Bill Abernathy is a Kansas City-based country and folk artist from whose earnest style has been compared to Joe Cocker and Bob Seger. Abernathy's new album, Crossing Willow Creek, has garnered rave reviews. In this interview, Abernathy discusses his new album, his creative process and what's ahead for him in 2019.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
I guess you could say I have approached music a little backward in my life. Though I have always played and written, I chose to put other life priorities in front of music. My family, friends and business career have always taken precedence over playing live music. Though a bit different than most, I think this was the best decision for me. I really enjoy writing and playing acoustic based music, and to grind out a living doing so would have meant that I would have had to miss so many important elements of my family’s life. Also, the reality of making a living playing coffee shops would be challenging to say the least. It’s funny the turns life can throw at you. The element of music that I didn’t enjoy in my youth was the constant travel. Now as I am older, I travel quite a bit in my business and for music as well, so I guess there is some karma involved.
My music has been described in many genres. Rock, country, folk, blues, and on occasion a little jazz thrown in for effect. I was influenced very early in life with folk music. I really enjoy how each song tends to tell a story that has a life lesson embedded in it. I really enjoy telling stories through song and tossing in a few of the lessons I have learned along the way helps me better understand how to implement each of those lessons in my daily life.
Delve into the journey to your most recent album, Crossing Willow Creek. What songs are you most proud of? What challenges did you face during the recording process and how did you overcome them?
I am really quite proud of Crossing Willow Creek. Each of the songs has special meaning to me, and I think the production team did a great job insuring the message of the songs did not get lost in the production. To pick a favorite is really tough, but that said the song "Willow Creek" will always have a special place in my heart. It talks about how and where the music that is in me comes from. A very special place I like to visit regularly.
Recording a full album is always a challenge and writing the songs is really the easy part. Because I do travel a bit, it takes several months to complete each project. Maintaining the same feel on each tune across that time frame is challenging. As a songwriter, I tend to want to modify things as we go along so that in itself is a bit of an adventure.
Describe your creative process. How often are you writing songs? Are you a heavy editor of your work or do songs come fairly easily?
I think as with all things creative it is a combination of things. I tend to write a little every day, and then consolidate those thoughts all at one time. As the ideas and concepts come together there is quite a bit of editing that occurs. That said, I have a few songs that just happened in a few minutes. Those are the ones I tend to call magic. This happens with every writer, and those I speak to are much like me. We have no idea where the tune comes from but are glad we were chosen to be the one to write it down.
What music are you currently raving about?
There is really a lot of great music out there today, and I think there is a bit of movement in the industry to start to focus on the song again, as opposed to the sometimes-massive production that takes place. There are many great writers and many great stories to tell. I am just glad there are now so many artists choosing the singer songwriter path, and that so many fans are enjoying the music.
What’s ahead for you in 2019?
2019 has started out and looks to remain really interesting. I have been doing lots of interviews and getting a lot of publicity about Crossing Willow Creek. I am having a lot of fun with it and humbled that so many have taken interest in the project. I keep getting a lot of questions from fans about the recording process and what it’s like when we are working in the studio. Taking that into account, we are currently working on some live in the studio videos that we hope will show folks how all this works. We will do some of my originals in a more acoustic setting, and also perform some of our favorite covers. I think this will show folks what the studio is all about, as well as showing a bit of what our live shows are like. Our goal is to use this time to create the videos as well as get prepared for the live shows we will do throughout the year.
Bill Abernathy's recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog:
1984 by George Orwell
Greatest Hits by Dan Fogelberg
Greatest Hits by The Eagles
The Original Tap Dancing Kid by Jimmie Spheeris
Steve Jobs: Thinking Differently: An Unauthorized Biography by Patricia Lakin
The Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz