Bill Abernathy - 10 Questions Music Interview
Bill Abernathy grew up with a passion for music. He wrote songs and played music throughout his early school years. Eventually, life took over and Bill got married, raised a family, and focused on his business career. After his kids graduated from school and started their own careers, Bill returned to his guitar and the rest is history. Today, Bill is an artist on fire. As a a pure "lyrics-first" writer and a great storyteller, he is fully enjoying his rekindled passion and rising success.
His last album, 2017’s “Find A Way” reached #5 on the Roots Music Report Traditional Folk Album chart, and his single “Goodbye Will Never Come Again” reached #1 on the singles chart. Bill’s latest collection of songs, “Crossing Willow Creek,” is a Roots Music Report Americana chart-topping album. 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 is also a December 2018 Billboard Magazine Emerging Artist. He is currently touring the mid-west on his “Living The Dream” solo tour. His music is available on most major digital outlets.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
As a youngster I always studied the lyrics of the songs I was learning to play. I have always been fascinated with what the artist was saying and in particular how they were using words to convey what they wanted to say. Dan Fogelberg’s song These Days is a song that examines how to understand who you are, where you are in your life, and how to break things down to a simple concept… “All I ever wanted to be was free”
To quote Dan:
“I used to think of myself as a soldier Holding his own against impossible odds Badly outnumbered and caught in a crossfire of devils and gods. All I ever wanted to be was free All I ever looked for was what was within my eyes could see But these days, are just like you and me”
These lyrics as well as the rest of the song are the reason I started to write music. To take daily thoughts, concepts, struggles and victories, and break them down into a relatable lyric is a pretty magic thing. Dan did this exceptionally. I challenge myself daily to do the same thing.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
I was asked once to fill in for a guitar player in a bluegrass band last minute when I did not know any of the music. I listened to a couple songs on the way to the gig and went on stage at a big festival with about 5K people in the audience. My plan was to watch the banjo and bass players to pick up the chords and the transitions. The plan was working well until halfway through the first song when the lead singer introduced me and said, “play us some of that fancy guitar stuff Bill”. Let’s just say that what the audience heard was not “typical” bluegrass leads… lol. But it was fun.
What has been the high point of your music path?
I could talk about all the charts and sales and stuff but that is not why I do this. I do it because I hope that my tunes can reach folks and help them in their journeys through life. Just this week I was playing a show in Colorado and finished the show as I always do with my Find A Way tune. This tune discusses the day my dad passed away, reminiscing about all the lessons he had taught me over the course of my life. The outro of that tune is a version of my dad’s favorite song, The Wildwood Flower. It’s my little tribute to him and all the things he did to prepare me for what life can throw at us. After the show a gentleman came up with tears in his eyes and told me that Find A Way had really touched him. His mother had passed the day before the show and hearing how I dealt with my dad’s passing helped him come to grips at some level with the loss of his mother. These are the high points of my musical path. When what I have to say, how I understand things, and how I work through challenges helps another along the way is why I do this whole thing. These are very very special moments for me and I am fortunate when folks let me be a part of them.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
Honestly, I am just a storyteller. When something interesting inspires me to write a story, I just write out all that I am thinking. Sometimes these stories evolve into a song, sometimes not. I think the most inspirational songs come from the heart, and nothing is closer to your heart than the real experiences each of us have. When someone tells me a great story, or something really cool happens to me or those close to me, I tend to use that as the motivation for my writing. It’s as simple as that. “If you hear a song that sounds like it was written about you, it may have been” That is my motto and it rings true for every song I have ever written.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
The music industry is a really challenging and interesting place. With tens of thousands of songs being released every day on a global level, it’s really tough to get yourself heard. That said, it is not impossible. I think the key is to really work to know who you are as an artist and work really hard to understand who your audience is. Once you have some understanding of these critical keys, you have to work to make sure you don’t lose sight of either of them. Simply, not everyone is going to like your stuff, and not everyone is going to be a fan, but those who do want to hear what you have to say, and know what you are doing. Folks today are barraged with more and more music every day, and it’s easy to lose touch with them. Understand that, and work like crazy to make sure they know who you are, what you are about, and that you’re working to keep them engaged in your music.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I think to set in with Dan Fogelberg would be a dream come true. His music has been very influential in my music and my life. I probably quote his lyrics too often. To play with him would be very special for me. I hope someday out in “The Nexus” I will have that opportunity.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I am a bit of a practice freak. I really work hard to get my hands and my brain working so closely together that I don’t have to think about playing the guitar. This gives me the opportunity to really focus on delivering the song the very best I can. One of my little mantras is #lyrics matter. I think the lyric is the key to every song, and if your stumbling around on the guitar you cannot focus on the message of the lyric. So, I practice more than most, and try to minimize the stage time I invest focusing on guitar and spend most of the stage time locked in on the lyrics and the message of the song. I do play some pretty challenging guitar stuff, so I have to practice a lot to get that seamless hand / brain connection.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I think the ones hardest to write are the ones that really hit home emotionally. I have a tune called Goodbye Will Never Come Again. It explores the ending of a relationship that I really handled very poorly. Essentially, I just said goodbye and walked away. The relationship had evolved to an emotional point that I was quite fearful of, and rather than work to understand the fear and grow my way through it, I just walked away. I took the easy way out. That was something I regretted for a really long time. That tune is really 3 things. A confession that I now understand what a terrible thing I did, an apology for being such a frightened little boy that could not deal with his own emotions, and a promise that I will do my best not do that again, hence the title Goodbye Will Never Come Again. That one hit home with me, made me evaluate my thoughts and behaviors, and caused me to swallow my pride and do the right thing. Not such an easy thing to come to grips with. All that said the guitar part ended up in a weird tuning that was quite a challenge to figure out, but it is what the song needed. Who knew?
What's coming up in the future?
Actually, today is the last day of my Living the Dream tour. I played through Houston and Austin Texas, St. Louis and Kansas City Missouri, Denver and Alamosa Colorado, and show in Albuquerque New Mexico. I’ve had a great time connecting with fans and playing is some diverse venues and environments. With all the windshield time, I’ve had some quality time to evaluate my next steps and think through some new tunes and ideas. I will now get back in my happy place, the studio, and work up some new tunes. I hope to release some new stuff by the end of the year.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
You can visit my website.
Or, listen on my Spotify Page