Experience is a tool singer-songwriter Bill Abernathy has been able to use to connect with a worldwide audience of music fans. When Abernathy sings, it’s evident he has something to say and it’s worth the listen. Check out our interview on his musical journey, latest album Crossing Willow Creek, and amazing comeback after taking a hiatus from music.
While being based in Kansas City, Missouri, what first inspired you to pursue music?
I attended a concert by Loggins and Messina in 1972 where they played their entire show without a band, with only one guitar their vocals. They told the stories behind the tunes they played. I found it fascinating that they could take their stories and share them through songs. That is really when I knew I wanted to write songs that tell stories about things I have experienced. Of course I was 14 at the time and didn’t really have too many interesting stories… yet.
Your latest album Crossing Willow Creek is a mixture of exceptionally written songs that showcase your powerful songwriting and vocal abilities. What do you hope your listeners take away from listening to it?
Crossing Willow Creek is full of stories. Those stories talk about things in my life, fun I have had, and lessons I have learned. I just hope that the tunes can make listeners smile, think about their lives, and take a little solace from the things I have lived and loved. When a listener tells me they got something from a song, took something of value away from it, that is what really makes it all worthwhile.
What makes a good recording session?
It starts with a great song that has a message that needs to be shared. Add in some great musicians bringing their experiences and talents, their thoughts and influences, some great engineering, some coffee and a pizza and you have a great experience. I really love working with other musicians in the studio environment where all the creativity in the room adds something to the song. Of course, having a good time while doing the work is really critical.
Who are your biggest music influences?
I really am influenced by a wide variety of singer songwriters. I really enjoy the folks that write and perform their own songs. Artists like Dan Fogelberg, Steven Stills, Jackson Browne, Jim Croce, John Mayer, Dave Grohl, and James Taylor are a few. There are so many, but these artists really have influenced me over the years.
What’s your creative process while songwriting and putting together the sounds for your songs?
Well really, it’s a bit of a mess. I always write the lyrics first which is backwards from most writers. The story behind the song is really what I like to focus on. I believe the lyrics tell you what genre of music to use to best get the point of the song across. That is really the value of being and singer songwriter. You can create in whatever genre you need to make the song the most effective. Then you can have some fun coming up with some guitar tricks. The process? Well there are lots of notes, papers, and thoughts written and spread out all over my loft. Then I start putting all the pieces together like a puzzle. Like I said, it’s a mess but it works for me.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
If you could hook me up with the list of folks mentioned earlier, we would be friends for life. Working with any of them would be a dream come true for me.
“Whiskey Road” is a highlight track for us. How do you come up with each song’s sound?
Well I had originally written the song in a standard tuning. My son who is also an artist, decided it needed a little Whisky’d up and started playing it in an alternate tuning. It really added some depth to the song while making it really fun to play. So being the dad, I stole his ideas, and just went with it. We had a lot of fun recording Whiskey Road. Playing the acoustic elements on my PRS really added some guts to the sound and the dual leads were certainly fun as well.
Which song is your favorite to perform or share with new listeners?
Tough question. I really like playing “Willow Creek.” It’s a special tune for me. I also really like playing my tune Find A Way and tell the back story of the song. Both of these tunes get requested quite a bit so I must be on to something there. And who wouldn’t like singing “Can’t Go Back” with a line in it like “hot mess in red sequined dress” I still laugh when I play it.
For our final question, do you have any new releases planned for this year?
I have some new tunes I really like that I need to get recorded in the studio. Kind of tough to do during quarantine. I am hoping to get them recorded and out by the end of the year. We shall see what our friend Rona has in store for us.