Bill Abernathy: Interview with an authentic and master storyteller

by | Sep 1, 2023

Meet Bill Abernathy

Bill Abernathy has embarked on an exceptional journey, courageously navigating through the ebbs and flows of his musical and corporate life. Rising from humble beginnings, he has persistently pushed beyond the ordinary, challenging the status quo and dismantling long standing stereotypes.

In 2017, Abernathy’s musical passion ignited with the release of his album “Find A Way,” indelibly inscribing his unique signature on the vast tapestry of music. His pivotal track, “Goodbye Will Never Come Again,” ascended to the zenith of the Roots Music Chart, signalling the inception of a truly extraordinary musical journey.

Venturing further, his acclaimed album “Crossing Willow Creek,” unveiled the hit “Cry Wolf,” among other tracks that captivated international audiences, increasing his global reach.

His deeply stirring track, “Who Are You, Who Am I,” from his 2021 EP, earned him a place as a finalist for ISSA Song of the Year— an accolade that attests to his ever-evolving artistry.

Abernathy’s music has permeated the globe, amassing streams from countless devoted listeners. His authentic voice, genuine song writing, and masterful storytelling have nurtured a long-lasting bond with his audience, carving a niche for him in the hearts of music lovers across the world. 1 In Music was privileged to interview this authentic talent.

Bill Abernathy: A rich background that fuels authentic storytelling and music craftsmanship

I’m not just an artist standing before you; I’m a somewhat complex mixture of roles that have shaped me over the years.

1 In Music: What is unique about you and your music?

Bill AbernathyThat’s a fantastic question. You know, I truly believe the uniqueness of my music is deeply rooted in my multifaceted life experiences. I’m not just an artist standing before you; I’m a somewhat complex mixture of roles that have shaped me over the years.

Take parenting, for example. It’s like the emotional backbone of my work. The highs, the lows, the complexities of raising kids—it’s something that almost everyone can relate to, right? When I compose a song or write a lyric, I’m often tapping into those raw, human emotions that parenting brings forth. So, if you hear a song of mine that tugs at your heartstrings, chances are that experience has been inspired by my role as a parent.

And then there are my many years of coaching youth sports and watching my kids play. That experience has taught me so much about teamwork, motivation, and, importantly, the mindset of the younger generation.

Now, let’s not forget my corporate background in global supply chain and international project management. I’ve had the privilege of traveling the world, meeting different people, and experiencing diverse cultures. This has enriched my music in an indescribable way.

Music has been the unifying melody in my life’s journey. It’s the common thread that has been there through every meeting room, every coaching session, and every bedtime story I’ve read to my kids. So, when I step onto that stage to perform, it’s not just an artist you see; it’s a father, and grandfather, a coach, a global professional—all encapsulated in a musical expression that’s authentically me.

In essence, each song I write, each performance I give, is like opening a diary of my life. I use all these experiences—parenting, coaching, corporate life, and more—to enrich every chord, every lyric, and every moment of connection with the audience. And that, I believe, is what truly sets my music apart.

What or who shaped your music and who supports you?

My musical journey has been enriched by an incredible range of influences, and I owe a lot to the singer-songwriters who’ve paved the way. Artists like Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Jackson Browne have been monumental in shaping my sound. They bring a level of storytelling and emotional depth that I admire and strive for in my own work.

Listening to Dan Fogelberg, for example, you get to experience this perfect blend of narrative and melody. James Taylor‘s ability to convey emotion with simplicity has been a huge lesson in my own song writing. And Jackson Browne’s poetic lyrics? They’ve taught me that every word in a song can carry weight, can tell a story, can evoke a feeling. Jim Croce’s storytelling? Fantastic.

Now, it’s not just the classic singer-songwriters that have influenced me. Hearing Dave Grohl perform Foo Fighters hits in a solo acoustic setting is nothing short of inspiring. It’s like stripping down a grand painting to its initial sketches and realizing that the raw emotion is still there, as powerful as ever. It’s a reminder that great songs can be versatile, transcending genres and arrangements.

And then there’s John Mayer. His musicianship, his lyricism—it demands your attention. When you hear him play, you’re not just listening; you’re learning. He has this remarkable ability to blend technical proficiency with heartfelt storytelling, and that’s a balance I aspire to in my own music.

So, while my music is undeniably shaped by my personal experiences and background, it’s also a tribute to these incredible artists who have taught me so much. I like to think of my work as a tapestry, woven from the threads of all these varied influences, and I hope that comes through in my songs.

At what point did it becameclear that you were going to make music professionally?

That’s a story I hold close to my heart. You know, like most people who ever strummed a guitar, I had those dreams of doing it professionally. I’ve been writing and playing songs for most of my life but turning professional wasn’t a calculated decision—it actually happened quite organically, almost by mistake.

I was about twelve years old, and I was asked to demonstrate a brand of guitars at a guitar show. I think their thought was this little kid with curly hair that can play a bit might get some attention for their brand. I went up there thinking I’d just strum a few chords, showcase the guitar’s features, and that would be it. But as I started to play, I noticed people really engaging with the music. Their heads started to nod, feet started to tap, and before I knew it, I found myself singing a couple of tunes. The atmosphere shifted; it was no longer just a product demo but a genuine musical moment.

I think that was the turning point for me. There was a sense of validation, a feeling that maybe, just maybe, I could actually pull this off. And you know what my pay was for that gig? A leather guitar strap. I still have it, and it serves as a tangible reminder of the day my music journey took a decisive turn. It’s more than just an accessory; it’s a symbol of a pivotal moment that nudged me toward a path I’ve been fortunate to journey ever since.

Bill Abernathy’s inspirations

What type of music do you listen to?

I rarely listen to my own music once it’s out there in the world. I think that’s partially because, for me, the magic happens in the creative process—once the song is out there, I’ve said what I needed to say, and it’s time to move on to the next expression.

As for my musical diet, it’s incredibly varied. While I have a deep-rooted love for singer-songwriter genres—thanks to heroes like Dan Fogelberg, James Taylor, and so on—I don’t limit myself to that. You’ll find me jamming to rock, dabbling in alternative, and believe it or not, even moving around to some dance music every now and then. My dog WORF often gives me some interesting expressions as I dance around my loft during my cleaning sessions.

Currently, I’ve been immersing myself in Native American Flute music. It’s so grounding and relaxing; it helps clear my mind. A clear mind is an open canvas for a songwriter, so it’s a bit like mental and emotional preparation for my next creative moments.

I love many types of music, but when I need to refocus or find inspiration, I always find myself gravitating back to singer-songwriter tracks. Each song is like a masterclass in storytelling and emotional conveyance, and those are principles I aim to bring into my own music.

Who, to you, is the most undervalued music artist?

That’s a provoking question and one that’s close to my heart. I’m a firm believer that airplay doesn’t necessarily equate to artistic quality. The reality is, there are thousands of incredibly talented songwriters and musicians who are playing smaller venues, wineries, cafes, and so on, delivering music that is heartfelt and powerful.

I love going to these smaller venues because that’s where you stumble upon hidden gems. You hear incredible songs, profound thoughts, and captivating stories that you would never find scrolling through a playlist curated by an algorithm. It’s raw, it’s real, and it’s deeply human.

The true undervalued artists? They’re the ones sitting in their living rooms, writing songs that make you pause and think, that make your eyes well up or your heart race. These are artists who pour their soul into every lyric, every chord, but may never see the light of mainstream recognition. These are the artists we need to seek out, to support, because their contributions to the art form are invaluable.

So, while it’s convenient to let algorithms decide what we listen to, I think we owe it to ourselves—and to the art of music—to venture off the beaten path, to search for and elevate those undervalued artists whose voices deserve to be heard.

1 In Music: How do you prepare for your performances?

Preparation for me comes down to one fundamental thing: practice.

And I’m not just talking about a casual run-through of my setlist the day before a performance—I practice relentlessly. Some might even call it an obsession. But there’s a reason behind this commitment.

When you’re a songwriter, your primary role, beyond the melody and chords, is to truly connect with the audience. It’s my job to relay the message of the song in its purest, most impactful form. To do this, I believe in knowing my music like the back of my hand. My songs tend to have intricate guitar parts, and the last thing I want during a performance is to be preoccupied with my finger placement or chord transitions.

If I’m concentrated on the mechanics of playing, then I’m not giving the lyrics—the very soul of the song—the attention they deserve.

So, I’m pretty old school in my approach. I don’t rely on cheat sheets, lyric sheets, or any other kind of crutch when I’m on stage. I practice until the music becomes second nature, almost like a reflex. This way, during a performance, my hands naturally find their way on the guitar, allowing my mind and heart to focus entirely on conveying the song’s essence.

So yes, in a nutshell, I practice—and practice a lot—to ensure that every note I play, every word I sing, resonates deeply with those listening. Do I make mistakes, play the wrong notes, sing the wrong lyrics? Of course I do. It’s part of the process, the music, the reality of playing live music. Just keeping it real.

Getting some inspiration from Bill Abernathy

1 In Music: What do you do when you don’t do music (creative or otherwise) and that you are passionate about?

Balance is essential for me, and I think it comes down to prioritizing what truly matters.

I’m a family guy, through and through. I cherish the time I spend with my kids and grandkids—yes, you heard that right, I’m “experienced” enough to have grandkids! Those moments ground me; they remind me why I do what I do and who I’m doing it for.

But along with family time, I’m also someone who needs substantial solitude time to recharge. Life in general and especially in the music industry, can become this whirlwind of commitments and deadlines. And I firmly believe that stepping away from that noise is crucial for emotional and physical well-being. Call it a “Be still and know” thing. Just recently, I took a hiking trip to New Hampshire, trekking about 50 miles through the breath-taking White Mountains for several days. For me, nature is both a sanctuary and a muse. It’s like pressing a reset button on my soul. I go hiking quite often. WORF loves it and so do I.

There’s something incredibly therapeutic about being alone in nature—just sitting on a rock, watching a waterfall, and tuning in to Mother Nature’s music. It’s an experience that cleanses my mind and fuels my creativity.

When I return, I find myself reinvigorated, both as a family man and an artist. It’s this equilibrium between family, solitude, and music that keeps me grounded and drives me forward in all aspects of life.

1 In Music: What does success mean to you?

You know, success is an elusive term, often defined differently by society, and it can easily turn into a moving target. Yes, I’ve navigated the corporate maze, scaled the ladder in a way that society often labels as “successful.” I’ve raised children who have grown into compassionate adults, and I see those same wonderful qualities in my grandkids. By many measures, that’s a resounding success. Musically, my work has found ears across the globe, another checkbox for what many would call success.

But for me, the real yardstick of success isn’t quantified in titles, numbers, or global reach. It’s about impact—making a meaningful difference in the lives of others.

Whether it’s extending a hand to someone in need, sharing a simple smile with a stranger who looks like they could use a little sunshine in their day, or creating a song that prompts someone to pause and reflect, these are the moments that I count as true successes.

My goal is to enrich lives in some way, large or small, to leave this world a bit better than I found it. To me, that’s the most authentic form of success one can hope for, and it’s the kind I strive to achieve.

1 In Music: That is beautifully said. Is there something this true, meaningful and inspiring you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who starts out?

The most valuable piece of advice I can give is simple, yet profound:

Be you. Be authentic and embrace your quirks, your idiosyncrasies—yes, even be a little weird.

There’s an immense societal pressure to conform, to align yourself with what’s trending or popular, especially in the music industry. It’s easy to fall into the trap of mimicking the latest hits or imitating artists who are currently in the limelight. While that might give you a temporary boost, it won’t create lasting resonance.

The great artists, the ones we find ourselves drawn to and influenced by, share a common thread—they’ve found a way to differentiate themselves by being true to their own voice. Each one discovered something unique in their art and had the courage to share it with the world.

That’s what I try to bring to my own music. While people tell me they can hear various influences in my work, my primary focus is to follow my heart and craft music that is authentically mine.

What makes music truly magnificent is its diversity, the multiplicity of perspectives it can offer.

Everybody hears things differently, so share your unique vision with your audience. You might be surprised—they could end up loving it as much as you do.

What is next for Bill Abernathy?

1 In Music: Any upcoming projects?

Absolutely, and I’m incredibly excited about this. In collaboration with MTS Records and Management, we’ll be releasing my latest album, “MORE,” on September 29th, 2023. To say I’m thrilled would be an understatement. This project holds a special place in my heart—I think it’s my most versatile, heartfelt, and candid work to date.

I was fortunate enough to work with an exceptional team on this. We had Larry Gann as the producer—a fantastic talent—and a host of brilliant musicians who poured their artistry into this project. It’s a defining moment for me, one that I think will resonate with listeners as well. And we had a great time making the record. So much fun.

The reception of “MORE” will shape my plans moving forward. If the album finds its audience and resonates, then we’re already talking about setting up shows and tours to bring this music to the fans directly. So, yeah, the future looks promising, and I can’t wait to see where “MORE” takes me.

1 In Music: Best wishes for MORE!! Thank you for doing this interview, Bill. Where can we find your music?

Ah, that’s the easy part. I often joke, “Where can’t you find my music?” We’re accessible on all the major platforms—iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, you name it. So, if you’re out and about and you’ve got that question on your mind, a simple Google search for ‘Bill Abernathy‘ will lead you right to me and the array of music I’ve been fortunate enough to create over the years.