Hello and welcome to an English episode of Nickos Saturday Couch where I discuss poetry and lyrics with poets, musicians and authors. Today’s guest, David Nevue is a modern ”solo piano artist” and composer who resides in the Eugene, Oregon area.
David has released sixteen albums of original piano works and arrangements, garnering him multiple awards for piano/instrumental ”Album of the Year” as well as chart-topping albums for his genre on Billboard (Top 5), iTunes and Amazon.com (both #1).
David is the founder and program director of Whisperings: Solo Piano Radio, the very first Internet radio broadcast to feature solo piano music exclusively (first broadcast in 2003). He has received formal recognition of his work, music and accomplishments in the Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone magazine and numerous other blogs and publications.
Welcome to my Saturday Couch David. It is nice to have you here! When I listen to your piano music it feels very much like poetry in the music itself. I mean, poetry is so much more than words. It´s more like a universal language.
I have listened much to your compositions to get in the right mood for writing poetry and the music has inspired my writing a lot. How does it feel for you to now that your compositions have travelled all over the world and inspired people and in this case a poet in northern scandinavia?
– It’s wonderful, and I am so happy to hear my music is providing some inspiration for your writing! I have had painters, sculptors, authors and blog writers contact me to share how my music inspires or accompanies them as they work on their artwork and writings. You might be the first poet I have heard from! I love it, and I am so very grateful that you discovered my music!
What is your relation to poetry and how has it affected your music and life?
– As a teenager, I actually considered poetry my primary means of expression. I didn’t think of myself as a musician at that point in life, I thought of myself as a poet… and creative writing, especially poetry, was something I spent time on just about every day. I continued to write poetry well into my college years – I minored in creative writing – and spent time as the editor of the poetry magazine for both my high school and college. So poetry was a VERY important part of my life.
I always tell people that I stopped writing poetry because when I met the girl who would become my future wife, she made me happy… and once I was happy, I couldn’t write poetry anymore. There is some truth to that, I think… but really, my interest turned more and more to music as I started writing for piano. Once I fell in love with that, that’s where I put all my creative energy. I’m glad I made that decision, as it’s turned out well. I never really went back to poetry, though I do invest a LOT of time into crafted my album liner notes. Some of that is poetic in nature, even if it’s more prose in style.
Also, I do consider my musical compositions to be poems of a sort. The imagery and energy behind them is the same imagery/energy I put into my poems in my early years… but now I paint the poem with music rather than words.
You have some really good titles for your compositions on your records like ”The Acceleration of Time”, The Four Winds” and ”The Emerald Valley”and it feels like titles like those embrace your music in a lovely way. How much work do you put down to get the right titles for your compositions? How important are those few words as completeness for your music?
– VERY good question! Here’s a little tidbit. When I used to write poetry, I considered the title of the poem to be PART of the poem. The title was not ”separate,” but rather set the scene and pointed the reader in a particular contextual direction that I wanted them to go.
I do exactly the same thing with my song titles. They are PART of the art… and I deliberately design the song titles to set the scene and the tone of the song in the very same way. Sometimes it takes me a VERY long time to come up with a title. I’ll pick one, let it sit for awhile, and usually after a day or two I won’t like it anymore or I will feel it just isn’t *quite* what I am trying to convey. Eventually, I find a title that sticks and when I do… I know it… I feel like… YES, THAT is what this song is.
The record I have listen to most of your music to get inspired to write poetry is Winding Down from 2015. That record really gets me into the mode of writing when I listen to it. Can you tell me what this record means for you and the story behind it?
– The meaning and the story behind the album is multi-layered. You’ll find the complete story behind the album on my web site at https://www.davidnevue.com/albums/windingdown.htm . Just scroll down and you’ll see the ”Note from David Nevue About Winding Down.” Check that out…
Poets that have meant a lot to you?
– My three biggest inspirations when I wrote poetry:
1) Lawrence Ferlinghetti
2) Alan Dugan
3) E E Cummings
What was special with those three poets for you? What did they have that you didn´t find in other poets?
– It’s honestly hard for me to say now… that was almost 35 years ago! But if you look at their work, there are commonalities between them. I think what appealed to me about those three, in part, was that their poetry wasn’t about the rhyme, it was about the word pictures.
A clever use of words, their meanings, and the subtle images that came to mind depending on not only the way the words were put together, but the way they were laid out on the paper. Even the ”form” of the verse and stanza’s became part of the poem. And each phrase was like a building block on the prior one… reading their poems was like unwrapping a gift, layer by layer.
My approach to writing poetry was similar… particularly in my college years. So they were an influence on me in that regard. Of course, I have to thank my college writing professors, particularly Ed Higgins, who opened up that world to me.
What inspires you to write music?
– Everyday life experiences, travel, my walk in faith and prayer. My emotions. I am a pretty emotional person. I would normally think I am too much so, but since deep emotion contributes to my ability to do what I do and drives my need to express, I just consider my strong emotions a gift from God. They are part of what makes me who I am as an artist.
Do you listen to other piano composers to get inspired to write music?
– I don’t listen to other piano composers for the purpose of inspiration, at least, I haven’t in a really long time. My first, initial inspiration was George Winston – in a general sense, I credit his music for being the reason I started composing for solo piano in the first place back in the 1980’s. Prior to Winston, I had never heard anything considered ”solo piano” other than Classical or Jazz, which was just not something I had an interest in as a teenager.
After hearing Winston’s style and approach to the piano, for the first time in my life I felt like playing the piano as a ”solo” instrument was a reachable goal. I thought… ”this is something I can do.” It made the piano accessible to me. I was no longer intimidated by it.
A couple other pianists have inspired me at various times. Dax Johnson, who was an incredibly gifted pianist here in the Pacific NW (his home was Spokane WA), was a friend and inspiration. His album ”Merciful Dwelling” was bold, unique, and fearless… unlike anything else I had heard at the time.
I was blessed and fortunate to be able to play a few shows with him before he passed away. Watching him perform and the way he transfixed his audiences with his ”persona” inspired the way I perform now… putting his entire body and soul into his music.
The only other solo piano album that I would say was a significant inspiration was ”Common Places” by Starr Parodi. I say that because back in 2005 I was driving up to Seattle to record an album at a brand new studio, and I was a little nervous about it.
I loved Starr’s album because it was experimental, improvisational, and broke down the walls of what was a conventional piano album. That album is SOOOO beautiful! So I had that cranked up in my car most of the way up to Seattle and I used her music as inspiration and fuel when I went into the studio. Those are the solo piano albums that I would say at points in my life inspired my own music directly.