Stephen Bishop is one of the most gifted and prolific musicians I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to do so again just a month out from the release of his highly anticipated autobiography, On and Off. Stephen’s memoir comes out May 2, and you can buy your copy directly from the legendary singer-songwriter and even get it autographed in the process. While you’re waiting to receive your copy of Stephen’s book, I hope you enjoy reading my interview with him.
What inspired you to write your autobiography, and what have you learned during this process?
My manager and now wife, Liz Kamlet, came up with the idea. I never thought of doing an autobiography. We had been filming my documentary and thought it would be a good complement. We started this project in 2018, and it’s been challenging. I have written a book before, in the ’90s, called Songs in the Rough. That took three years.
During this process, I have learned that patience is key. The process of writing down your entire life can be exhausting, time-consuming, and, at times, just crazy. I would dictate to Liz, and she wrote down the stories. We would then go over them, tweak them, and read them repeatedly. I could not have done this alone.
Many artists have narrated the audiobook version of their autobiography, often including music in between or during, chapters. What are your thoughts on this? And is this something you plan on doing?
Yes, that is planned for the future. We plan on having music throughout the chapters and myself narrating. I wanted to complete the physical copies first and did not want to delay the release.
How has the COVID pandemic affected you as a person and as an artist?
As an artist, it was quite a shock to stop consistently touring after nearly 40+ years. Not going out on the road was never a thought that crossed my mind. It’s also been a blessing, as it has given me time to rest and work on projects that I have wanted to complete for years, like the book, documentary, and a new album.
As a person, it changed my perspective on life. All I’ve ever known is writing and recording songs. It’s scary that it was all taken away in an instant. It’s made me really prepare more for the future, And to give back to others. I have always done charity events in the past, but never enough. At the height of COVID and still, to this day, I actively donate to causes to help musicians who are struggling like MusicCares. During the pandemic, I did a few live concerts and donated 100% of the ticket sales to them and other organizations, along with matching the ticket-sale amount. Helping others, especially in music, has always been one of my passions.
You’ve developed quite a following on social media these days. How does that feel? And what’s it been like directly connecting with your fans in this way?
It’s been kind of wild actually. A few years ago I had zero social media. My team, led by my wife Liz, has done an incredible job. But, I don’t let the number go to my head or anything. Ha! I am still the same old Stephen with songs that people enjoy. That’s all I am, a songwriter. I am proud to be a songwriter. I am so grateful my fans have stayed with me all these years. It really is amazing to see millions of streams every month. I am still working on learning the logistics of streaming, NFTs, etc. But, it’s essential to change with today’s industry. And if I can get more people to listen to my music, that sounds good to me.
Last time we spoke, you mentioned that you’ve been working on a documentary about your career. How’s that coming along, what can fans expect, and when should it be released?
Yes, it’s coming along well. The filming is nearly completed. It was not easy getting everyone’s interviews finished during the middle of a pandemic. We had to switch to phone or Zoom calls for some people, but all in all, it’s been pretty smooth. It’s strange to see old videos and photos that I haven’t seen since the 70s and 80s. A blast from the past. In many of the clips, you can see me reacting to my old videos. I recently found old clips of me growing up in San Diego, which have never been seen by anyone. I love all of that stuff, the more archived footage the better. We hope for it to be released in 2023.
What album of yours didn’t get the attention it deserved, why do you think that’s the case, and what do you love about the album?
That’s not an easy question to answer. I love all my albums, but I would have to say there were three albums. Red Cab To Manhattan, Bowling in Paris, and Blue Guitars. All had incredible personnel, producers, background singers, and songs. However, due to issues beyond my control with managers, record labels, etc, they did not get the attention they deserved. You can have the best album in the world, but if you do not have a solid team behind you promoting, not many people will know about it. But, thanks to streaming, the albums are having a comeback!
Now that you’ve written your autobiography, what other personal or professional goals are you hoping to accomplish in the years to come?
I hope to re-release my 1996 book Songs in the Rough. So many incredible rough drafts from rock and roll’s favorite songs. It sold out a few times, and I want a new generation to appreciate the years of hard work and time it took me to track down artists and the rough drafts of some of history’s greatest songs.