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 when 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. He has since hit radio airwaves across the globe, raked up iTunes Top 100 chart positions, and been selected as a 2018 Billboard Magazine Emerging Artist.
- Do you feel that your music has given you back just as much as you have put into it over the years, or were you expecting something more or different?
Bill Abernathy: Without a doubt music has given me far more than I ever expected or deserve to receive. Music to me is a way to reach into yourself and explore areas of your thoughts, your personality, your emotions that are not easily reached without music, for me at least. I believe there are many of my deepest personal thoughts and beliefs that live only in the music I play. Interestingly enough, those emotions are not always associated with my original tunes, but rather reside in some of my favorite tunes from other artists. Early in my career I struggled sharing these songs with others as they are so personal to me. I’m glad I got over that as it seems many folks enjoy hearing these thoughts and the stories associated with them.
- How would you define the word “success” as a musician? What does “success” in in music, mean to you personally?
Bill Abernathy: I believe you have to break “success” down to a couple of areas. The typical definition is related to monetary success. I’ve been fortunate to have a very devoted group of fans that follow and support the music I make, which is very nice. That said, I see success a bit differently that just financial elements. When I hear from a fan that one of my tunes has touched them in some way, made them laugh, cry, giggle or maybe just stop, think or reflect about something, that to me in success. I really enjoy hearing from my fans when they tell me stories about how my tunes have touched them in some way.
- The music industry has fundamentally changed over the years. For the better or for the worse in your opinion?
Bill Abernathy: I don’t know if it’s better or worse but it’s certainly different. I sometimes think the industry is now far more about entertaining than it is about music. I am a bit old school and enjoy artists that write good songs that reflect parts of their lives and thoughts and then share them with their fans. I don’t particularly like all the “production” that goes on at so many concerts. I think it takes away so much from the music itself. When I go to concerts, I appreciate when the artist plays their songs, tells their stories, and engages with the audience. A great song played well is really what I enjoy. Examples I have seen lately? John Mayer and The Eagles. Great bands, great songs, played well.
- Do current popular songs from the radio influence your music, creative approach and/or production decisions in anyway?
Bill Abernathy: I think it’s important to pay attention to the latest trends in production. Even though I may not particularly like some of the sounds the production generates, it’s important to understand what’s being done and what technology is being used. I think each artist has their own creative approach that works for them, and it is interesting to hear their processes and try them out. Makes for a fun day sometimes.
- What’s your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ song? One that’s as far removed from your genre as we could hope to guess?
Bill Abernathy: Timely question. I have a new tune we are working on now called “The World’s Foremost Authority on Everything”. I actually talk the lyrics in the verses which is something I have not done before. I am having fun with it and realizing how challenging that can be. And there will be banjos. Should be interesting. lol
- Putting aside the accolades or criticisms that fans or the media may afford your releases, what’s the one thing about your music you think people overlook or misinterpret most often?
Bill Abernathy: Great Question and the answer is a bit involved. I really appreciate when folks can relate to the lyrics I’ve written about my life into theirs. When they tell me the lyrics really hit home with them in some way it really makes me feel like I’ve made a special connection with them. That said, interpretation is really from your particular point of view and where you are in your life. Some of my more social exploration tunes get interpreted in some pretty interesting ways. My “More Than Meets the Eye” tune is an example of this. Though not written to highlight one side of our social and political culture, but rather an overview of our current situation regardless of choosing sides, many take the lyrics to defend a particular belief or argument. So, it’s really a bit of a quandary for me. I enjoy folks relating lyrics to their particular situation except for when I don’t. What’s a guy to do?
- Do you have a particular hobby or activity outside of music that you use to rejuvenate your creativity or inspiration?
Bill Abernathy: I think it’s very important to be able to step away and let your mind take a break from the creative process. Everyone gets writers block at some point and finding an escape for me is critical. I really enjoy sports and supporting my grandkids as they play and chase that dream. Watching them work hard, improve their skills, have success and subsequent failure is very inspirational for me. Sports is really a microcosm of life, and there are so many life lessons that can be learned through competition. And of course, it’s fun to watch.
- Name us a band or musical artist you love, that you think we probably haven’t heard of (but definitely should hear)?
Bill Abernathy: Lately I have really been into listening to Jimmie Spheeris. His tune “I am the Mercury” is really resonating with me right now. He is another artist that left us way too soon in his career but the music he left for us is really spectacular. If you have not heard his work, do yourself a favor and take a good listen. You’re welcome. lol
- What drives your day after day, more than anything else, to continue pursuing your musical career?
Bill Abernathy: I really enjoy the writing process. Taking thoughts and concepts and putting them in a musical structure that makes sense is really fun. Though I am not the most prolific writer around, I enjoy the process of transferring my thoughts to lyrics and the subsequent music creation process that follows. I find it mentally challenging and enjoy doing the work it takes to make it happen.
- What do you think about, when selecting tracks for an album? Do you try to curate for a specific overarching and cohesive theme, or do you lean towards put together the best sounding tracks you can?
Bill Abernathy: I am a bit old school in this area. I think of albums as a cohesive work of art and try to create and maintain a concept through the work. My Find a Way album is all about working through challenging aspects of life and finding a way to get through each of them in a positive way and learning life lessons as we go. Crossing Willow Creek is conceptually about understanding where your roots are taking the challenge to expand yourself to something new while not losing the parts of your that make you who you are. My new unnamed project is about exploring the various facets of my life both lyrically and musically. I like themes and find that as I am writing the tunes they seem to follow a theme of where I am in my life.
- If you were forced to choose just one song by your favorite artist that you wished you had written, which song would it be, and why?
Bill Abernathy: “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 to see. Oh, but these days are just like you and me”. Dan Fogelberg, These Days from his Captured Angel album. This tune has “met me in a place” at many times of my life and a constant reminder to look beyond what your eyes can see and explore other thoughts and concepts. I see it as a warning to avoid the old adage of “can’t see the forest for the trees”. It’s always good to try to see more than what is right in front of you and not miss the beauty of what you may not see.
- Do you typically test your new tracks in live performances prior to an officially releasing, or do you go with your instinct?
Bill Abernathy: I am fortunate to have a small circle of friends who are honest with me about my music. I have them read the lyrics and then listen to most the tunes before I put them out there. I have one friend who really enjoys hearing the “scratch” tracks. He thinks they are representative of the song more so than the finished product. That said, there are a few tunes that no one hears before they are released. I do play new songs live sometimes just to see what the response would be. It’s a mix of processes but it seems to work for me.
- The incredible immediacy of digital download platforms, or the nostalgia of hunting down a vinyl album in a brick and mortar record store? Which of these excite you most and why?
Bill Abernathy: I remember a time when I was in a brick-and-mortar store album hunting for some new music to listen to. The salesperson asked me on several occasions what I was looking for and I really could not give them an answer. In a moment of frustration with their persistence I asked them to help me find the music I would be in the mood to listen to tomorrow. That ended the questions. Lol. There is just something special about album shopping. Viewing the album art, looking though the song titles, examining the credits to see who all the players are, such good times that hopefully are now coming back.
- Releasing albums vs. singles is the big argument of today in the music industry. Does it actually matter to you?
Bill Abernathy: I have done both and really don’t know which is the most effective. Folks generally don’t buy whole albums these days and are more interested in downloading singles. Sadly, that loses the theme of the album, but if the single is interesting to them, some will download the album. It really does not matter to me, but I will continue to produce multiple tune projects because I like that the best.
- Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own way?
Bill Abernathy: Yes and yes. If folks are really into lyrics, they will explore the song and find some commonality with the stories and words. Some folks don’t go that far and just listen to the music and the hooks. Either is good, but as a lyric guy I really like it when folks “get” what I am saying.
- What’s the most exciting part of the process of putting a new song together for you?
Bill Abernathy: I always write the lyrics first. This is cool for me because I really focus on the story and the word smithing elements of the lyric. The most exciting piece is to then write music that highlights the lyrics and is still interesting and fun to play. Its challenging but I really enjoy it.
- Have you ever stepped completely and unwillingly outside of your comfort zone, vocally or musically to accommodate the desire of an arranger or music producer etc.? If so, do you consider it a positive or negative experience, and why?
Bill Abernathy: I think it’s really important to trust the people you work with. I am lucky that I really do work with some fantastic folks who have valuable input into what we do. They have great ideas and are a big part of the production of the songs. It’s a good thing to have people that are supportive of what you do, but who are also comfortable enough to challenge things that need challenging.
- Regardless of genre, which basic qualities does a song need to possess to qualify as a “good” song in Bill Abernathy’s playlist?
Bill Abernathy: I am really a lyric guy. I want to hear the artist explore the ideas of the song within the song. Challenge me to try and understand what the song is about and the deeper meanings you’re trying to convey. Add some interesting music and I am hooked.
- How long does it usually take you to complete an album? Do you work with a fixed daily writing and recording schedule, or do you only work on your music when you feel inspired?
Bill Abernathy: A full album is usually a year in the making for me. I don’t like to rush the process. Sometimes taking extra time is really good for the finished product. As far as a schedule, I do something musical every day. That may be writing, playing, listening, singing or some deeper study to work through any challenges or questions I may be having.
- Many in the industry believe this to be the ‘golden age’ for electronic music, and that in the future we’ll be looking back at the electronic songs from this era, in the same as we look back at our favorite pop, rock, country and soul tunes, from past eras of musical excellence. Coming from a completely different musical genre, what’s your take on this thought?
Bill Abernathy: I think that music is really specific to the tastes of the listeners. Today’s electronic music is becoming a part of the lives of the people who listen, just as music from our past has done for us. Music is magic that way, to take you to a place that is special to you. Everyone has different tastes in music and should enjoy whatever genre’s they like. I would challenge all of us to step out of our comfort zone musically and listen to artists that may be out of our favorite genres. I am not much of a fan of Rap for example but do appreciate artists like Tupac from a lyrical standpoint. As the old commercial says… “Try it you might like it”. Artists have created their music for a reason, and it’s fun to try and understand what those reasons are.