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INTERVIEW: Bill Abernathy

How would you classify your music?

As a Singer/Songwriter, it’s pretty easy to classify myself in that genre.  That said, many have classified my music as Rock, Folk, Folk Rock, Country, and Adult Contemporary. I find it hard to put myself in any box, as the tunes I write really span a large range of genre’s and styles depending on the message of tune itself.  For example, my first Album Changes was a compilation of tunes we decided to record purely acoustic, which gave the tunes a Folk / Country feel. The second Album, Find A Way incorporated more electric instruments with bigger production creating more of a Rock feel on many of the tunes. Our latest release, Crossing Willow Creek took many of the acoustic based tunes from Changes and gave them more of a Rock feel. As examples from Crossing Willow Creek, the opening song, Can’t Go Back has the feel of Country Rock. We did this to capture the period of time in the 80’s when the song was originally written. Conversely the tunes White Knight and Yuppie Blues have much more of a Rock / Blues feel, with Whiskey Road exemplifying a bit harder Country Rock feel. Willow Creek, Any Port in a Storm, Meant to Be, Loves in Vain and Icarus Ascending are all more of what I would call classic Singer Songwriter tunes with the fronting instruments being acoustic guitars, then utilizing keyboards, and additional instruments to fill out the sound.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

Dan Fogelberg – Clearly my favorite artist of all time. Dan is very lyrically and musically diverse. I am impressed how he uses music and production to create focus on the lyrics of his songs. I have covered several of his tunes on my projects, with Icarus Ascending included in Crossing Willow Creek.

Steven Stills – His guitar work and lyrics are as unique as it comes with great messages and stories.

Kenny Loggins – Great songwriter and performer as well.

Crosby Still Nash and Young – Great songs performed with meaningful messages and tight harmonies.

Jimmie Spheeris – A fantastic singer songwriter who we lost very early in his career. We covered his Loves in Vain tune on Crossing Willow Creek.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

Simply said, I am really a storyteller. Each song represents specific events and situations that have occurred to me or people close to me throughout my life. My little mantra I use for my music is “If you hear a song that sounds like it was written about you, it may have been”. Many of the tunes have subtle messages documenting lessons I have learned over the years. Hopefully listeners can relate to some of those. For example, my tune Changes represents times in my life where various change impacted me. I believe that each change in your life comes with a purpose and if you accept and embrace the changes, they teach you things about yourself that only you can learn. Hence the line “Change always teaches us to be, everything we’re destined to be”. I hope that fans and listeners of the songs can relate in some way to the lessons I have learned and take away something from the songs themselves.

How’s the music scene in your locale?

I am based in Kansas City MO. The music scene here is quite diverse, ranging from pure singer songwriter venues to great blues and jazz clubs, to pure rock and country bars. If you’re into live music, Kansas City has something to offer in about any genre you are interested in. Of course, KC is known for Blues and Jazz and BBQ, and you can hear some really talented folks perform just about any day of the week.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

Surprisingly enough, my favorite concert of all time was seeing Dan Fogelberg solo acoustic. I was fortunate to see him several times, including large full band shows. I actually saw him once with The Eagles, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Not a bad way to spend a day. That said, I really enjoy the solo acoustic shows much more. I think having the freedom to connect personally with the audience, tell a few stories about the songs, while watching the folks get into the songs is what I like most about playing live. It’s fun to do the full band thing, and I enjoy that as well, but my favorite shows are where the audience and I connect and can make eye contact. What is really special is when someone comes up after a show and tells you your song touched them in a personal way. Those moments really make playing live worth all the work.

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

Crossing Willow Creek is really a statement about moving past a place in your life where you’re comfortable and into a place with new challenges and opportunities. Musically taking acoustic based songs and producing them in a bigger way was challenging but yet fun for me.  Beyond the musical challenges, going back and remembering where I was emotionally at the time the tunes were written, and moving past those days was even more challenging. I think the opening tune on Crossing Willow Creek, “Can’t Go Back”, is really a comment on that very concept. “Sometimes we think we might go back just a year or two. And try to be the way we were, do things like we used to do. But time and tide wait for no man, that’s just a simple fact. You got to face the music, you can’t go back”.  Often times we have memories that evolve over time into something they really never were, making us think things were much better than the true reality. Trying to go back and relive those times is not only a bit dangerous but also can be a real awakening. I think most times it’s just best to let the memories be memories because You Can’t Go Back. The last tune on Crossing Willow Creek is a cover of a Dan Fogelberg tune, Icarus Ascending. “There’s a reason your flying this fast and this far. Let your faith be your strength and your love be your guiding star” I have taken solace in those words many times over the years. I wish I had written them, but I sure am glad Dan did.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

That’s a tough question. I think being a writer involves a constant evolution of thought. I learn so many things every day that can certainly influence what I write. I think the key for me is to continue my challenge to consistently ensure the music I write is really focused on the message in the lyric and keeping the lyric relevant. It’s pretty easy to fall into the habit of just cranking out cool guitar stuff and coming up with some lyrics that match. I prefer to write the lyric, the story first. Then based on the story, I attempt to marry the music to keep the focus on the story itself. This is an ongoing challenge, but it makes the writing so much more fun for me.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Probably not a shock at this point, but I would really enjoy sitting down and having a discussion with Dan Fogelberg. It would be fascinating for me to actually work with him on a song or a project. I could learn so much on so many levels. To try and understand his process, how he wordsmiths his lyrics, how he marries the lyric and the music would be very special. That would be a great evening for me. Maybe someday we will meet in the “Nexus” and get that opportunity.

What’s next for you?

I am really quite excited for the release of Crossing Willow Creek. I think many of my fans will really enjoy the new take on the songs. I will continue to write as always, but we have this thought we may release a double vinyl set of Find A Way and Crossing Willow Creek.  That would be fun!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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