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Interview with David Nevue, April 2007
Interview with David Nevue, image 1
David Nevue was relatively unknown when Dax Johnson brought me copies of a couple of his early CDs seven or eight years ago. My, how things have changed! Not only has his composing, recording, and performing career taken off, but he is a true innovator and one of the most respected people in the music industry - especially in the solo piano community. He bucked all of the industry trends and founded Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, an internet radio station, in August 2003. Expecting to work with a handful of artists, David emailed me and asked if I would tell the pianist/composers I was in contact with about Whisperings, and to ask the artists who were interested to submit their music to David for consideration for airplay. David had a jam-packed mailbox for months, and the station has grown from a half-dozen artists to almost 120! About a million listeners a month tune in now, and the numbers continue to grow. David has also written a book called How To Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet, which many people consider to be a Bible for the industry. He revises the book several times a year, keeping the information up-to-date and correct. I don’t know when David ever finds the time to sleep!

David started sending me his sheet music to proofread several years ago, and students have benefited tremendously from my access to the music. I now teach David’s music more than that of any other composer. I’ve seen his pieces turn lackluster students into much more enthusiastic players, and his music is relatively easy and fun to play. David has done several concerts and student workshops here at my house, and was here last March with David Lanz and Scott D. Davis after their Whisperings concert in Vacaville. A great composer, musician, and friend, it will be lots of fun to have David and his family with us in April, and I’ll finally get a chance to meet his two kids!

KP: What’s your next album project?

DN: My next album is called “Adoration,” and I’ll be recording it the last week of March. I’m taking a full week in the studio, which is the most time I’ve ever taken on a project. I have a lot of songs to record, and some of them are more difficult and more complex arrangements, so I’m allowing more time. The album will be arrangements of some of the more traditional hymns that I have always loved. My dad was always very involved in the church, and when I was growing up, we'd go to tent revival meetings during the summertime. Some of these tunes remind me of those days - great hymns music you just don’t hear very often anymore. With this album, I want to capture the spirit of devotion and adoration, as well as a sense of heartfelt worship and appreciation for what God has done. It will be a lot like my Christmas album in that these are familiar songs with unique arrangements that keep them new and fresh. I don’t want it to be just another album of hymns played on the piano. A couple of the songs are simpler and more serene to bring the tempo down a little bit, but most of the music is pretty complex. I’m really anxious to get it released because people email me almost every day saying they can’t wait to buy it. I think it’s going to be one of my bestsellers. I’m already starting to list some songs I want to do for a second collection of hymns sometime in the future. They keep coming to me. I’ll sit down at the piano, and an old hymn that I haven’t thought about for a long time will pop into my head.

KP: What do you have lined up for your California tour?

DN: I’m doing three concerts in the San Francisco area and three concerts in the Los Angeles area. First is the house concert at your place, one at a church in San Mateo, and one at Beale Air Force Base, which is a private concert for the servicemen and women who are stationed there. In LA, I’m playing two house concerts and one public concert at a church. That will be the first time I’ve played in LA, so I’m really hoping we’ll have a great turnout. I’ve got a pretty good fan-base down there, and these will be my only concert appearances in Southern California for 2007. Hopefully I’ll get to play for a lot of people who have been fans for a long time but haven’t had the opportunity to see me play live.

KP: How has the success of Whisperings Solo Piano Radio impacted your own career?

DN: I think the main way is in touring. Before Whisperings, I really didn’t play anywhere other than locally. I didn’t realize the resources that I had at my disposal with my mailing list. The first time I did a Whisperings show in St. Louis, I emailed all my fans in the states surrounding Missouri saying, “I’m coming to your area. Do you want a concert?” I was amazed at the response, and have been able to book a lot of smaller concerts in that way. That was the beginning of my doing three or four tours a year. When I’m planning a Whisperings show somewhere, I’ll email my fans in the nearby states and let them know I’m looking for places to play - churches, house concerts, events, benefits, or whatever. I always get quite a few replies from fans who have pianos in their homes and friends they want to share my music with. That’s how I book my tours. The last major tour I did was in the midwest. It was a twelve-day tour, and I played ten gigs. They were mostly house concerts, which I love - they are amazing, fun things to do. It’s so intimate to play for 20-50 people and really connect with them. It’s an adventure, too, because every time you go into a new house, you don’t know what you’re walking into. You don’t know the quality of the piano until you get there, and you don’t know what the people are going to be like. Because of Whisperings, I get to see different parts of the country and do something I wasn’t doing before because I didn’t know that the opportunity existed. Having been promoting my music on the internet for thirteen years now, I have a very extensive mailing list.

KP: Has the development of Whisperings stayed true to your original vision or has it evolved more organically?

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DN: It has stayed true to my original vision, but it has grown beyond what I really expected in a couple of ways. One, I always felt it would be successful, but I never knew it would be this successful. When we got up into the Top 10 stations on Live 365 Internet Radio, and then got to #6 and #5, I kind of thought that would be as high as we got. I looked at the numbers that the #1 station had, and it seemed unreachable. After we got on iTunes, we blew the doors off. Now we’re their #1 station, and have been for over a year. The #2 station does about a half or a third of what we do. We have two streams now - one that’s hosted and distributed by Live 365, and an independent stream that’s also on iTunes. So, if Live 365 should go down or be acquired or go bankrupt or something, it won’t really affect us. We don’t have to rely on anyone else. The broadcast has been hugely popular; it was hard to imagine that we’d be streaming to almost a million people a month. It’s been more successful on that level, and also in terms of the number of artists that we have. I don’t think I ever really imagined that there were so many piano players out there who were releasing CDs. I figured there might be a few dozen, but I get at least two CDs a week from artists who are submitting their material for the show. I probably use about 30% of what comes in, so we add an average of three artists a month which gives us more variety. There have been other things that I’ve wanted to accomplish that we haven’t done yet.

KP: Tee-shirts?

DN: (laughing) Yeah, but I’ve always wanted to get us on XM and satellite radio. XM Radio and Sirius are looking at merging. If that happens, I don’t know how it will affect us. If it all goes under the umbrella of Sirius, most of their broadcasts are Clear Channel, which is corporate, big money radio. I don’t know if it would even be penetrable anymore. It can still happen, but we’re probably going to have to get a lot bigger than we are now for them to pay attention to us. I’ve also wanted to do a Whisperings CD sampler since we started, but that’s a big thing to do, and I just haven’t had time. The biggest projects last year, which are ongoing, were getting Whisperings set up to be listener-supported, and setting up Whisperings PureStream, which is the subscription version of our show. Listeners who support the station get a better broadcast, a commercial-free show, and higher-quality music. It took me nine months to get that up and running, a monster task. I had to buy two computers - I’m using three right now - and had to figure out the software as well as the different pieces I needed to create a subscription version of the show. Now we’re mostly listener-supported, and should be fully listener-supported in two or three months. That’s a huge accomplishment.

KP: How many artists are on Whisperings now?

DN: One hundred and seventeen, I think.

KP: Wow! That’s about double from when the last time I checked.

DN: It’s a lot, and I know that some artists have been concerned because the more artists we have, the less air time there is for everybody, but the people who are always involved are going to get more airplay. My response is, “be involved and show you care.” I think it really helps us as a station to have a large number of artists. To have an amazing station, you have to have variety. You can’t play the same artists or the same music all the time or listeners will get bored. So if we keep adding artists and new music from the artists who are already on the show, then we’re going to continue to deliver something that’s always new and fresh. That’s the most important thing because it will keep listeners coming back. The more artists the better.

KP: Have you released your songbook?

DN: Not yet. The main issue is that my sheet music has been transcribed by several different people, and I don’t have Sibelius files for some of the pieces. My somewhat obsessive nature wants everything to be uniform, so If I release a songbook that has four different styles of transcription, it’s going to drive me batty. I’m really happy with the transcriptionist who has done my recent sheet music releases, and after I get “Adoration” recorded, my plan is to have him transcribe the entire album rather than just doing it piecemeal. I’ll release it as a songbook, and then I’m going to start going backwards and have him do all of my albums, even redoing the songs that are already transcribed. My hope is that, at some point, I’ll have all my work out in sheet music, all transcribed by the same person and all in the same style. It’s fine that the individual songs are transcribed by different people, but in a collection, it will be nicer if all the songs have the same style and approach. That’s my plan, and hopefully a few months after “Adoration” comes out, I’ll have a songbook for it. Then we’ll go backwards through my CDs. Once it starts happening, I think it will go at a pretty good clip. I’m also thinking about having him do an easy-piano songbook, and have all of my really simple arrangements put together. That’s where a lot of my audience is - people who are playing the piano and who are learning. It would be nice to put a collection together that is easy to play and enjoy.

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KP: You always have so many irons in the fire! About how many of your songs are transcribed now?

DN: Forty-five, I think. It’s more than a third, but not quite half of my catalog. If everything keeps going well with the current transcriptionist, I should have everything transcribed in two or three years. He’s so accurate, and I really appreciate that because I’m not a great sight-reader. I go through the stuff he sends me as best I can, but there are always going to be things that I’ll miss. I can look at the notes, but if there are a lot of mistakes in the transcription, I might not notice them.

KP: You have one heck of a proofreader! (laughing)

DN: I do! And thank goodness!

KP: Have either of your kids started showing signs of musicality?

DN: Yes. Noelle, my little girl has. She’ll sit down with me at the piano and start plinking around. She’s three, but she definitely has interest and seems to have an artistic temperament. She’s very creative in everything that she does and likes to make things. She seems like she’ll be the natural musician of the family. Nathan really doesn’t have much of an interest in music, but I suspect he’s going to be a late bloomer. Although he hasn’t expressed a huge desire, we’re going to start him with piano lessons within the next couple of months. Maybe the desire will come once he starts doing it and has some success at it. He has, in the past, expressed an interest in playing drums, but what boy hasn’t? And also in playing guitar, so I have a feeling that Noelle may end up being a child who is raised with piano lessons, is really interested, and really pursues it, and Nathan might be one of these guys who turns thirteen or fourteen, picks up the guitar, and decides to play some rock and roll. He’s seven now, and we’re home-schooling him. He just finished his second-grade math. He’s just a brilliant math boy, and he’s already getting into division. I just can’t believe it! I was still learning how to spell “apple” at that age!

KP: If he has that high of a math aptitude, he might have it in music, too.

DN: Yeah. I think we’ll get him started with it and see what happens. I think, too, that there is the whole thing where “Dad plays the piano,” and the piano kind of takes me away, so there might be a little bit of jealousy.

KP: I’ve heard that from other musicians, too, but once the kids get started in lessons, they do very well.

DN: That’s part of the reason why we’re taking the family on my California tour. We took the kids to a concert I did in Boise and made a big family vacation out of it, which is what we’re doing here, too. My ultimate goal is to take my family with me whenever I can, and I want to have them involved. I’m hoping that as the kids get older, we can do more stuff together and that the whole music thing will become more of a family effort, not a matter of Papa goes off and is gone for three weeks. I’m doing the best I can to make sure it’s an inclusive thing and not just Papa’s little corner of the universe.

KP: You’ve played onstage with a lot of amazing pianists now. What would be your dream Whisperings concert?

DN: It’s hard to say because there are some artists who I would really like to play with that I haven’t seen perform yet. Actually, I might have already played my dream Whisperings concert. I’ve played with David Lanz, Mike Strickland, and Michael Dulin. There are still a lot of people that I’d like to play with, but I don’t know what my dream concert would be.

We’ll be doing a concert in Atlanta with Wayne Gratz, David Lanz, Michael Dulin, and myself. That’s a pretty stellar lineup!

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KP: No kidding!

DN: I think one of my biggest surprises has always been Mike Dulin because you hear his music on record, and it sounds so perfect and smooth that you have to think that it’s not real, that, to some degree it’s sequenced. But then you see him play, and it’s even better! I can never get over how smooth he is! There are so many amazing players that it’s almost like every show is a dream show.

KP: That’s good and keeps it fun!

DN: It does! You just never know what you’re going to run into. Some people, when you see them in concert, you have a whole new appreciation for what they do. Like Craig Urquhart and Catherine Marie Charlton - both are artists that I really respected, but once I saw them play and saw what they did in concert, my appreciation for them went to another level. Catherine is unique. She’s a dancer, and you can see it in her playing - she’s really a great performer. Craig Urquhart is so serene, but he has this vibe around him when he plays that’s magical! You run into things that surprise you. I get excited whenever I go and do a show with somebody new that I haven’t seen perform before.
This is the third or fourth interview David Nevue and I have done. Some of the earlier interviews talked more about his earlier life and background. For more information about David, visit his website or his Artist Page on MainlyPiano.com! The Whisperings site is SoloPianoRadio.com.
Kathy Parsons
April 2007