"When you're an independent artist, it behooves you to use as many different outlets as you can," admits openly gay singer/songwriter Derek Bishop. Derek's debut CD, Resistance is Beautiful, was a well-received, eclectic mix of various pop genres. His upcoming CD, Bicycling in Quicksand, will be more dance-oriented, yet still contain Derek's off-beat, idiosyncratic style.
When asked about the impetus behind his all-encompassing, hands-on creative input, Derek was straightforward. "In terms of the music" he explained, "it's one-hundred hundred percent because I have a clear vision of what I want, and I want to see it through." The Virginia native, now residing in New York City, plans a tour to promote his new CD, which he hopes incudes an appearance at this summer's Market Days.
Derek recently talked to WCT about coming out, his fashion style, his recipe for old-school disco and the possibility of Cher covering his music.
Windy City Times: A good percentage of pop music stars remain closeted. You're out professionally, and have said being out actually helped your career. In what ways?
Derek Bishop: Gay magazines, websites and festivals have been extremely welcoming to me as a new gay artist. I think of other new musicians trying to get noticed, [yet] they're fighting an uphill battle because they are one of thousands of new bands. However, because I'm gay and out, I was able to get some great attention just for that sheer fact. Many of the songs for my first album were about coming outthings that many gays were able to relate to. So being out and sharing my story helped to provide a shared experience with people who went through the same thing.
WCT: At this point in your career, you're an independent artist and can "call the shots." Do you fear that gaining major label backing would somehow discourage your current level of creative input and control?
Derek Bishop: I'd be fine with sharing the responsibility and input if a major-label wanted me. Perhaps I'm being naive, but I would hope a label would want me because they like my music and style, and not so they could shape or mold me into something I'm not.
WCT: The theme of your first CD, Resistance is Beautiful, was centered around the idea of using stagnation as an impetus to facilitate change. What's the theme of your new CD, Bicycling in Quicksand?
Derek Bishop: The theme of Bicycling in Quicksand is about going against the tide, fighting for something you believe in even when it seems like a losing battle. There's also is a motif running through the album about how music keeps us tied to our past. No matter how much time passes, a song can take you back years, or even decades. It can be a huge internal struggle fighting with your past and trying to move forward in life, especially when you hear a certain song from long ago, and suddenly you're reliving it all.
WCT: To a large degree, dance music is a staple in the gay world. Are you concerned your new CD might label you exclusively as a "dance music" artist? Did you feel any sort of pressure to put out a dance CD?
Derek Bishop: I certainly did not feel pressured to put out a dance CD. I just want each album to have a different feel. The last one was more of a singer-songwriter album; this one is a full-band disco sound. I want my sound to keep changing with each new project.
WCT: Do you feel that taking a more "commercial" approach with your second CD is actually riskier than recording material with the same quirky, off-beat style your fans are familiar with?
Derek Bishop: I'm sure it is riskier, but I'm using the term "dance music" loosely. When I refer to the album being dance, I mean that it's got a danceable beat. When the record comes out this spring, you'll hear music ( that ) is still eclectic and offbeat. I've got a unique mix of instrumentation: xylophones, saxophones and French horns, as well as a ton of vintage synths. It'll be a feast for the ears. Our goal was to make an old school disco record. As a result, I'm the humanity in the music [that] shines through.
WCT: Speaking of dance music, your song, "What it Takes," would be great for Cher. Maybe it could be her next power ballad or mega-dance hit?
Derek Bishop: Ha! I love that. It's a great suggestion, and please pass it on to Cher's people, by all means. Truthfully, I would be honored if any singer, established or not, wanted to cover one of my songs.
WCT: If an established singer recorded one of your songs and had a huge hit, would you feel that you might then be labeled more a songwriter than singer?
Derek Bishop: My goal is to get my music out to the world. I consider myself songwriter first and foremost. Being a singer is something I do so that I can present my songs to the world. So no, I have no worries about being labeled one or the other. I'm just thrilled to have the opportunity to make music.
WCT: Fashion seems to play a very important part of your stage performances, including your trademark leather pants! Tell us a bit about your fashion inspiration.
Derek Bishop: I think my look is a mix of Oliver Twist meets Mad Max. Stevie Nick always said she built her stage look around pieces she could change out. I was looking to do the same thing: create a uniform. My look is a male variation of that. Being on stage and having the opportunity to perform is not something I take lightly. It's a special opportunity and I want my outfit to reflect that.
For more info on Derek Bishop, visit www.DerekBishop.net .