Bill Deasy, Pittsburgh Musician
First, can you tell readers how you got started as a musician and how you’d describe your music?
I got into music at an early age because of an obsession with Elvis Presley. The old Elvis songs (“Hound Dog,” Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t Be Cruel”) blew my mind as a young kid and inspired me to beg for my first guitar.
I would call my music folk rock for lack of a better term. The lyrics matter but I still want to rock!
How did you settle into this style of music for yourself – what made it “right” for you and who are some early influences?
Let me answer those questions in reverse. As I mentioned, my first influence was Elvis. I later fell under the spell of stuff my older was into. Neil Young. CSN. Jackson Browne. Springsteen’s Nebraska. That music really resonated with me and sort of provided my songwriting education. My style springs directly from those wonderful artists.
What local musicians have you looked up to and worked with – and have any helped you over the years in any way?
I have been helped along the way by many, many musicians. All the members of the Gathering Field and my current band; guys a little ahead of me on the path such as Joe Grushecky and Donnie Iris; my compatriots the Clarks and Rusted Root. I’ve written, sung, recorded and/or performed with all of them and they’ve all impacted my journey in beautiful and unexpected ways!
How has the city been as a venue for your music? There seem to be a number of local talented artists yet there’s not been that one big breakout act yet -is there something more the city can do to “get the word out” and support it’s musicians?
In the 1990s Pittsburgh was on fire with original local music. I can’t imagine that any city in the country was more supportive in that time period and I feel lucky to have been a part of it. Pittsburgh is friendly and inspiring with its cultural diversity and beautiful architecture and landscape.
As for breakout artists, I’d say we have had some, though not in my genre. Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller spring to mind. two artists from the ‘burgh who celebrate their Pittsburgh roots.
Are you a sports fan – if so, what teams/athletes do you follow and what are some of your favorite sports memories?
Yes I am a sports fan. Especially into the Pirates and the Steelers. Have fond, if somewhat vague, memories of the 1979 World Series…my brother and I celebrating in the schoolyard behind our house after The Pirates won.
Other highlights: Santonio Holmes Superbowl touchdown catch. That whole crazy playoff game against the Colts where we manhandled Manning, the refs blew that call, and Bettis fumbled yet we still managed to win the game.
Have you had the opportunity to perform in front of any local sports venues/players? If so, how were those experiences?
I’ve done lots of anthems for Pirates and Steelers…and had various Pittsburgh athletes and coaches at gigs throughout the years, which is always fun. Sports are the fabric of our lives here, so local music is bound to reflect and interact with that.
What have been some of the more memorable performances for you in general – and what made them so?
Almost every performance is memorable for one reason or another. I guess one that stands out is a Gathering Field Fourth of July outside Three Rivers Stadium. It was our peak in terms of popularity and career surge (we’d just signed with Atlantic, Lost in America was all over the radio) and there was this moment where I lifted my arms at a certain point in a song and fireworks started as if we’d planned it that way – and people went crazy and I felt like was floating or something!
Many see the music business as “all glamour” -but the constant travelling, especially as you are trying to establish yourself, can be very difficult. How do you deal with the travel and rigors of the business?
I’ve kind of eased past that portion of the journey. Not touring as much as I once was. To be honest, though, when I was, I loved it. It’s a unique experience being in different cities night after night, connecting with people through music.
The travel I did for songwriting was, perhaps, more grueling, where you stay in one city and cram in as much co-writing as you possibly can.
What would surprise fans/readers most about you and your music?
Maybe that I always get really, really nervous to perform – to the point of flat-out dreading it sometimes…though the first moments completely erase all that, without fail! Some people may also not know that I’ve published three novels and am currently working on a screenplay.
If you could be the GM or player for any local team, which would it be and what would be the first thing you’d do?
Probably the Pirates…and the first thing I’d do is have all the players jump into the Allegheny River so that 19 years of losing could be ceremoniously washed away!
Where can fans (and future fans) find and purchase your music?
www.billdeasy.com is the portal to all things Deasy!
Any last thoughts for readers?