Everyone loves a good story about second-chances, and that’s exactly what Bill Abernathy’s story is all about. The Kansas City, Missouri resident began writing songs in his early teens. He played all through his school years, but then he stopped…Life took over. Bill went about getting married, building a business career, and raising his children. After his kids graduated from school and started their careers, Bill picked up the guitar again and began trying to rekindle his love of music.
“Inspiration for my music comes from a variety of the many parts of my life,” Bill says. “Events and experiences of mine, my family, my friends, and sometimes even people I have never met all, contribute to the creativity of my music. I find it interesting and rewarding to let my imagination wander through the memory and spirit of life events and see where it takes me.”
Bill is a pure “lyrics-first” writer…a bit of a storyteller. “I feel the story and lyrics talk to me and tell me what the rest of the song is supposed to sound like,” he says. His last album, 2017’s “Find A Way” reached #5 on the Roots Music Report Traditional Folk Album chart, and the single, “Goodbye Will Never Come Again” reached #1 on the singles chart. Bill’s last collection of songs, the Roots Music Report Americana chart-topping album, “Crossing Willow Creek” is available now. The first single, “Cry Wolf” reached the iTunes Top 100 Rock Songs chart, while hitting the Top 5 on New Music Weekly’s country chart. The next two singles also received national and international charting. Bill was also a December 2018 Billboard Magazine Emerging Artist. He recently toured the mid-west on his “Living The Dream” solo tour.
“Sometimes life is good to you and gives you a second chance. In my youth I walked away from music for a myriad of personal reasons. Now, I’ve now been given a second chance to pursue this thing we love called music, and I am really enjoying the ride!” Bill’s brand new single, “A Thousand Wild Horses” from a forthcoming EP, was released in June 2021 and reached #1 on the South African ITunes Country Songs chart!
Thank you for having this interview with us, Bill. Please tell us a little about yourself to start off with.
From a condemned hospital, through many changes and challenges, to having my songs played all over the world, this is my story. “Change always teaches us to be everything we’re destined to be”. We don’t always know what life will bring, what dreams will become reality, what dreams will crash and burn, but one thing is certain. Change is either our friend or our enemy, we choose which. I have found that writing and performing my songs is a great way to express myself and share things I have picked up along life’s journey.
One thing that I’m always interested in, when I sit down and chat with artists is, what their defining moment was that they knew that they wanted to be in music… What was that moment in time for you?
I really can’t remember a time I was not involved in music. The first vivid memory I have is singing with a church group when I was around 13 or so. We were performing a musical for a large youth group at a summer camp. I had a solo that I did just me and my guitar. As I sat center stage and played the song, the place got very quiet. I remember thinking “wow this is really getting across”. It was a moment when I realized the power music can have in people’s lives and from that moment on I was hooked.
Do you mix and master yourself or do you have an engineer or a producer that works with you?
To draw from a sports analogy, not everyone is a short stop. Everyone has a certain skill set and to be the best you can be one needs to realize their skill set and capitalize on it. I write and perform songs. That is my thing. I work with professionals who a very good at what they do, so I don’t try to do more than I can. The engineers and producers I work with make up a great team where each of us uses our skills to produce the best product we can. I help a bit with the mixing and mastering, but I really try to stay out of their way. You can be a great shortstop, but only and average center fielder. I try to stay in my lane… most the time. lol
What motivates you? Not just in your music but in your normal life as well.
People. We really have some interesting stories to tell. We have experiences that are very real to us. Sharing those stories and experiences with others is how we can learn from each other. Just this morning while my car was being repaired, I had a great conversation with a fascinating man. He shared some of his life stories with me. I am sure some of what he told me will end up in a song someday. If I can help get those stories, those learning, those life lessons out to the world, then what more motivation could there be?
I am personally on a mission to get good music heard by everyone. What is one thing that bothers you the most about trying to come up in the music world today and, do you prefer being underground or, is the mainstream something you strive for?
That’s a loaded question. Everyone would love to have their music heard in the mainstream media world. The question is how realistic that is. I’ve been fortunate to have a few “hits” and that is a cool feeling, but most of the songs I write are not intended for mainstream. To quote Billy Joel, “it was a beautiful song, but it ran too long, if you wanna have a hit, you gotta make it quick, so they cut it down to 3:05”. You can almost tell what tunes of a record will be played first on radio, and based on how long they are. Not saying that’s a bad thing, because that’s just business, but I don’t purposefully sit down to write a tune for radio. I write what I think, what I feel, and then see what happens.
Who, musically, is one of your bigger influences?
Another great question. I love artists that tell stories, that convey their feelings in their lyrics, and then marry the music to the lyric. I think that process is how a song is the most impactful. Artists like Dan Fogelberg, Kenny Loggins, CSN, John Mayer, Dave Grohl are great examples. They use the music to emphasize the lyrics.
One question that I like to ask artists is, how did Covid affect your music in particular and the music scene in your area?
Covid was a challenge for sure. I am so impressed at the creativity artists used to find a way to stay viable during quarantine. So many live stream shows that improved dramatically as folks got used to the technology and used it effectively. I did dozens of live streams for fans across the globe, and found it to be fun, different for sure, but fun.
I, myself, personally think that there’s too much social media out there to keep up with. I understand why it’s necessary but there’s a ton of it out there. What are your feelings on social media and music today?
Ah ha. A pet peeve of mine. Social media is a tool we can all use to keep folks updated on what is happening with our careers. That said, and I agree with you, it is way overused. I make a promise to my fans that I will post information when it needs to be posted. Much like you, my inboxes are full every day with repetitive posts that have little or no real content. To summarize, say what needs to be said and if you don’t have anything to say, then say nothing.
Do you create music often? When can we expect another release?
We just released our new EP, Who Are You Who Am I. These are tunes I recorded during quarantine. This project is four songs that are very different from a content and genre standpoint. I did that on purpose to highlight how versatile a singer songwriter can be, and it was fun! I
have more new tunes that we are working on now. I don’t rush the writing or recording process. I think of it like making a good stew. You get all the parts, put them together and let them cook for a while. Taste it, then add some more seasoning, and repeat the process several times until you get what you’re looking for.
What tips or advice would you give someone that’s just starting out in the music game?
Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Delivering a performance is far more that playing the notes and singing the lyrics. Know your material inside out and upside down so you don’t have to think, but rather just deliver the song the best you can to your audience. The song is the message, you’re just the delivery driver. Practice will make the driving a hell of a lot better.
Bill, I want to thank you for this Q&A, Is there anything you want to say to everyone out there? Shout outs?
Thank you for the great questions. It’s true that the music world has been disrupted over the past 18 months or so but look what we have learned. Look what new opportunities we have to get music to our fans. Different is not bad, but just different. Live shows are great, and we all love them, but we have livestreams now we can still utilize. There is something great about setting in your home and watching an interactive live performance from your couch without the guy behind you spilling beer down your neck. Let’s keep doing some of that.