Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson tells Billboard that he had a fun time recording the song “Whisper” with Joey+Rory for his new album “Life!”. After all, he’s been known as “Whispering Bill” for almost five decades now, thanks to his soft spoken vocal style. Still, Anderson admits that when comedian Don Bowman first coined the moniker, he had mixed feelings about it.
“I thought back then that they were making fun of me, calling me ‘Whispering Bill,’ or ‘Old Whisper,” he said. However, the nickname helped to cement his place in the spotlight. “It didn’t take me long to realize that it was a very special moniker that they hung on me. Bill Anderson is a very common name. You can look in any phone book anywhere, and you can find a William Anderson or a Bill Anderson just about anywhere that you look. But, I’m the only one they call ‘Whispering Bill,’ so it’s worked real good for me. There are people that if you mention Bill Anderson, they’ll say ‘Who?’ But, if you say ‘Whisperin’ Bill,’ they will go ‘Oh, yeah.’ So, I’m as well known by that as I am by my own name, maybe even better.”
The new album — which is available digitally now, and will be physically available in March — is one that the singer let the fans in on the creative process. “When you’ve made as many records as I have, you kind of run out of titles,” said Anderson, who released his first set, Country Heart Songs, in 1962.
“When I was putting this record together, I thought what in the world are we going to call it. It dawned on me that I had about 20,000 members of my fan club online and on Facebook, I thought ‘Why don’t I just let my fans name the record?’ So, I told them it was going to be an album with some sad songs, some funny songs, and some poignant songs. We had over 10,000 entries. The winning one came from a retired Vietnam veteran down in West Tennessee, a 61-year old gentleman. He wrote in and said ‘From the way you’ve described the record, and without hearing any of the songs, it sounds to me like you’re describing life. That’s what I wanted — a simple title that didn’t necessarily speak to any of the songs in particular, but to the overall project. As you listen to this, all of these are experiences from life.”
Anderson had a hand in writing each of the ten cuts on “Life!,” and with a catalog of hits that includes “City Lights,” “I May Never Get To Heaven,” “Once A Day,” and “Give It Away,” the creative fire still burns deep in the Georgia native.
“I got a little discouraged with it back in the 80s when music was changing a lot, and I was involved with a lot of other things like game shows and soap operas. So, I quit writing for awhile, and in the early 90s, Steve Wariner brought back ‘The Tips Of My Fingers,’ and it was a number one hit. I thought ‘Well, shoot, I wrote that thirty-two years ago, and it’s a hit. Maybe I could write some hits for this new wave I’m hearing now in country music. I figured out the best way to do that was to get with some young artists and writers and learn about the co-writing process. I started off with a pretty good co-writer in Vince Gill, and once I got into it, it became exciting and fun again. I think since then I’ve probably written some of the best songs I’ve ever written.”
One such cut is the stunning “Blackberry Winter,” which Anderson penned with Rob Crosby. “We started talking about the weather and how it could be related to relationships. I said that I thought Blackberry Winter was a temporary cold spell after the weather looks like it’s going to be warm, and you have three or four days of cold weather, then spring will come back. We started kicking it around a bit, then we looked it up in the dictionary to make sure we were right about what a Blackberry Winter was, then we related it to a relationship between a man and a woman who had a very warm relationship, and a cold snap comes through, and they had to part for a while, but they get back together when the Blackberry Winter is past and gone.”