So-called “yacht rock” — aka soft rock, aka pop rock — has a reputation for being gentle and soothing, but on the phone, Stephen Bishop — one of its foremost practitioners — is actually quite excitable and a bit snarky at times.
In the course of a 20-minute interview, he solicited iPhone technical advice, chatted about a Fleetwood Mac DVD, wistfully recalled the time he skipped seeing the Beatles in concert for fear of getting “beat up” by uncontrollable hordes of screaming girls, reflected on his “Charming …” cameos in a quartet of John Landis films, and directed some good-natured trash talk toward … Lionel Richie, of course.
When • Saturday, 8 p.m.
Where • Kenley Amphitheater, 403 N. Wasatch Drive, Layton
Tickets • $16-$29; www.davisarts.org
Oh, and he also gave a little preview of what fans can expect at his show Saturday at Kenley Amphitheater in Layton, even as he acknowledged he had no idea what to expect in return.
“I don’t think I’ve been to Utah in … maybe 35 years. I think I was in Utah — maybe it was Oregon. Wait a minute … Ashland, Oregon,” Bishop said, fumbling through his memory banks. “And then Utah … Salt Lake City … no, my first wife was from Oregon. I’m not even sure I’ve been to Utah! Maybe I took a trip there like a million years ago or something. It’s been a while! … It’s pretty liberal there, isn’t it?”
OK, so his history here is sketchy.
What is clear is that he remains one of the torch-bearers for his particular genre decades later, thanks to musical ability that caused no less than Eric Clapton to name-drop Bishop in his autobiography as one of his all-time favorite singer-songwriters.
Not bad, considering Bishop almost didn’t make it in the music business to begin with.
After a six-year stretch of barely scraping by in Los Angeles, Bishop’s father suggested it was perhaps time to throw in the towel and move on to a more practical career choice.
“It got really bad about ’74, and my dad, who was the head of an insurance company back then, he sent me a telegram saying, ‘Son, it looks like your music is not working out. You should come back home to San Diego and work for me selling insurance,’ ” Bishop said. “Which is not exactly my forte. I don’t think I would be so good at that. So that was kind of a weird moment.”
Far better moments would soon follow.
One of his best friends, Leah Kunkel — the younger sister of The Mamas & The Papas singer Cass Elliot, and the wife of music producer Russ Kunkel — gave one of Bishop’s demo cassettes to a musician friend of hers by the name of Art Garfunkel.
Garfunkel loved the songs and wound up recording two of them — “Looking for the Right One” and “The Same Old Tears on a New Background” — on his album “Breakaway.” When the album went platinum, Garfunkel was able to land a record deal for Bishop.
“ I was thrilled. Back then, it was really a big thing. Simon and Garfunkel! I loved Simon and Garfunkel,” Bishop said. “So it was pretty cool. And we became friends, Art Garfunkel and I — still friends after all these years.”
Bishop made the faith in him pay off. His debut album, “Careless,” went gold on the strength of two of his biggest hits, “On and On” and “Save It for a Rainy Day.” It also featured Garfunkel, Clapton and Chaka Khan in supporting roles. His follow-up, “Bish,” also went gold. He’s been writing and singing ever since, with his latest album, “blueprint,” coming out in 2016.
He became an in-demand songwriter, with the likes of Clapton, Barbra Streisand, David Crosby, even Luciano Pavarotti performing Bishop-penned songs. He went on to contribute songs for myriad movies as well, notably singing “It Might Be You” from “Tootsie,” writing and singing the theme from “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and writing “Separate Lives,” sung by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin for the 1985 film “White Nights.”
His latest song is one he co-wrote with Curt Sobel for a forthcoming “Benji” remake.
“It’s a really strong song, so I’m hoping we get an Oscar!” the twice-Academy Award-nominated singer joked. “I’m hoping for it. I should have won an Oscar with ‘Separate Lives’! ‘Bitter, party of one — we have your table!’ ”
That “Separate Lives” lost out to another song from the same movie has, he facetiously noted, haunted him for the last three-plus decades.
“Lionel Richie won that one for his song, ‘Say You, Say Me, Say I’m Gonna Steal Steve’s Award!’ ” Bishop said with a laugh.
Assuming he’s not locked up before showtime for trying to steal “his” Oscar back, Bishop said those in attendance Saturday can expect him to cover all the bases. He’s excited to unveil a more expansive setlist than he’s had in a little while.
“I haven’t done a ton of touring this year. Usually, I’ve been doing these pick-up gigs, and it’s not really the same as a concert. When I come into Utah, I’m gonna do a real show there,” Bishop said. “People seem to like the shows, and there are a lot of songs that they know. It should be good. I do songs from all my albums. My new songs, old songs. I try to do songs that people remember from when they first heard me.”
Now, as for whether they first heard him in Utah or Oregon or somewhere else, well, he can’t help you there.