Fresh off his successful “Living The Dream” Solo Tour, chart-topping indie folk singer-songwriter Bill Abernathy caught up with us, in this exclusive interview…
Indie-Music: Congratulations on your latest single release, “Whiskey Road.” It seems to be doing very well around the globe, with radio airplay and charting. Tell us about the song, the lyrics, the production, the recording process:
Bill Abernathy: “Whiskey Road” was born out of a meeting with an old friend I had not seen in several years. As we reminisced about the good old days, it became clear that the wild times we had in our youth had continued with him long after those times ended for me. He had developed a dependency on the bottle, and as the evening went on, he explained what that lifestyle had done to him. He had lost jobs, had trouble with the law, and severely damaged many of the relationships in his life. The words of the song are really a recounting of those discussions and the inherent dangers of living on the long whiskey road. Fortunately, he had gotten some help and though that particular dependency never really leaves you, he had taken steps to get it under control. I am very proud of him for taking those long painful steps to recover who he really is and do what he can to repair the elements of his life that the bottle had taken from him.
“Whiskey Road” evolved over time both lyrically and musically. One of the coolest elements of the tune is the guitar intro. My son plays this song and thought the intro needed a little “Whiskey’d” up, so he came up with the intro and did a great job with it. Though the tune is pretty straight forward, we worked on the production quite a bit to find the right feel and I think we found it. Vocally I wanted the tune to be a little rough, and that seems to work as well. Overall a fun song to play, record, and hopefully a tune that can help others who are on that road see that there is light at the end of the tunnel if you choose to step into it.
You’ve been compared to a lot of classic rock-type artists. Is that a compliment to you? Is it a sound that you’ve cultivated on purpose, as sort of a throwback-influenced artist, or it an organic sound that has evolved over the years?
Comparisons with other artists is inevitable in the music world. I actually am honored that my stuff reminds people of other artists. As a singer songwriter I have the flexibility to choose the genre and feel of each tune, so we are pretty versatile with our interpretations of the tunes. We get airplay on Rock, Folk, Country, Americana, and even Blues stations. This is something I am extremely proud of. Each tune has its own voice and being flexible enough musically to give the tune what it needs is something that is really fun and challenging at times. I guess you could say that is an organic growth that is dictated by the messages of the songs. The fact that it is really fun is a bonus.
Tell us about your guitar collection. We hear it’s pretty extensive. Which one is your favorite?
Yes, I do have a few guitars, and yes, I enjoy all of them. To ask which is my favorite would be like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. Impossible to do in my opinion. Of my 12 guitars, each has a specific sound and feel that make them the favorite for particular tunes. For example, “The Mutant” my Yairi 9 string is my favorite strumming guitar, though he does quite well with finger picking. His sister, “Blondie”, also a Yairi 9 string really likes to be played in open D tunings and being finger picked. My two Guild 12 strings are really quite different. My newest one “Galadriel” loves mellow finger picked songs, while “The Dude” is really magical with open tunings and more aggressive playing. My PRS, “Pretty Boy” is the guitar used on Whiskey Road. The combination of electric and acoustic pickups really gives you a lot of flexibility of sounds. It is also the guitar I use when playing leads, as he seems to like that. The best way to learn about my guitars is to come to a live show. They are as much a part of the show as I am, and they like to come out to play. “flagrant self-promotion” LOL
Let’s talk about your recent “Living the Dream” solo tour. Give us the highlights, the lowlights, the down and dirty behind the scenes from the tour:
The tour was a really good time. I enjoyed the freedom of playing solo and enjoyed being able to reach out and interact with the audience. Highlights? There are many but one interaction with a fan really stands out. I typically end each show with my Find A Way tune, where I recount the day my dad passed away, and reminisce about the things he had taught me throughout his time on earth. During the show I had noticed a man who was sitting by himself, nursing a beer, and really focused on the show. After the show I was talking with some fans and noticed he was patiently waiting to talk to me. As we talked, he told me that he had come hoping to hear Find A Way live, because it was really speaking to him. He had lost his mother a couple of days before the show and was finding solace in the words of that song. We talked for about an hour, and I knew as he walked away that the tour was a total success based on that one discussion. That is why we do music, to hopefully help folks along the way. That conversation made it all worth it.
I can’t really say there were any low lights. I met old friends, longtime fans, and new fans all along the way. The smaller shows were great as I got to talk more with folks, and the larger shows were fun to see so many people enjoying what I was doing. Even the 4000 + miles driving were fun as I got some time to just think. I really enjoyed it and will certainly do it again in the future.
How did the idea behind your latest successful album, “Crossing Willow Creek” come to you? What are your goals/hopes/dreams/fears for your songs?
Crossing Willow Creek is stacked with songs that are quite personal to me. They tell the stories of my life and discuss things I have learned along the way. I document some victories and some losses with hopefully the same intensity, and honestly telling the stories and playing the songs is really good therapy for me. Goals, Hopes, Dreams, and Fears? I think that is all the same answer. I hope that somewhere these tunes reach out to folks and help them along the way. Whether that is learning from my mistakes, or just having a good laugh at some of the lines, “hot mess in a tight red sequined dress” for example. I realize that not everyone will like my music, and I am good with that. I think the success of Crossing Willow Creek has proven there are quite a few folks that like this music, that it touches them and means something to them. That’s what it’s all about. Fear? Throwing you heart into a song and showing your fears and weaknesses is a bit scary, but without that personal touch, they are just another song someone heard on the radio. No fun in that.
Beyond “Crossing Willow Creek,” what else does Bill Abernathy have planned for music lovers in 2020?
With “Living the Dream” behind me, I am now focusing on new songs. Some of which were written while on the tour. I like these new tunes and I think others may as well. I will be back behind the curtain, in the studio, working on these new tunes for release in the fall. Until then, we are always active on Radio and Social Media, as well as the promotions we continually do. Crossing Willow Creek has 11 tunes and only 4 have been released as singles, so we have some more options there as well.
You’ve toured through Texas this year. A lot of people were disappointed by the cancellation of SXSW in Austin this year, due to fears over the CoronaVirus. What are your thoughts on the cancellation? Were you personally affected by the cancellation? Is it media overreaction, or is there a legitimate argument for people staying away from these types of events?
That is a tough question. I think the timing of the Virus was really bad for SXSW. At this point we really don’t know what this thing is, and just how viral it could go. I think cancellation was the best choice considering what we know and don’t know right now. Hopefully science will prevail, and we will figure this thing out, but we have to give the experts the time to do that work. Cancelling was tough on the fans, the musicians and the local economy, but I do believe with the lack of information we have today, it was the best solution. And yes, I had some plans to play there, but there will be other times. No sense in taking unnecessary risks in an unknown situation.
Any more touring plans for 2020?
I may do another 3-4-week tour toward the end of the year, but I am not sure at this time. There are a few variables regarding my time commitments floating out there that I do not have all the information about as of yet. One thing for sure, if we don’t do 2020, we will be actively on the road with new tunes in 2021 and will be much more able to tour more from a time perspective. YEA
Thanks so much for taking the time. Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk today. If folks want to find out more about what we are doing next, they can follow us on our social media sites and as always on billabernathy.com. Send us a note and let us know what you think of our stuff. I really enjoy hearing from our fans.