning. There were days my wife and I felt like we were exploring a fairy-tale world. I just loved it.
After we arrived back in the States, I found my mind returning again and again to Germany. I missed it. Before long, I began to put some of my favorite memories to music, trying to capture, in some small way, the moments that made the biggest impact on me. That's how the album, a collection of musical 'postcards', came to be.
As for the songs on the album, they are inspired by places as much as feelings and events. 'The Amazing Accordion Man' is inspired by a street musician in Munich, who played with amazing skill in the freezing snow. I tried to capture that energy. 'Big Snow in Salzburg' and 'One Night at Mozart's' are both based on our time in Salzburg, which was my favorite stop on the trip. 'The Kindness of Strangers' was written for the wonderful treatment we got from our hosts at the Schlossanger hotel just outside of Pfronten. 'The Walled City' is inspired by Rotenburg. 'Castle Hunting' by our trip up the Rhine River. 'Wonderland' by the Alps. It just goes on and on.
Well, I started promoting my music on the Internet in 1995. When I began to have some success at it, I thought to myself, "Man, I wish someone would have showed me how to do all this." So, I thought, why not be that guy? Why not be the person who shows other musicians what works and what doesn't? So, in November 1997 I release the first edition of my book. I just released the Fall 2003 edition and I'm finishing up the 2004 edition now.
No, at least not yet. Really, The Music Biz Academy is an information repository. My book is, in many ways, an archive of everything I know about promoting music on the Internet. In the same way, the Music Biz Academy is an archive of everything I've known and learned about the Music Business. So you'll find easy-to-read articles there about practically every subject, as well as music industry news, career opportunities, and a directory of carefully selected resources for independent musicians. Basically, with the Music Biz Academy I created an online tool that I, myself, would find useful.
I'll be holding our first official 'Music Biz Academy' seminar in Portland, Oregon on January 10th, 2004. Derek Sivers of CD Baby has already confirmed as a speaker, as has Christoper Knab of FourFront Media Music and Bart Day, an entertainment attorney. The idea will simply be to interact and educate - to teach independent musicians about the music business they want to be a part of. More details on the seminar will be posted at the Academy web site when they are available.