Songwriter Interview 1

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JJ Barnes The Table Read

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed musician Timothy Abbott about his career in the music industry, what inspires him, and the creative work that goes into his songwriting.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

My name is Timothy Abbott, Austin, Texas singer/ songwriter. I release original music under My Life Among The Cannibals as well as Arcana Mundi’s Big Duets From Austin, Texas.

Timothy Abbott, songwriter interview on The Table Read
Timothy Abbott

When did you first WANT to write songs?

It started out as poetry, age 14, a way of dealing with angst and adolescence. I had a blank page book I filled up with poetry, and at a party when I was 19, a local popular musician[ Dave Layton] looked at my poetry and asked to put some of it to music. That was a song called “Lonesome Street” After I heard what he did, I was sucked in.

I thought, wow… I can maybe do this. It was a magical feeling.


When did you take a step to start writing songs?

In my first band, Casino, which was a midwestern act based around typical rock cover tunes and the original music of Dan Westerbeck. I was age 23 at the time. Clumsy efforts, but we all start somewhere.

What was your first song released, and what was it about?

I did many recordings but they were never released until Argument Clinic, 1989, a cassette called “Bones of Contention”, followed by a full-length CD in 1994. The song “Do You Remember” was a track that found some attention off the latter.

Its a lost love kinda song.

What was your latest song released, and what was it about?

”Redemption” is a single I pulled back off a 2008 Figurados’ release, and remixed it. Its a message of spiritual forgiveness for a rather rough and tumble past.

I didn’t want to leave it behind, as I have a new full-length Arcana Mundi record coming out early in 2022, and I’ll likely release it on the upcoming Cannibals record slated for Fall 22. I write something new usually every week.

Redemption by Timothy Abbott

Focusing on your latest song. What were your biggest challenges with it?

Mixing it and getting it to the same level of perfection as the other songs. I work with some great engineers. This was a challenge to recover, as the guy who had the original masters lost them. That meant some studio wizardry by Jimmy George over at Roost Studio.

Timothy Abbott, songwriter interview on The Table Read

How many songs are you working on right now?

Around 26. I kid you not. I write music in 7 genres. The Spring release of the Arcana Mundi will see 13 tracks. The overflow of material for that project could easily be flipped into an 8 song follow-up, more piano -based material.

My Life Among The Cannibals will likely be around 8. I’m also writing on a side project with a friend, Scott.

Do you keep to a theme with your music, or just go where the mood strikes?

Where the mood strikes, and most original ideas come out of the blue.

What is your favourite song you’ve recorded, and what do you love about it?

“We Are Not Alone”, one of the hardest songs I ever wrote, with Matt Smith my producer. I gave it to Malford Milligan to sing, he never disappoints.

Its a spiritual message. Maybe God didn’t turn his back on us after all. That’s when I knew I crossed the Rubicon for song writing.

We Are Not Alone – Malford Milligan & Candice Sanders from “Big Duets of Austin Tx.” Vol.1 on Vimeo.

Do you find other people’s music inspires you? Who do you listen to most?

I listen to A-Z… Manu Chao. Beatles. Tom Waits. Jackson Browne. Dylan. Berlioz. Beethoven. Hank Sr. Stones. Merle. Buck. Ella. Sinatra. Torme’…Many more.

Siren Stories Music

Do you write your own music, or do you have musicians you work with?

Both, but mostly I do co-writes. I dont play an instrument, I play my creative mind. I can hear the song in my head with any type of accompaniment, be it samba, salsa, rock, country, jazz, blues, gospel, whatever.

The people I write with know how my mind works, and they can follow my acapella rendering. I also can sing a bass line, a guitar part, piano part and my co-writers know where I’m going. After awhile, its like telepathic communication with my regular arrangers.

Timothy Abbott, songwriter interview on The Table Read
Timothy Abbott

I also use pop culture references, set tempo of the song, write the melody and lyrics. Since I don’t play an instrument, I am not locked into a repetitive instrument on every song.

Not all music is done with guitars. I like pianos. I like orchestras. I like bare bones accompaniment. My producer, Mark Epstein is a world class bassist (Johnny Winter, Joe Bonamassa) he and I have worked together 10 yrs now. Jimmy George is my other familiar co-writer, he runs Roost Studio. I also write with other folks.

Do you play any instruments?

Not well.

Do you like performing live, or does it scare you? Where can people watch you?

I loved performing live, but it costs a lot to fund a band here in Austin and pay everyone what they are worth. I have no stage fright, no fears. But I’m more of a studio guy after CoVid hit.

Is your music available online, and where can people listen to it?

Distro Kid, Reverb Nation, Apple Music, Sound Cloud, all digital domains.

Are you able to make music full time, or do you have day job?

I am about 50/50. I fund my own projects. I never have to ask for money that way. I work part -time.


Are your friends and family supportive of your music career?

Yes, very.

What’s something you never expected about being a songwriter? What have you learned that surprised you?

Timothy Abbott, songwriter interview on The Table Read

The warm community of fellow songwriters and musicians I can go to, for what I need to make my music happen. Austin is a very supportive music community.

Money? Music for me has never been about money, or becoming famous. Music is my art form. Its art. My art. I’m proud of my art.

Have you had any experiences that really stand out because of your songs?

Many. Some folks attach themselves to your music. Its quite an honor and compliment. You know when you write something really good. It shows in the opinions of my peers.

Do you have any important events coming up we should know about?

I have a record release coming up early Spring 2022, under Arcana Mundi name. And another release in Fall, with my other project.

What is the first piece of advice you would give to anyone inspired to write songs?

Don’t be afraid to flounder. You have to start somewhere. It may not click for you right now, but after you hone your skills, you’ll know it when that time arrives.

Timothy Abbott, songwriter interview on The Table Read

And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

My 2014 release “Big Duets From Austin, Texas, Vol One” was pushed in 8 different NARAS categories in prelim early voting. Considering I am unknown, it opened some doors for me and allowed me to connect with artists worldwide, whom I can work with.

In 2018 I released more country- bluegrass inflected work under “My Life Among The Cannibals” gained some followers due to 4 songs that had some attention. [ “Lorena”, “I Ate a Mushroom”, “If Heaven Aint Here” and “Music of Railroad Tracks”]

Pop all your music, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:


Someday I Hope Thats Us… featuring Katie Shore from Alsep At The Wheel:
I Ate A Mushroom
We Are Not Alone …featuring Malford Milligan, Candace Sanders
Reverb Nation…

Sound Cloud:


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