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QRD #40 - Happy Father's Day! - June 2009
about this issue
interviews with:
Nicholas Slaton of slicnaton
Shaun Sandor of Promute
Jeremy M Lange, photographer
Chris Bonner of THe BAcksliders
Matthew Kendall of Rogue Motel
BevanHurdof The VeryFoundation
Michael Jarmer of Here Comes Everybody
Chris Williams of Maple Stave
Brian John Mitchell of Remora
Kyle Monday of Carta
Bill Tollner of Amadan
Sacha Galvagna of Carta
RobertBrownof Northern Valentine
Benjamin LÝzninger of LÝzninger
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Interview with Bill Tollner of Amadan
June 2009

Bill Tollner plays bass for the celtic punk band Amadan hailing from Portland, Oregon.

Name: Bill Tollner
Band: Amadan
Website: myspace.com/amadan

QRD – How old were you when you first realized you wanted to be a professional musician?

Billy – I came to music late - in fact it wasn’t until my daughter was born that I began playing guitar.  It wasn’t until I was 27 or so that I realized I wanted to be a professional musician.

QRD – What are a few highlights of your musical career?

Billy – Going back to school & earning my music degree while working full-time & raising a family; playing in front of 1200 people on St. Patrick’s Day a week after I joined the band; playing at the Oregon Country Fair, a festival I have attended off & on for years; going on tour & playing in Las Vegas & Los Angeles.

QRD – At what age did you decide you wanted to become a father?

Billy – I became a father at age 23 - in retrospect it is the best & the hardest thing that I have ever done.

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your family has had on your career?

Billy – Positive - music is an absolutely essential part of my life & by extension my children’s lives.  There is nothing better than sharing my love of music with my kids.  Both my kids take music lessons & my daughter (age 12) has blossomed into an incredible musician.  Music is a wonderful thing that unites all of us, & a great thing to share with your family.
Negative - the only negative aspect is that I cannot tour as much as I would like or drop everything & just play music.  I am forced to work other jobs to support my music habit, due to the pressures & expenses of raising a family.  That being said I wouldn’t trade being a father for anything in the world.

QRD – What are some positive & negative impacts your career has had on your family?

Billy – Positive - I believe that in following my passion for music & pursuing my dreams, I teach my kids that they should do the same.  In my opinion too many people give up what they dream of doing, to conform to what they think they are supposed to do. 

QRD – Have your children effected the music you make &/or listen to?

Billy – My daughter studies the Suzuki violin method & I have taken a lot of the lessons she has learned from this method & applied them to my own musical studies.  For example, learning to play by ear, scale exercises, & the like.  & as my kids grow older, I look forward to making music with them. 

QRD – Have you had problems with the lack of steady money from a musical career providing the security you feel necessary in your household?

Billy – Absolutely, I cannot afford to make a living solely as a musician, & therefore I work another job to pay the bills.  Over time I hope to flip this around so music comes first & the job second, but it is an ongoing process.

QRD – Given the limitations having a family has on being a touring musician, would you have toured more earlier in life if you’d known?

Billy – Hard to say - my situation is unusual in that I started playing professionally relatively late in life.  & having a family in many ways is what got me started playing music.  That being said, if I had started earlier, I definitely would have wanted to tour more before becoming a father.

QRD – Do you think being a father or a musician has a greater impact on your community?

Billy – As a father, you raise your children to become a part of a community.  As a musician, you provide a valuable service to that community.  It’s hard to say which has a greater impact, but I will say that being a father is the best & most important thing in my life.  Everything comes second to parenthood.

QRD – Would you rather see your children eventually become musicians or parents?

Billy – One of the greatest things about being a father is being able to share the things I love with my children.  I hope to pass along my love of music to my kids so they too will share that love.  Judging from my daughter’s musical studies & my son’s beginning piano lessons, it seems to be working.  & of course I would like them to become parents someday!  It’s not really an either/or question.

QRD – Both family & music seem like things that will take up as much of your time as you’re willing to put in.  How do you end up dividing your time?

Billy – Family first, job second, music third - it’s really quite simple.  My plan is to eventually make it family first & music second as my only job; but as I said before, it’s a process.  But family always comes first.

QRD – What do your kids think of your music?

Billy – I think both of my kids enjoy the music I make - many of my gigs take place at night so they don’t often get to hear me perform live.  But from what they have heard they seem to enjoy it.  My daughter (age 12) is at an age where she is much more interested in the music she makes, & listens to, than anything I do.  Yet I feel that having music all around her from day one has helped cultivate her love of music & instilled a tremendous amount of self-motivation.  Same with my son (age 6) - the love of music seems to be completely natural for both of them, to the point where they almost take it for granted.

QRD – Do you think you could ever do a musical project with your children?

Billy – I would love to collaborate on a musical project with my children.  All in time.…

QRD – Any words of advice to young people?

Billy – If you play music, don’t give up! I can’t tell you how many adults I have spoken to who played music as kids & now regret giving up playing music.  & practice every day, even if it’s for only 15 minutes.  If it gets hard put it down, do something else & come back to it in 10 or 15 minutes.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is.  Finally - don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t achieve your dreams.  Anything is possible if you believe in yourself.