Bill Harley is more than just a storyteller. He’s a two-time Grammy award-winning artist, musician, author, playwright, and, yes, a storyteller too. His weapon of choice is humor (don’t worry, it’s a weapon for good), and with a knack for engaging both the young and the old, Bill is one teller you won’t want to miss at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

We reached out to Bill and asked him some questions in regards to storytelling and other things of interest to him. While a comedian in the recording studio, his down-to-earth approach on life encapsulates both wit and wisdom, and we’re happy to be able to share his thoughts with you in this post, which will help you get to know him better before seeing him at the festival. (Our questions are in italics, and his answers are in regular font type.)

Without further ado, we present to you Bill Harley (cue applause).

Q&A with Bill Harley

Our theme this year is “Pathway to Story.” How would you describe your pathway to becoming a storyteller. Was it a road, a back alley, a fast track, or a meandering trail?

It’s a road I’ve travelled for my whole adult life. After college I had a notion about being a storyteller—not really aware that others were doing it—but I soon found them. The real challenge, the real path, is finding your own voice—the kind of stories and the way you tell them—and what you bring to them. That never ends, although you do begin to understand what your possibilities are.

Could you tell us about someone who has influenced you on this journey as a storyteller?

SO many people—many of my peers in the storytelling community—I’ve learned from all of them, but also people I heard in my youth like Stan Freberg, Jean Shepherd, Bill Cosby (hard to say that now, but it’s true), and also musicians who also talked, like Arlo Guthrie, Utah Phillips, Steve Goodman, Rosalie Sorrells, and especially Pete Seeger. Pete’s probably my biggest influence. 

What are you passionate about outside of storytelling?

Well, music, too. Biking, swimming, and softball. Reading. Beekeeping. Being outside. And also, working to make the world a safer, kinder place. 

Where does storytelling go from here? How do you see it’s influence on society?

I don’t think storytelling is ever going to be HUGE. It’s just part of what people do. I’m particularly interested in storytelling that involves a teller and the people in front of her. Something happens there that doesn’t happen when it’s expressed through other mediums, and I think it’s what the storytelling community should focus on fostering—not digital storytelling, or other platforms. They will take care of themselves. My concern is how we foster excellence in the live performance of it.

Thanks Bill! Come see him live at this year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival on September 6-8 at the Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah.

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