Shades of Beige

Davey Bishop, aka the musician Davey Beige, has made a life in music — as a student, teacher and an accomplished artist with more than 30 years experience. His new EP, Rise Above, is out in May.

Davey Bishop, aka the musician Davey Beige, has made a life in music — as a student, teacher and an accomplished artist with more than 30 years experience. His new EP, Rise Above, is out in May.

You may have heard of Davey Beige. He’s the singer-songwriter who plays folk, blues, rock and electro-rock, the performer who often appears at both solo and collaborative gigs around the Bay. In May, Davey Beige will release Rise Above, an EP that shares its name with the single and video released via multiple platforms in February this year. But, have you met David Bishop?

David is a music tutor at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology who last year completed his Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA), faculty research coordinator, father, husband and friend to many. I’m lucky enough to know both Davey and David, but I call him Dave…

Dave has over thirty years of professional experience as a guitarist, songwriter, singer, teacher, event manager, columnist and performer, and several solo albums released under his performance name, Davey Beige. To say he brings a wealth of experience, talent and knowledge to his teaching role at the polytech is an understatement and — pun intended — he’s an unsung hero. Having a ‘real live’ musician as your tutor is an inspiration and Dave modestly admits to being a shaper of the musical careers of others. He has rolled with some big names during his own career too. But it’s not easy to extract too much information on this.

“In a very humble way, I can name students that I have had the pleasure to assist and teach. Really it’s all from them…. not me, so it feels a bit weird. I hope these people don’t mind me mentioning them but from Auckland days teaching at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand (MAINZ), I could say someone like musician and bassist Marika Hodgson, and in the music industry, Savina Kim [now Fountain]. Here at Toi Ohomai, I could mention musicians Matty Buxton and Josh Pow.”

Most musicians can credit an experience or an artist to shaping their careers, or in fact inspiring a career in music, and Dave has his own story to tell.

Dave at home in Otumoetai: “I sing all the time at home and occasionally the family might join in.”

“I grew up just outside Rotorua in a semi-rural environment. I was attracted to music very early on and started repeat listening records at home on our three-in-one stereo. These records were left behind by Mum and Dad’s friends after parties. ‘Glam’ was big at the time so David Bowie and Suzi Quatro were on high rotate. I have vivid memories of my father getting the guitar out and everyone singing along. Man, it was good! Something clicked, I thought that looks like a cool thing to do, wonder if I could do it too? “I then started hunting and finding out about new music as much as my young 1970’s curious mind could. There was local radio, which I loved, but
I didn’t know anyone else who was into music as much as me. I was on the farm, had no older siblings to steal records from. When I was about 12, I was at the local gas station and by chance happened to buy a cassette of this guy called John Lee Hooker. Didn’t know who he was or where he was from, but that earthy, strange, powerful, urgent music took over. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was listening to the blues! I started to play guitar and very early on taught myself the blues forms… so I guess you could say blues music and guitar really makes me tick. Over forty years on, I still love playing the blues”.

Dave went on to teach private guitar students in the mid-nineties as an extra form of income to bolster the money that he made from playing in the band he formed with friends, The Peter Stuyvesant Hitlist. Based in Auckland, they played corporate parties, concerts, various venues and cafes; K’Road was a regular haunt.

It’s here I turn to the beige side of the story, the Davey Beige one — why beige? “Part of the entertainment approach for us as a band was to dress up in 70s threads. For some reason, every time I walked into an op-shop to find a new (old) suit for the next gig, the colour was beige! At this time I had a particular penchant for safari suits
— this linked back to the 70s and Māori show-bands my grandfather used to listen to,” says Dave. “All our band members had organically created stage names,” he laughs. “At an early show our lead singer, the one and only Peter Stuyvesant himself, turned to me as I was about to take another guitar solo and said, ‘Here’s Davey Beige!’ And it stuck.

“About ten years later, when I released my first solo album Fold in Two, it just felt natural to stay with the handle. I tell students these days that you have to be a very brave and powerful artist to embrace Beige as a stage name.”

After a stint overseas with his wife Shelley, Dave took on a full-time music and events management teaching role at MAINZ, and continued to develop as a singer-songwriter in his spare time — the roles overlapped seamlessly. Whilst teaching in this role, Dave decided to extend his artistic development through study, a decision that coincided with him attending yearly songwriting seminar weekends hosted by Berkeley University’s Professor Pat Pattison. This meeting led to Pat becoming Dave’s Master’s supervisor and he completed this qualification (Master of Arts, Music) in 2014. “Pat has inspired many songwriters and musicians, and I feel lucky enough to have been
at the right place at the right time to not only simply meet him, but also to learn from him.”

After gaining his masters qualification, Dave, Shelley and their two sons moved to the Bay of Plenty. This enabled Dave to take up a similar role (to his one at MAINZ) at the then-named Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.

The next step on the academic ladder saw him enrol at Brisbane’s Griffith University to study part-time towards his Doctor of Musical Arts (Composition) — a huge undertaking for anyone, let alone a full-time tutor, part-time musician with a growing family. But as we know, fortune favours the brave and Dave certainly rose above the life challenges he encountered throughout this period of study.

His research topic investigated how the principle of ‘prosody’ can be used in contemporary songwriting. “At a macro level, prosody can be defined to mean unity and is used to ensure music supports the lyrical intent of a song and vice-versa,” says Dave. His main research question combined a variety of definitions for the term prosody, and asked how these definitions can be applied across songwriting elements including melody, harmony, rhythm, lyrics and performance.

The mainly artistic research aimed to clarify how prosody can be used in the process of songwriting as well as the critique of songs in general, and drew on his personal songwriting approach. All the research Dave did prior to embarking on his DMA involved sharing with his students, and this study was no different. “It’s allowed me to highlight to them that songwriting is a fun and important educational topic, and an inspiring art form,” Dave says. “I hope to inspire my students and fellow musicians, and ultimately to entertain them as I perform the songs I’ve written, live.”

The cover of the Rise Above EP — with the lead single already out, the four-track EP will launch on 6 May.

Back to that EP release. Rise Above is all about taking stock in life and realising that the best way to deal with personal issues is to open up to the healing and redemptive power of love. Dave was thrilled to team up with Hamilton film and comic maker Aaron Christiansen who created the very cool stop-motion video that accompanies the EP. “We’ve been friends for ten years now and when it came time to hopefully produce a video for Rise Above, I contacted him and sent the song. Immediately he started creating the storyboards for a possible video. At this point I was blown away, because… it just worked so well with the song.”

So that’s the Dave I know — David Bishop, Davey Beige – a man of many talents and many shades of beige.

Check out Davey Beige on Spotify and watch his new video on youtube.com
Story by Pip Crombie
Photography by ilk