The Kansas City, Missouri resident, Bill Abernathy, 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.”
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 latest collection of songs, “Crossing Willow Creek” is available now, with first single, “Cry Wolf” hitting radio airwaves around the globe. The single reached the iTunes Top 100 Rock Songs chart, while hitting the Top 5 on New Music Weekly’s country chart. Bill is also a December 2018 Billboard Magazine Emerging Artist.
- When did you get started, and did you have any formal training?
Bill Abernathy: I started singing and playing music very young. I think I started playing guitar somewhere around 10 years old or so. I initially learned to play copying from friends and relatives, then around the time I was 13 or so took some professional lessons. I did study at UMKC conservatory of music and learned a lot about the inner workings of music there. Who knew there was math involved? haha
- Who are your early musical influences, and who are you listening to right now?
Bill Abernathy: I have always been impressed by singer songwriters. The first concert I attended was Loggins and Messina acoustic. The way singer songwriters take life experiences and turn them into songs it’s a fascinating process. My influences are pretty diverse. For a local show this year I decided to play only covers (which is really rare for me), and as I put together the set l included tunes from Dan Fogelberg, The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jim Croce, Kenny Loggins, Brewer and Shipley, Jackson Brown, and several others. I also listen to John Mayer quite a bit these days.
- If someone has never heard your music, which keywords would you personally use to describe your overall sound and style?
Bill Abernathy: Great question. My process for writing is to first write lyrics that explore the story and the thought behind the song. As the story takes shape, the music to go along with it starts to form. Due to the various subjects I like to write about, the genre of music I use is pretty diverse. My music has been classified as Rock, Country Rock, Folk Rock, Americana, Blues, Folk, Acoustic, etc. My overall sound is really based on acoustic guitars, then evolves into the genre that best fits the song. One thing that folks continually tell me is how my music is really lyrically based, and the music behind the lyrics are designed to enhance the message of the song.
- Do you remember the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased? And which is the one piece of gear you’re still looking to add to your setup now?
Bill Abernathy: Wow. I know the first guitar I ever got that was mine and mine alone is a Silvertone 6 string I got for Christmas one year. I still have that guitar actually. I think the first guitar I every bought for myself may have been a Martin D18. I have 12 guitars, ranging from Martins, to Guilds, to Yairi’s, to Les Pauls, to PRS’s, but much like any guitar player I always think I need more. I am currently on the hunt for the Martin D-41DF, the Dan Fogelberg signature model. Anyone have one for sale??
- Do you handle your own recording, production and mastering work or do you outsource any or all of these processes?
Bill Abernathy: If I have learned anything over the years, it is to focus on your core competencies. I am a singer songwriter. I write the songs and then work with a great team of production folks to do the recordings. I have input in everything we do, but I am not nor do I aspire to be the guy engineering or mastering an album. It’s a very specific skill. I do what I do, and then let the experts do what they do.
- Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a song?
Bill Abernathy: Well honestly, it’s a bit of mess. I am working on a new tune right now and there are pages of lyrics, posty notes, notes on my phone, etc. I don’t always time to set down and collate all the ideas, so I scribble down my thoughts and then at some point put them all together. I like the process because I get ideas from different times and from my different mind sets. It’s not the most efficient process as it takes a lot of time, but it really works well for me. I literally have book after book of ideas, so as I am writing I have lots of thoughts and ideas to pull from.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
Bill Abernathy: Another great question. The answer is twofold. Translating the song written purely acoustic into a produced sound that still has the feel I need for the song is not so easy. It’s easy to get lost in the bright shiny object of over production and play with all the toys, and then lose the real heart of the song. The second element it taking that produced sound and replicating it live. It’s quite a challenge but I think we do a good job of focusing on the song itself and keeping the production in a good place to highlight the song.
- What would you say are the most important elements, tools and/or instruments in creating your sound?
Bill Abernathy: This goes back to the core competencies I mentioned earlier. I am primarily an acoustic guy, so that is the base of all my music. That said, bringing in the right players, singers, producers and engineers is critical. I really enjoy working with each of them to ensure the integrity of the song is first and foremost in everyone’s mind. Finding the right people, and then allowing them to do what they do within the structure of the work is fun but sometimes a bit challenging.
- What were your main compositional, performance and/or production challenges when starting out, and how have they changed over time?
Bill Abernathy: Guitar sounds.. lol.. the team will all laugh about this because I am very particular about how my guitars sound whether we are recording or playing live. I think technology, the best microphones, pickups, amps etc. have helped make this process much easier.
- Do you have any favorite track in your catalog that has a specific backstory and/or message very dear to you?
Bill Abernathy: Interesting question. I think of my songs a bit like my kids. I have no favorites. That said, I was doing a TV spot not long ago and I was asked what my signature song was. After some thought, I determined that the title cut from my Find A Way album has to be my “signature song”. That tune reflects back on the day my dad passed away and reminisces about all the things he taught me over my lifetime. Simply put, “If you want something bad enough in life, and you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat, tears, and toil to make it happen, you can always Find A Way.” Those are words I use every day and are great advice to live by.
- How do you handle criticism and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Bill Abernathy: I saw a statistic the other day that mentioned the something like 300K songs are released every day globally. With that much music out there and so many people listening, there will be people who do not like what you do. I live by the principal that if you try and make everyone happy, you make no one happy. Folks have their opinions and they are welcome to them. If they don’t like my music, they have plenty of other options. Criticism is important to help you improve and it does not bother me. Sometimes constructive criticism can be quite useful.
- How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?
Bill Abernathy: We have a few videos out and have released a new lyric video with each new single. These seem to be quite popular with our fans so yes, I think they are important. You can check these out on my YouTube Channel. We also have a few live video’s as well as some “live in the studio” ones that we did at the request of our fans.
- What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry and entertainment.
Bill Abernathy: Everyone has opinions and ideas, and as artists we have a responsibility to use current events in our writing. I am not terribly political, but I have a tune on Crossing Willow Creek called Cry Wolf that has some social commentary imbedded in it. I would never be so presumptuous to tell anyone what to think about our current societal challenges, but I do want to ask folks to think about what’s going on, educate themselves and do what their hearts and minds lead them to do.
- Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two do you ultimately prefer and why?
Bill Abernathy: Honestly, I really enjoy the studio. The interaction with the production team and the other musicians is really special time for me. That said, playing live, looking the audience in the eye, and seeing their response to what I do is one of my favorite things. When I see someone respond to one of my tunes, when I see in their eyes that the song is making some impact with them, that is really special.
- What would you consider the most successful, proud or high point in your endeavors so far?
Bill Abernathy: I have had several fans contact me and tell me stories about how one of my songs had helped them through a tough time, made them stop and think before making a decision, or just laughed a bit at the stories. That is what as a singer songwriter I call success. What I am doing is having some impact on the people who are listening. Perfect
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media as fundamental in building a career in music today, and what is your personal relationship with all the new technology at hand?
Bill Abernathy: Social Media is critical to introduce yourself and continue contact with your fans. I believe that we make fans one at a time and have a responsibility to keep them informed on what we have going on. We have fans all over the world, so we have no chance other than social media to reach them. I also think this can be done without being obnoxious about it. I use all the major social media tools and use them regularly. It’s be best way to stay in contact with your fans and receive their ideas and suggestions.
- What is the best piece of advice regarding the music business that you actually followed so far, and what is the advice you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Bill Abernathy: I’ll go back to the core competencies comment again. Do what you do well and get others to help you in their areas of expertise. Trying to do it all on your own is time consuming and stressful and will hurt your creativity. Focus on what you do well, and you will end up doing it far better than you could ever have hoped.
- What do you like best about what you do, and what do you dislike the most about it?
Bill Abernathy: Probably not a shock but I really enjoy the writing and recording processes. As much as I enjoy playing live, I really am not a fan of what I call the real work involved. Set up, sound checks, the administrative elements with the venues etc. I always dread all that but when the show comes off, and the fans have a good time, it is all worth it.
- Tell us something about your latest music release and where fans can find it?
Bill Abernathy: Crossing Willow Creek is our newest album out there. It is available at all the major outlets where you buy music today. iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc. If you order a copy directly from my web site, www.billabernathy.com, your purchase will be personalized by me, and we have some cool shirts and stuff available on my site as well.
- Do you have a specific musical vision and/ or goal set in your mind for the future?
Bill Abernathy: I read an article about a famous classical musician who at 90 years old still practices 4 hours per day. When asked why he did this at his age he said, “I think I am making progress.” This is perfect. I hope to continue to play, record and perform to get better. To connect with our fans, create new fans and friends, and continually improve on what I do. I love what I do and am fortunate to get to do what I love. What better goal could there be?