by Silke Hartung

Davey Beige: Mindfully Making Music

by Silke Hartung

Davey Beige: Mindfully Making Music

At one time over a dozen fawn suits filled Dave Bishop‘s, aka Davey Beige’s, wardrobe. A majority of this historic menswear collection featured beige safari suits, the genesis for his stage name. This was back in the day when he and his band The Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist were one of the must-see bands in Auckland town. The adopted nickname remains however the safari suits have been upgraded for rock’n’roll threads and brown suede boots. To celebrate the release of his second album, ‘Beginner’s Mind’, Davey had a chat with Silke Hartung


There have been a few releases by Kiwi academic staff in the last few years as part of their professional development, like Zed Brookes’ excellent ‘O Sweet Cacophony‘. Your album is part of your DMA thesis – can you explain a little about the subject of your thesis, and how you were trying to explore that?

That’s cool to mention ‘O Sweet Cacophony’, I love that album. Well, my thesis for the DMA is titled “Words make the music and music makes the words”. So the subject is songwriting and it’s exploring how lyrics and music combine and interact.

A general term that covers this area (of how lyrics and music combine) is prosody. Within the DMA I expand upon the idea of prosody, what it means to me as an artist and how it can be applied to the craft of contemporary song-writing across areas such as lyric, harmony, melody, rhythm and performance.

Your band (Earl Robertson, Tony WaineHarry Lyon, Alan Brown, Kingsley Melhuish, Daryl Tapsell & Jean McAllister) could nearly be called the “usual suspects”  when I look at your career. If a musician asks how you managed to convince those talented artists to work with you, what do you tell them?

That’s a good question! I guess it probably comes down to the fact that I’m very lucky to have some awesome friends that just also happen to be great musicians. I like to support my friends in any way I can and in turn, they help me. Overall I think the supportive musical networks throughout New Zealand are pretty special. It’s a big part of what I enjoy about being a musician in this country.

Your songs project such a joie de vivre while the majority of music out there in similar genres to your own tends to be melancholic. Have you got any tips for us on how to write a positive song?

First up to be in a positive mood when writing a song probably helps also a major rather than minor key can work and make sure the tempo is up. But I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules as every writer’s approach is so personal. I myself really relate to humour and enjoy injecting it into song. I do remember writing a few lyrics for the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ album whilst out for a walk in the summer sun, so maybe that’s a positive tip, lol.

Your first single and album opener Big Star makes me wonder who that was written about. What’s the story behind the song?

The story behind that song is pretty cosmic so if this answer doesn’t make any sense…’s alright maaaan. Big Star for me is about the human condition and how a fundamental basis for life is simple awareness. It’s sort of me singing to everybody (including myself as the lyrics are in second person perspective) and just pointing to this state of being.

What was the biggest challenge about releasing this album and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge has been balancing my family and work commitments alongside also completing and releasing the best album that I possibly can. This is really an on-going area that I need to work with. But I think I’ve balanced it so far by just allowing plenty of time for the creative work to develop and maintaining flexibility with certain goals.

You work in the music department at Toi Ohomai in Tauranga these days, after years at MAINZ in Auckland. What does teaching young musicians and industry people teach you? 

Well, it keeps me very humble. The depth of natural talent within the young musical community continually blows me away. Also, the way that technology is changing so fast I find I learn a lot of skills by working with a younger age group.

Are there musical trends and ideas you’ve picked up on through your students that have made it into your music?

Maybe not so much trends or ideas, but definitely just all out passion for song-writing, recording and performance. I’m always inspired by my students’ energy. I think raw passion can take you a heck of a long way in music.

What’s next for Davey Beige?

I’m really looking forward to playing the ‘Beginner’s Mind’ album songs live. So live performance anywhere and everywhere with a new set of songs is what’s up next for me. Cheers.

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