When six year old Bill Deasy was growing up in Penn Hills, he had a revelation. No, it wasn't religious, but musical. He heard the King, Elvis Presley, and caught the feeling bad.
Young Deasy would bop to Elvis in his bed so hard that his parents would have to turn the mattress over every so often so he wouldn't wear a hole in it. He'd beg to stay up and watch Elvis movies. And he's still got the feeling.
In 1991, Deasy put together his first group, Shiloh, which took top honors at the Graffiti Rock Challenge. Then it was on to one of Pittsburgh's great bands of the 1990s, The Gathering Field.
The band began in Grove City when Deasy, Dave Brown and Jim DiSpirito (now the Rusted Root percussionist) sat down for a weekend with guitars, tequila, and recording gear. The resulting Glory Bound Sessions led ultimately to the formation of The Gathering Field and its' self-titled debut disc in 1994.
It added bass player Eric Riebling, founder of The Affordable Floors, and took off. By 1996, the band consisted of Deasy, Brown, Riebling, drummer Ray DeFade and keyboard player John Burgh. Gathering Field got it's big break when it sent a copy of their "Lost In America" CD to the program director of WDVE.
It made it's way into the rotation and the rest was history. The band's name was made when DVE began playing the title song "Lost in America." It became one of the most requested songs ever aired by the station.
A bidding war was fought over them by the major labels, and the band signed with Atlantic Records in 1996, which re-released the album. But the label underwent re-structuring, deciding to put its marketing efforts behind Matchbox Twenty, and The Gathering Field struggled for several years to be released from their contract.
Once they won their freedom, the group put out "Reliance" in 1999 followed by "So Close To Home" in 2001, an album of songs they’d played live for several years but had never recorded.
The band had a loyal following in the Pittsburgh area but after the release of 2001's "So Close To Home" record, Deasy knew the time had come to strike out on his own. (The band did get together, though, for a Thanksgiving reunion concert in 2010)
Deasy released a semi-acoustic solo album, "Spring Lies Waiting" that year, a collection of songs that didn't quite fit in with The Gathering Field's rock style.
"Going solo wasn't a decision so much as a natural process," he recalled for Andrew Ellis of Ink 19. "That being said, it's hard leaving the security of something so strong and familiar." But it was decision that paid off for him.
His songs have been recorded by an eclectic mix of artists including Howard Jones, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kim Richey, Martina McBride, Bijou Phillips, and Michael Stanley, as well as local bands like The Clarks.
Deasy has also appeared on national television singing one of his songs, “Good Things Are Happening”, in a commercial for Good Morning America that ran for four years. His "Your Home" tune has become KDKA-TV's theme song. "This is My Day," a song he wrote with Odie Blackmon, is the theme music for the Country Music Television series "Working Class"
As a performer, he's opened for acts like Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Patty Griffin, John Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Roseanne Cash, John Hiatt, World Party, and Warren Zevon.
He's been busy recording, too. In 2003 he released "Good Day No Rain." In 2005 came the follow-up, "Chasing Down a Spark," featuring appearances by Donnie Iris and the Clarks' Scott Blasey. It was mixed by Joe Blaney, whose resume includes work for The Clash, Blues Traveler, and The Raveonettes.
Deasy released his fourth CD last year, "The Miles," and followed with "A Different Kind of Wild" in 2009. His singer/writer style is somewhat reminiscent of John Mellencamp, and that's not bad company to be in. As a writer, Deasy is especially inspired by Van Morrison, Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen, who he refers to as his "holy trinity of songwriters".
He's also written more than songs. In August, 2006, Deasy published his first novel, "Ransom Seaborn", which went on to receive the web-based Needle Award.
Bill Deasy is as Pittsburgh as a yinzer can be. He grew up in Penn Hills, and his dad Bill worked for Westinghouse while his mom, Judy, taught at nearby St. Barts. Naturally, he went to St. Barts, Central Catholic, and then Grove City College.
In fact, he penned his first tune at St. Batholemew's for his future wife. As he told KDKA: "I met my wife there when we were in the fourth grade. She inspired my very first song – "She's a Big Jerk" which I still dust off from time to time. We lost touch through our formative years but reconnected in our twenties."
Now he and Paula live in Shadyside with their three sons. His parents are in Oakmont, and all his brothers and sisters still live in the area. Deasy wouldn't have it any other way. When KDKA asked why he didn't move off to a songwriter's mecca like Nashville, this was his reply:
"Pittsburgh inspires me. Plain and simple. I'm always traveling away to tour or write with people in other cities and each time I return I think something along the lines of, 'Man, I love this town.' I love the rivers and the view of the city through the tunnels and the kind people and the cool neighborhoods."
And hey, a writer gotta know where his muse is, right? Bill Deasy knows where to find his.
(You can keep up with the busy Bill Deasy schedule and news at My Space - Bill Deasy)