Bill Furner, MJ member “thetiler,” is the most prolific MacJams contributor as well as a fabulous fingerstyle acoustic guitarist. He’s the perfect candidate to be our inaugural Artist Spotlight interview. As of this writing, Bill has 243 tracks posted and over 16,620 participation points. He’s been a MacJams members since 12-10-04.
Bill has been playing music since he was 14 years old. (He is currently 58.) As he puts it, “The Beatles were the rage at the time, they had made there way into the United States and it seemed like everybody and their brother wanted to play guitar. Before that I was very heavily influenced by Elivis, I didn’t play guitar at the time but I loved listening to 45’s.
“Then I formed a band in high school called Phase 5. My mom made leopard vest for all of us. We had a rhythm guitarist, me at lead, a singer with a Brooklyn accent, and a drummer whose parents lived in a mansion. Mansions come in handy when you need a place to practice. We had to keep that drummer in the band…
“I started to write original songs in the service, especially when I was over in Viet Nam and after. I used to write depressing songs so I was very enthused to have my dad help me write comedy novelty tunes. I won a contest at the Jack Tarr Hotel at downtown San Francisco. About 400 entertainers auditioned and only 4 of us made it to the end. I made it for solo guitar and comedy novelty songs.”
Bill currently plays many solo gigs, performing his original fingerstyle compositions as well as inventively adapted traditional and classical pieces. My personal favorites are:
On & On (rare track on which Bill sings)
Wind (original, open tuning)
Choro da Saudade (adaptation)
Jillian (original solo acoustic)
A Road Less Traveled (dropped D, capo on 5th fret)
Bill’s favorite song on MJ was written with his father: The Hypnotist.
With so many astounding tracks among his 243 posts, it is very difficult to pick favorites. Bill’s optimistic, friendly personality comes out in most every track (as well as his talent and craftsmanship).
Bill lives in Marin County, California (USA) which is “right over the Golden Gate Bridge.” He is a tile installation contractor. “Basically I get a lot of work from Cole Hardware in San Francisco. I pay them 10% of what I make from the customers they refer me to if I get the bid. Laura the home repair lady that answers the phone for them is such a wonderful person!
“I love going for Chinese food at the local mall. The owner of the take out is name is Wendy and she is a real sweety!”
Bill’s musical aspirations are tempered by the knowledge that being 58 years old makes him less attractive as a major label target. “I’d like to be world famous with tons of hit records. OK, I am older and unless I have some strange reversal of fortune that may not happen, but, hey, everybody has to dream, right?
“I love to record. I can hardly wait to come home after work and record till the cows come home. I bought two great AKG 3451b mics. They cost about $500 a piece. They’re stereo mics and record wonderfully unless I get too close, which causes to much noise in the earphones. But I love getting my mics as close as I can. I love placing the mics, listening were the sweet spot is for both mics. I try to keep my mic on the left side near the frets but far enough so the finger slips will be reduced. And the right maybe aimed above the hole of the guitar but far enough away as to not cause noise and breakage of sound.”
Many guitarists name their instruments. Bill’s favorite is Betsy. “Betsy is my Santa Cruz Acoustical Electric Om/Pw model. I added the electric when I was playing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville TN.”
Other gear Bill uses: “I use a Firebox Interface PreSonus and a Real Nice Preamp from FMR Audio. A G5 Mac with 2Gig. In addition to Betsy, I use a Taylor single cutaway nylon string NS 32 CE. I recently bought a used Midi Gi20 midi guitar which looks like a red stratocaster and has the Gi 20 adapter built on to it. I record with Logic 8, just love it. I have really grown very fond of that great piece of software! I recommend anybody interested in Logic to buy it, especially the latest 8 version. I love working with Fat EQ, it has help some of trebly sounding solos sound less tinny.”
Bill’s recording tips: “I basically look for as loud a sound as I can get, which means getting as close to the mics as I can to obtain the full sound of the guitar. I place the guitar solos in center position and try to evenly distribute the other sounds, keeping everything balanced yet supportive of the main guitar.
“I think I go for as sweet a melody as I possibly can whether it be my own or traditional, classical etc. I am a true hound for a very strong melodic content and not too much loud percussion. I was very influence by the 50’s when melody was so sweet and dreamy.”
Bill says the MacJams experience has helped him make better recordings: “Comments have helped, especially when I started at Macjams. People such as Tom Atwood would ceaseless get after me for having so much white noise in my recordings, which prompted me to get rid of my cheap mixer and buy a Tascam 122 interface. That really helped a lot to get quieter recordings.”
Also, Bill is aware of what he doesn’t do well: “My weakest point is not being very good at the business and trying to spread my music. I wish I was better at contacting important people in the finger-style-instrumental industry. O how I wish I was better at that!!”
Bill’s advice: “Basically keep being as exacting as possible to produce that gem which can be priceless even if money is not involved. Going for that feeling of musical nirvana when you hear something that you know is very special. Though not every tune is going to be a gem, it is a great musical oasis quest.”
The MJ song Bill is most proud of is Her Hand In War because “it would be perfect for a revolutionary war movie theme.” He adds, ” I dearly, dearly love collaborations with Macjams artists! ” Some of his collaborations include Smoke & Mirrors with Emily Rohm; One Thing I Know with Diana Cuellar; and My Way Home with Mystified. He also dedicated a song to Mystified who has collaborated with so many Macjamers: Like An Angel.
Bill Furner also makes guitars. One of the last guitars he made was played by Gregg Allman (of the Allman Brothers fame) at his house when he was dating Bill’s tenant, Rachel Taylor. “I got to jam with him a bit in my backyard. He even phoned me during the second Woodstock festival and wanted to go over a few tunes I gave him. But that never came to fruition.”
Check out all of Bill’s Macjams tunes on his MacJams Artist Page.