Out singer-songwriter Derek Bishop is a new sensational artist from New York City. His debut album “Resistance is Beautiful” is a collection of electro-pop piano songs fused with vintage sounds that has gained both critical acclaim and success.
Check out this Queer Me Up full in-depth feature interview with Derek Bishop to discover, amongst other things, how he became interested in music growing up, how a good portion of his album is about being gay, and why he does not sing in the shower.
When and how did you first become interested in music?
When I was a wee lil lad I had a cousin who played the piano and sang. When she did, she channeled Olivia Newton John, She sounded just like her. I was probably only 6, but I was completely mesmerized. From that point on I wanted to play piano. I wanted to understand it, and be able to create tunes. Once I started, I never stopped.
For those readers who haven’t heard of you or your music before how would you best describe your music?
Über-catchy, eclecto piano-rock.
Tell us about you debut album “Resistance is beautiful”
My CD “Resistance is Beautiful” is about great things that come from a life you try to avoid. i.e Trying to ignore that nagging itch in the back of our brain and the life you lead as a result of that. You body knows something is wrong and it tries to tell you… And you just resist, sticking your head in the sand. Its this “waiting” and “resisting” though that shapes us. It gives us experience and ultimately the courage to move forward with strength.
How was the experience working with Jay Braun as a producer?
I’ve know Jay for years, and he was the perfect choice. We both have a fondness for weird little blips and odd sounds that pop out of a song. I knew he could season the songs so that they were aurally interesting — while still keeping the original sentiment of the track intact. I wanted the album to feel cohesive and I wanted the instrumentation real. I didn’t want it to sound digital and slick. I wanted rough edges.
You wrote all the tracks on the album, what is the creative process like for you?
Sometimes songs just spill out of me. In 5 minutes I’ll have the entire song. When that is happening, I feel something cool is about to happen, so I always set up a tape recorder and make sure I capture everything. Otherwise, the ideas can disappear as fast as they arrived. I’m also always jotting down lyrics. I have folders full of them. So when I come up with a fun interesting melody, I just open up that folder and look for a few good lines and go from there. My favorite way to write is to start with a completed poem I wrote and then take it to the piano and make a song out of that. It’s a fun puzzle working a melody around rhyme and meter.
Your first single is “The Last Word”, tell us about the song?
I wrote the song after witnessing a very heated argument between two people. These two people were so close and knew so much about each other. As a result they had years worth of ammunition they unleashed upon each other with a sort of pain-one-upmanship. If they would have been able to stop for a second and think…they might have been able to get it under control. But there were under the spell of their emotions and couldn’t stop. These were patterns of pain they played back and forth for years. Neither of them learned from the past. Nothing was ever solved and the resulting fallout and anguish was never worth the battle.
You have released a music video for “The Last Word”, how was the shooting?
We shot the video in Brooklyn on a sunny, hot, humid 100-degree July day. Even though the venue had air conditioning, it just couldn’t compete. I was dripping wet with sweat the entire day. After every take I had to undress, stand in front of a fan and dry off. Looking back, I suppose wearing wool, velvet and leather in July wasn’t the smartest choice… BUT the end result was perfect. I wanted the video to mimic the look of the CD, and the director and team did an amazing job with that. I couldn’t be happier.
You are also an art director; tell us about the artistic aesthetic of your album?
I wanted the CD packaging to look and feel like an old gatefold album from the 70s. I didn’t want a jewel case, so it’s all cardboard. Like the music, I wanted the album art to have a vintage warmth, yet still look current. They key items that made this work were the lamp and phone (both of which were my grandparents.) They really set the mood. Using the fender rhodes was also key in creating the image for the CD. We took the photos at my apartment. I had the clothes and “the set” ready, then my mother came over and took a batch of photos, then I took a set of self portraits using a huge floor to ceiling mirror. At the end of the day, my boyfriend came home and shot the photo that ended up being the cover. Between these three sessions I had a great variation of images which were the perfect companion for the music.
Which famous musicians do you admire and why?
I’m a huge fan Stevie Nicks. Being a fan of hers shaped so much of my musical youth. I learned to be a good pianist playing along to her (and other Fleetwood Mac) songs. These days I’m pretty much in awe of Butch Walker too. Both he and Stevie sing from their heart and their songs feel emotionally authentic. They know how to really create and shape a great lyric and melody. They are also knock-out harmony singers. I find a lot to learn, enjoy and discover from their music.
What music type do you find yourself listening to most?
I tend to get stuck on a certain album or artist and just play them to death. Right now I’m honing in on the pre-1983 80s-new-wave-pop era and really focusing in on songs and production of that era. It was a very nicely streamlined sound…before the big production values of the mid-to-late-80s took over. I’m loving tracks by The Motels, Nik Kershaw, and the Human League.
What music sub-culture do you feel like you belong to?
Is there an electric-keyboard-driven, gay-singer-songwriter, piano-pop subculture? If so, I would like to be the posterboy for that movement.
What do you consider your greatest success so far?
Thus far, I would have to say my greatest success as an artist is my new CD “Resistance is Beautiful.” It’s the album I always wanted to make, and I was blessed that I had the material, the musicians, and the right frame of mind to make it when I did. It would not have been possible for me to make this album 10 — or even 5 — years ago. It’s a product of age and experience. When I listen to it, I know there’s not a false note on it (musically and emotionally.) I still listen to the tunes often and I’m a huge fan of this CD. I’m so proud of what we did with these songs, these stories and these sounds. I want as many people to hear it as possible.
How do you feel that being gay has influenced your music?
A good portion of this CD is about being gay. I have songs about coming out, having your first crush, dating, and breaking up. But these are also quite universal themes. The song “Harvey” is specifically about coming out. That’s where the line “resistance is beautiful” comes from: resisting who are and how that struggle shapes us. In the case of this song, it was the struggle to come of the closet.
What music do you play/would you play in the bedroom to spice things up?
I can’t answer that… My mom will be reading this.
Do you sing in the shower?
I don’t. There’s an air vent in my bathroom that connects to my upstairs neighbor’s apartment. If I sing in the shower, it’s like a direct broadcast into their apartment. I don’t think they want to hear my songs every morning.
What are your hobbies and interests away from music?
I love to bike ride around Manhattan. That’s when I’m at my most relaxed. Riding the bike clears out my head and the creativity just flows. I’ll be going through the parks or along the river and melodies and lyrics just come to me. Which means I have to hum/sing it all the way home or else I’ll forget it… I also love to babysit my nephew. I’m trying to train him to be in my band… He’s only three, so I still have some time.
Tell us something about you most people don’t know?
I have designed over 500 romance book covers. You can usually find a sample of my work at your local grocery store or neighborhood garage sale.
What can we expect from you in the next year or two?
I’m already writing new songs for my next CD. They have a very 80s-meets-60s feel. I’d want to surround myself with a junkyard of old vintage synths and see what kind of unique sound pallet I can create. Hopefully I can start recording these songs early next year. I’m also working on a musical about Lavinia Draper — a crazy character a friend of mine developed. This character has a wonderfully rich back-story and these songs will be shocking, but also very catchy and pretty. It will be a mixture bitter and the sweet: a favorite combo.
Watch “The Last Word” Music Video
Visit DEREK BISHOP WEBSITE for more info.