Kansas City, Missouri-based singer-songwriter Bill Abernathy has not slowed down since the release of his 2019 album, “Crossing Willow Creek.” That album spawned a number of chart-topping sales and airplay charting singles, going on to top the roots albums charts, too. With the new release of his first single in 8 months, “A Thousand Wild Horses,” Abernathy is kicking up dust again, and we managed to catch up with him for a few moments, in this exclusive interview…
Congratulations on the success of your new single, “A Thousand Wild Horses.” It’s a Blue Sky Riders’ cover song. What inspired you to record that particular song and are you a fan of BSR?
Sometimes you hear a song, it just really hits home with you. I heard “Horses” at a Blue Sky Riders concert and knew it was a great song. After listening to it for a while I realized just how perfect it is. To draw an analogy from the baggage we all carry with us, to a thousand wild horses thundering behind me hell bent on running me down is just fantastic. I have wished a thousand times I had written this song but am really glad Gary Burr did. It’s just perfect. The challenge in the tune is to learn to ride your horses, and not let them run you over. It’s funny really, many times when some baggage comes to visit me, I actually think it’s just another of those horses.
Are you a self-taught guitar player, or did you take lessons in the past? If you did, what was your first guitar teacher like? If not, how did you teach yourself?
Well, the answer is yes and yes. I learned to play a bit on my own by watching others play. After a while, I did take lessons from a guitar professor at UMKC. He and I had a good relationship, and he taught me a lot of technique and theory. I found that all the structure was a bit challenging to my creative process, so after a couple of years I left him and started out doing my own thing. We still talk from time to time, and though he likes my music, he still is a bit critical of some of the structures. I guess that is to be expected.
Were you involved with music as a teenager? Did you play in any bands back then?
Very involved with music in my youth. I played and sang in many groups and bands. I enjoyed it but always desired to play solo. That is really where I think you can deliver the songs with the most feeling and emotion. I do the band thing now when needed, but my real comfort zone is playing solo with maybe another guitar player to add some color.
How would you describe your brand of music to someone who has never heard of Bill Abernathy?
For me it’s all about the story, the message of the song. As I write most of my stuff, I find that I bounce around from genre to genre to find what sounds are the most effective for delivering the message of the song. I am fortunate to have had some success in multiple genres. So, what is my brand? I think singer songwriter is really the best description. You will get quite a variety of genres and sounds listening to my music. It’s really fun to me.
How would you describe a Bill Abernathy fan?
Thoughtful. I have found that my most ardent fans really get into the lyrics of the songs. They ask questions wanting to know what this song is about. I love that. It means they are really listening. That said, I rarely say exactly what each song is about. Music is personal, and each song could mean different things to different people. That is the magic of music.
What gives you the most joy when you are on stage?
When you see someone light up when they start to understand what the song is saying to them. They may laugh, cry, or just get reflective, but when that happens it’s special. You know as an artist that a piece of you and your work is going home with that person that night. That is really why I do this.
Tell us about your best performance you’ve ever had? How about the worst?
I had a concert in Denver on the 2020 tour that really just clicked. I played well, sang well, and there was a special connection with the audience. We laughed together and got really close. It was special.
For the worst? I played a show in Arizona a few years back where nothing seemed to work. The PA was bad, there were no monitors, and I could not hear what I was doing. That is quite frustrating to me. Though the audience seemed to like the show, it was not one of my favorites for sure and not much fun for me.
If you weren’t playing guitar, what instrument would you most have liked to have played?
I plunk around on the piano a bit, particularly when I am working out some theory stuff. I took some lessons on piano in my youth and sometimes wish I would have stuck with it a bit longer.
What does Bill Abernathy like to do when he’s not making music?
I love sports, particularly NFL football. Living in KC is great right now because the Chiefs are really good and so much fun to watch. I also follow my grandson’s sports and academic activities. Family is and has always been number one for me, and I really enjoy watching them chase their dreams. I also enjoy antiques. I have lots of fun “junking” trying to find cool things to add to my loft.
What is up next for you in 2021?
With the release of “Who Are You Who Am I” I am enjoying watching our fans enjoy the new music. We have now released two singles and they are doing quite well. I expect I will tour a bit in the fall to support the EP. It was a ton of fun to make, and I really enjoy playing the songs.
Thanks Bill! We appreciate the time…