Billy Schafer soars into the chorus of The Dream is Alive filled with infectious passion and conviction. This song and the others from his debut CD, First to Believe, introduce Billy as a singer-songwriter with an intuitive and confident grasp of song-craft. Fueled by accessible melodies and emotive lyrics of romantic depth, wit, and uplifting inspiration, these recordings showcase a versatile vocal delivery of powerful but pure tones.
Billy’s album was helmed by producer Michael Winger, president of the Northern California Grammy Chapter and known for his live recordings for KFOG San Francisco. The album captivates listeners with story songs that unabashedly and poetically reveal Billy’s private moments. These chronicles unfurl in his clear, earnest vocals while Billy's acoustic guitar sometimes drives, sometimes caresses his tunes. Luring the listener to join him in reflecting on paths of self-discovery, these messages of empowerment and relationship dynamics are effectively voiced with understated and unpretentious band arrangements.
Performing solo and with a band in his adopted city of San Francisco, Billy readily draws an audience in with his affable manner and unjaded boyish appeal. Those unfamiliar with Billy on stage quickly find themselves at ease as if they're revisiting a long-time friend. Hearing Billy live can be an enthralling homecoming.
Hailing from Houston, Texas, the son of a piano-playing nurse and a father trained in classical trumpet, Billy forged an early and deep appreciation for music. He began on drums, but soon picked up the guitar to pay homage to song-poet heroes like Paul Simon and John Lennon.In more recent years, Billy’s focus shifted toward writing his own songs, filtering influences ranging from his mother's ear for 60’s folk and pop, musician film biopics like La Bamba, and amélange of rock and Texas troubadour driven music.
Billy's writing has drawn attention with awards and honors. A "Best Song" won at a West Coast Songwriters Association monthly live song competition, a feature on a TV showcase series of fresh Bay Area performers, and a treasured evening when Billy performed solo in the poster room at the esteemed Fillmore in San Francisco—all indicating how this songwriter and performer keeps building his career.
His tastes and influences stretch far beyond what Billy's current sound might imply. Days as a youngster with beat-box rapper obsessions, pop-punk shouts and harmonies, Bossa Nova studies in Brazil, and singing the national anthem at Wrigley Field are all in his history. Billy now concentrates on expanding his growing catalog of original material, recording, and frequent gigging--from coffee house slots to full-band shows pumping up the audiences at Bay Area clubs.
It's all part of a vision depicted with insightful irony by the title and cover art of his album. Conveying both the serious challenge of creating a thriving performer's career and the tenacious playfulness that fuels Billy’s music, the album title First to Believe is juxtaposed with a whimsical illustration of a tremendous hog with wings. "When pigs fly" indeed.
How do you describe your music to people?
It's alt-pop that sounds like Jason Mraz and Bright Eyes jamming inside Crowded House.
Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
I wrote my first song around the time I was 7. I was fascinated by beat-box style rap (my first album was DJ Jazzy Jeff’s He’s the Rapper, I’m the DJ). I liked the linguistic gymnastics--the word play and phrasing. It made me want to make up my own songs. One day it occurred to me to record a beat-box onto a tape recorder, then play it back and rap to it while a second recorder captured both “tracks”. It was crude multi-track recording well before I knew it existed or I knew how to play any instruments. I thought the process was a blast and I was hooked on writing songs.
What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Create music. It's fun, deeply meaningful, and makes for a never ending journey.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
Time management. There are never enough hours in the day for the creative and business side of music. And on the business side, it's hard to know if what you're spending time and money on is worthwhile. The internet and social media can be a massive rabbit hole that you can go down and get lost and disoriented in. Learning and prioritizing what's worthwhile on the business side, so there's time left to grow and create as an artist...this is the biggest challenge.
When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
An inventor. In a way, I am. Making music (and promoting it) draws on my creativity and inventive spirit.
In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
I'm involved in various songwriter communities in the Bay Area, such as West Coast Songwriters. The education, support, and camaraderie I've received through this and other organizations has added fuel to my fire to get me through some dark and cold nights,so to speak. Also, I think because I'm in the Bay Area, home of political activism (among other things), I'm starting to find my social conscience bubbling up and speaking out through some of new songs I'm writing. It's a real art and craft to make a political or social statement in a song without coming off as preachy or heavy-handed, but the challenge and importance of sharing certain ideas appeals to me. Stay tuned...
What other artists out there do you love?
I'm really into Brett Dennen lately. He blends an alt-pop / world style that has such a strong melodic appeal for me. I also admire how he speaks with his heart and his head about his values and beliefs. You feel his music, but you get it too--your find yourself thinking about his point...or at least I do.
What does your future hold?
I think it's bad luck to get into the specifics of what one has in mind for the future (see "The Magic of Believing"), but what I will say is that the near-term has me releasing more music. I see that and the artistic growth that fuel the music as job number one. Without great songs that I'm proud of and I believe in, there's no wind in the sails. So I'm starting to hunker down to write and do pre-production for what I hope will be a couple EP length releases (and some singles) in 2011. In a general sense, I'm working to raise the level of my game--both the creative and business side. I'm aware that there's a certain art to forging definitive plans and goals, which is a good thing, and keeping one's thumb to the air to detect opportunities and changes in direction that call to you. Like John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans."