A Chat With Stephen
By Jason Thompson
It's not every day that Stephen Bishop releases a
new album. So when the chance arose to interview him regarding
his new release, Romance in Rio, on 180 Music, I jumped at
the chance. Bishop has always been a personal favorite, and
as I told him, his Red Cab to Manhattan album was one of my
all-time favorites, and a real influence on me when I was
a kid. We talked for quite a while, getting sidetracked on
all sorts of good stuff like his film work, current musical
tastes, his knowing John Belushi and other members of the
original "SNL" cast, the wild times of the '70s
and '80s, and whether or not it was more lucrative for him
to tour outside of the states. (The answer to the latter is
"yes," after Bish' rolled off all the places he's
been to around the globe recently, doing live shows). It was
a great conversation through and through, but the main goal
was to discuss to the new album, and that is exactly what
we have for you here.
Bullz-Eye: I loved the new album, I think it's great!
Stephen Bishop: Thank you!
BE: I did my research, so I know a fan on your website's
message board came up with the name of the album.
SB: Oh, yeah!
BE: (laughs) How do you exactly pronounce it?
SB: The name is pronounced "SOW-DODGE-EE." I know
it's a tough one, but you know, I figure it's time for America
to learn a new word.
BE: (laughs) Yeah, well I looked it up on Wikipedia and they
gave about five different pronunciations for it, so I thought
I'd ask you.
SB: It means "to have an earnest, heartfelt longing
for something or someone beyond reach." And it's almost
unexplainable in the English language. It's a very heavy Portuguese
word. I've got this, ah, on my web site just the other day,
this guy he played the album for his mother who is Portuguese
and he told her the title and tears came to her eyes because
it's such a, you know, it's just a heavy, heavy word.
"I'm a big title guy. I really love writing songs from
titles. Titles usually really spark my creativity, and I was
in a DVD store and I noticed a DVD of a documentary called
"New York In The Fifties" and I rented it and I
just loved the whole idea."
BE: Yeah! And the winner (who named the album) got to have
dinner with you in some snazzy L.A. restaurant.
SB: Oh yeah, it was like an incredibly expensive restaurant
and we went with the producers of the album (Oscar Castro-Neves
and Peter Bunetta). We had a great time.
BE: So did 180 Music come to you for this project?
SB: Yeah, they came to me with this idea. It was Jimmy Brandmeier
and Peter Bunetta's idea. And he's a producer, really, you
know, a hit producer that's worked with a lot of different
artists, he's a really talented guy. I had worked with him
for a while, and he's also been a really good friend of mine.
So they came to me with this idea and with Oscar in mind to
do all the guitar work. I normally play the guitar on my albums,
but he's like the master. So, they came to me with the idea
and I'd never thought of it, I don't think I'd ever think
of it, but I love Brazilian music.
BE: Yeah, me too. So you worked with Eric Clapton again on
SB: Yeah, that was fun! You know, Eric's been on tour for
almost a year…he's still on tour. But he took off time
from his really busy schedule here. He zoomed in to L.A. and
was doing all these interviews for his new album, and then
he just came over and we wound up trying him on three different
guitars. Electric guitars, Spanish guitar, and we borrowed
this acoustic steel string 'cause we didn't have one –
I have a million at home, but we didn't have one in the studio.
BE: You've worked with him way back on Red Cab To Manhattan,
SB: Yeah, and he played on my very first album, Careless,
and then my other album, Bowling In Paris.
BE: That's right! I had Careless on a really old MCA cassette,
but it didn't have any credits in there, and I bought my mom
Bowling In Paris when it came out, as she loved your music,
too. But you know, it was "Thief In The Night" that
made me a Stephen Bishop fan way back when. That and "Sex
Kittens Go To College" (from Red Cab) both appealed to
me then as a nine or 10-year-old boy (laughs).
SB: Yeah, Eric Clapton played on "Sex Kittens"
along with Phil Collins.
BE: So you also have Luciana Souza on Romance in Rio.
SB: Yeah, I'm a big fan of hers. She's really an incredible
singer and she came in the studio and she just had this sultry
Astrud Gilberto voice.
BE: Yeah, that's a great track! ("Un Baile Del Corazon")
SB: When you hear her voice on that song, when she comes
in, it's just like, "Whoa!"
BE: Yeah, I was really blown away by it the first time I
heard it. Was there a strict way you came to choose which
songs you were going to do, or was it pretty open to whatever
SB: We had a couple different meetings. I met with Oscar
on five different occasions just to go over the songs and
go over the style of what he was going to do with the songs
and how he was going to weave his different kind of arrangement
and different chords into my different chords.
SB: The first meeting we had, we just sat there and went
over the songs of mine that would lend themselves to this
kind of album. And there were certain songs of mine that would
fit perfectly, you know. I specifically went over songs of
mine that I thought would specifically lend themselves to
the style of this album.
BE: Yeah, I think it's a great selection, and I like the
newer cuts on it too, like "New York In The Fifties."
On whether there will ever be a box set: "You know,
it's funny, 'cause somebody just asked me that. I would love
to have that! But you know, it's tricky 'cause a lot of my
albums are on different labels, so you have to license it,
and so many other things."SB: Yeah, that's the newest
one. I wrote that last year. "New York In The Fifties"
is not real Brazilian, really (laughs). But, the whole album
is very romantic. It's one of those albums where you'd have
a femme fatale and get the little candle thing going maybe
with a little enhancement. And then hopefully things would
maybe go your way, but then when you hit that last song you
have to wrap up everything. That last song is when you're
checkin' out of the hotel and getting your clothes back on
I'm a big title guy. I really love writing songs from titles.
Titles usually really spark my creativity, and I was in a
DVD store and I noticed a DVD of a documentary called "New
York In The Fifties" and I rented it and I just loved
the whole idea. Then I thought, "Well how should I approach
this lyrically?" I had the music, and then I thought
"should I do a love story, etc." So I decided I
wanted to write about the beat era in the '50s, which was
a unique era in the '50s before the Beatles and all that.
So I got into all that, and I did a lot of research on the
Internet. 'Cause I was just a little kid then, and I wanted
to be accurate, so I did a lot of research about it to find
out that Thelonious Monk always played at The Ink Spot, and
Normal Mailer and all those different references.
BE: I saw on your website that you're going to try to offer
Romance in Rio to your international fans eventually (currently
the album is only available in the U.S. through Target).
SB: Yeah, we haven't gotten that together yet. The international
fans aren't happy about it. A real drag. I'm just depending
on the people at 180 Music to get that together. I've been
bugging them every day. But, you know, it's created kind of
this weird demand for it. Demand is good, but I've gotta come
up with something. Now they're getting it off eBay.
BE: How do you feel about that? The state of music these
days, with everything going digitally with MP3s, etc.?
SB: Well, I think it's cool! It's great for me. You know,
I have iTunes and I get songs from downloading there. It's
fun, and I enjoy it, but you know, I think it is sad that
Tower Records closed here in L.A. That was a shocker. It was
just kind of an icon. It's a landmark here in L.A.
BE: Oh yeah! Well, I'm originally from Tennessee, and my
friends and I would drive the three hours or so to the one
in Nashville every now and then just because it was the coolest
record store to visit.
SB: Well, you know, everything changes, and boy it's really
BE: So is there ever going to be a Bish' box set?
SB: You know, it's funny, 'cause somebody just asked me that.
I would love to have that! But you know, it's tricky 'cause
a lot of my albums are on different labels, so you have to
license it, and so many other things.
BE: One thing I noticed on the message boards over on stephenbishop.com,
is how much you do interact with the fans. I liked that aspect.
I thought it was cooler than what a lot of artists have, which
is one of those corny "journals" that only gets
updated every six months or so.
SB: Yeah, I do interplay quite a lot on there. It's fun and
I'm surprised how faithful the fans are! They stay year after
BE: Getting back to the new album, had you known Oscar Castro-Neves
for a long time before now?
SB: No, I had never met him, but he's a great guy. A real
sweetheart of a guy. He worked with Jobim, and he's very well-respected
and supposedly there's a stamp in Brazil with his face on
it. And he was with the first Brazil 66 when they first came
over and he's been around and he really is genuinely a talented
guy. I've also worked with Earl Klugh on there.
BE: Yeah, he features on "Un Baile Del Corazon"
doing the guitar solo, right?
SB: Yeah, he's another great guy and a wonderful guitarist
and it was great working with him as well.
BE: And you've got Kenny Rankin on there as well.
SB: Yes, Kenny Rankin. He sang the backup vocals on "Bish's
BE: Yeah, it's just a really great album, and has a very
nice, intimate sounding production to it. Is there anything
else you'd care to add that we haven't covered so far?
SB: Just that I hope the music gets out there and that people
hear it and get interested in what we're doing here and really
BE: All right! Well, Stephen, I think that should about cover
it. Thanks so much for taking the time with us, and thank
you as well for all the great music you have given to us.
SB: Thank you, Jason! I enjoyed it a lot and take care!