Billy Strings has been hailed as the future of bluegrass, transcending tradition and genre with his high velocity, flat-picking guitar technique and intense, confessional songwriting. HOME, Strings’ remarkable second studio album, is undoubtedly the Michigan-born, Nashville-based artist’s bravest excursion thus far, reshaping bluegrass into his own exceptional form, completely rewiring the aesthetic with elements of punk, country, folk rock, and genuine psychedelic exploration to fashion something altogether original and all his own. From the jump, Strings has infused bluegrass with his own experiences and inspirations, adopting traditional sonic and lyrical idioms to confront contemporary social truths. Songs like “Away From The Mire” and the remarkable title track are rooted in the past but as now as next week, animated by electrifying musicianship, inventive production, and Strings’ irrepressible ambition. HOME marks a landmark on this constantly moving artist’s ongoing creative journey, its fearless songs and freewheeling approach recasting string-based American music in his own inimitable image.
“I’m starting to feel at home in my life,” Strings says. “I know that’s kind of a vague statement but I feel like I’m starting to feel at home in my career, in my relationship with my life partner, all those things. I feel like I’m settling in and starting to actually be content here.”
Born William Apostol, the Lansing, MI native was raised up on bluegrass guitar by his stepfather, Terry Barber, a gifted amateur picker in his own right. Dubbed Billy Strings by an aunt who presciently saw his burgeoning ability, he “got into electricity” in his teens and began fusing high-speed technique with his own equally breakneck charisma in a middle school grindcore band.
“I learned to play music playing bluegrass,” Strings says, “but I learned how to perform in a metal band.”
Growing up in rural Michigan taught Strings even more valuable lessons, forcing him to confront true hardship and struggle amongst his friends and family. His interests eventually returned to bluegrass, drawn in by its honesty, spirit, and seemingly infinite capacity for reinvention. Since moving to Nashville in 2016, Strings has been welcomed into the Americana community with open arms even as his work proudly expands its parameters. After making an auspicious solo debut with 2016’s self-titled EP, Strings impelled bluegrass towards heretofore-uncharted new terrain on his extraordinary debut album, TURMOIL & TINFOIL. Released via Strings’ own Apostol Recording Company, the markedly powerful collection rocketed Strings to the forefront of contemporary Americana, debuting at #3 on Billboard’s “Top Bluegrass Albums” chart whilst earning critical applause equivalent to its popular success. “Roots music is at its best when it places greater emphasis on telling powerful stories than it does adhering to any conventional genre boundaries,” raved American Songwriter. “With that in mind, TURMOIL & TINFOIL is a great roots album.”
Then as now, Strings and his crack band – including banjo player Billy Failing, bassist Royal Masat, and mandolin player Jarrod Walker – honed their sound by performing more than 200 gigs a year, traveling America’s blue highways and byways in a black Sprinter van to bring their music to the people.
“Once I got my feet on the road I haven’t settled down,” Strings says. It’s been about six or seven years since I’ve had a day job. I wake up in the morning, I jump in the van, we drive to the gig, we load in, soundcheck, and we play. It’s 1:00 in the morning by the time I even talk again. It goes so fast.”
HOME was recorded in January 2019 during a rare hiatus from the road, mere days after Strings’ sold-out three-night New Year’s Eve run at Pontiac, MI’s Flagstar Strand Theater. With TURMOIL & TINFOIL producer Glenn Brown (Greensky Bluegrass, Marcus Miller) back at the helm, Springs and Co. spent six days working at Nashville’s legendary Blackbird Studios’ Studio D followed by an additional week at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Nashville.
“I might’ve been home longer than I’d been in the last few years,” he says. “I got to sleep in my own bed every night for the first time in I don’t even know. That’s the first time that’s happened in probably five years.”
Rightly hailed for their precision picking and groove-locked on-stage interplay, Strings and the band played it equally live in the studio, simply counting off and letting the songs take flight. Traditional recording techniques were eschewed for more of “a rock ‘n’ roll approach” utilizing an array of old compressors and vintage microphones. As ever, Strings took great pleasure in seeing just how far he can push bluegrass without abandoning its core tenets. Songs like “Running” and “Highway Hypnosis” see Strings in forward motion once again, wedding guitar, banjo, bass, and mandolin, with harmonium and eastern percussion, classical string arrangements, and a distinctive distortion Brown creates by running Strings’ vocals through a 1950 Bell PA head meant for electric guitar.
“The studio gives you the freedom to do whatever you want,” he says. “You can add piano, or I could play a 12-string guitar, or we could all get xylophones – it’s endless possibility. I like making records like that. I think about how the Beatles did it, those guys were trying everything they could think of.”
Strings’ commitment to anything-goes musical freedom is matched by his increasingly potent lyrical ambitions, penning stark, confessional songs that serve to chronicle the current state of the nation as he sees it. Songs like “Enough To Leave” and “Away From The Mire” – the former penned as a direct letter to two friends who died from heroin overdoses – reveal a songwriter uniquely capable of coloring in such dark matters as addiction, gun violence, mass incarceration, the battle against inequality, and the suicide epidemic with resonant imagery and heartfelt personal understanding.
“I just put it all out there,” Strings says. “I say what I’m thinking and it’s coming straight from my heart. It could be a personal thing or it could be a very broad. Hopefully by keeping it honest and true and actually putting my real feelings out, people will recognize that and appreciate it. But that’s not why I do it. It’s therapeutic for me. Putting these songs out helps me to get over this shit.”
Like any great tunesmith worth his salt, Strings digs deep into himself to find some answer within, building universal tales of decline and redemption from his own unique experiences growing up and on the road.
“It wasn’t like I had some shitty childhood,” he says, “but there were some lean months. I saw a lot of substance abuse; I saw a lot of crazy shit. I was not a good student in high school; I hated all my teachers and thought they hated me. I didn’t even try. I thought I was going to be a nobody, like a lot of the folks I knew that ended up in prison or overdosed or suicide. But I climbed out of that hole, man. I’m on solid ground now and I’m running towards the light. All these things happening, it just feels so good I could cry. I never thought I could do anything or even have a roof over my head.
“All that stuff is in there, that’s where I draw my inspiration from. It’s not that I’m living in the past or anything, but when I do write a song, I feel like I always go back to writing what I know and whatever it is that I’ve learned here. There’s the dark stuff but also more positive. I’m making my folks proud and that is a great feeling.”
HOME sees featured appearances from Strings’ Nashville former housemate, TK Award-winning guitarist Molly Tuttle (lending vocals to “Must Be Seven”), fiddler John Mailander (Bruce Hornsby, Peter Rowan, Tony Trischka), Detroit-based tabla player John Churchville, and 14x GRAMMY® Award-winning dobro master Jerry Douglas. Strings – who made his Grand Ole Opry debut in March 2019, performing two original songs on the legendary broadcast – is unabashedly exultant at his current place at the bluegrass table, evidenced by an ever-growing list of collaborations with some of the music’s greatest heroes.
“It goes back to me never thinking I was going to be anybody or anything,” Strings says. ”When I was seven years old my dad called me from across the house and said, ‘All right, son. Sit down.’ I thought I was in trouble or something. He said, ‘Sit down,’ and then he puts on DOC & DAWG by Doc Watson and David Grisman, and said, ‘You need to know this.’ So then, years later, I get to introduce my dad to David Grisman in person. I get to sing ‘The Lonesome River’ with my dad and Del McCoury on stage at the Ryman. That’s the stuff. It makes me so proud to be able to do that.”
A 21st century artist through and through, Strings has made perhaps an even more important bond with his contemporary peers, including flat-picking icon Bryan Sutton and southern rock guitarist Marcus King, teaming with the latter for the spectacular King & Strings jam at last year’s Rooster Walk Festival in Martinsville, VA. Further all-star collaborations, including King & Strings II, are promised, as are countless headline dates, festival sets, a rare solo tour, and support dates with Greensky Bluegrass, including an eagerly awaited double bill at the world famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO.
“I like to throw myself out there and make myself feel vulnerable,” Strings says. “It lights a fire under my ass.”
Indeed, that same plucky spirit drives Strings and his band’s near-nightly live adventures. Bluegrass has long been a font for improvisational creation, allowing infinite space for musicians to push each other to new heights of exploration and interaction. Strings and his fellow players keep that tradition alive by diving headlong into extended, expansive jams, seamlessly creating whole new worlds with an unstoppable charm, kinetic energy, and a profound connection with the audience.
“When those doors open up,” Strings says, “we truly have no idea what lies beyond. When we’re on stage and all of a sudden we get into a space, it’s like, OK we’re going to go, we have no fucking idea what’s going to happen. Just like everybody else in the room. And that’s where it gets magic.
“That’s what we’re going for, that magic moment when the music lines up and all the people line up and everybody’s feeling just right, everybody’s there together. That thing that happens there is pure magic – maybe the only real magic that exists on the planet.”
With its sonic flair, dazzling technique, and forward-thinking enthusiasm, HOME is a strikingly assured manifestation of an increasingly matchless musical vision. Billy Strings is utterly unto himself, a once-in-a-lifetime guitarist, singer, and songwriter whose ingenuity, versatility, and sheer sense of commitment affirm his spot as one of the most visionary and idiosyncratic artists in all of contemporary American music.
“It’s hard for me to fathom because it’s literally been my dream since I was a child,” says Billy Strings. “I got this little kindergarten book that I made when I was like four or five years old and one of the pages in there is like, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ And I drew a picture of a dude with a banjo and said, I want to be a bluegrass player. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. I feel like this is what I was always meant to do. This is what I was put here to do and somehow I ended up being able to do it. I’m the luckiest guy ever.”
BILLY STRINGS (SOLO) TO JOIN I’M WITH HER FOR SELECT DATES
Billy Strings (solo) will join I’m With Her for a handful of shows on the East Coast this coming February.
For up to date information and to purchase tickets go to billystrings.com.
“Bluegrass Shredder” – Rolling Stone Country
“rapidly scaling the bluegrass music ladder and carving his name on the venerable tree of roots music while happily making waves wherever he goes.” – Westword
“his high- octane live shows fuel an eclectic aesthetic that expands well beyond his predecessors.” -Austin Chronicle
BILLY STRINGS ANNOUNCES SPRING 2019 TOUR DATES
“26-year-old phenom is testing age-old boundaries with head-thrashing live shows”
– Rolling Stone Country
“rapidly scaling the bluegrass music ladder and carving his name on the venerable tree of roots music while happily making waves wherever he goes”
“his high- octane live shows fuel an eclectic aesthetic that expands well beyond his predecessors”
– Austin Chronicle
NASHVILLE, TN – Billy Strings is has to announced several tour stops for Spring, 2019. In addition to a heavy touring schedule, Billy has added stops across the country that have him appearing at several iconic festivals and venues along the way.
New additions include Bluegrass Bender, Sweetwater 420 Fest, Aiken Bluegrass Festival, DelFest, Dark Star Jubilee, Roosterwalk, Camp Out For The Cause, Camp Greensky, and many more including a co-bill performance at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville w/ Steep Canyon Rangers.
For all up to date news please visit billystrings.com
Billy Strings Spring 2019 Tour:
4/11-14 Las Vegas, NV – Bluegrass Bender
4/18 Asheville, NC – Salvage Station
4/19 Atlanta, GA – 420 Sweetwater Festival
4/20 20 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
5/1 New Orleans, LA – Tipitina’s *
5/3 Houston, TX – Last Concert Cafe
5/4 Austin, TX – Mohawk
5/10-11 Aiken, SC – Aiken Bluegrass Festival
5/16 Martinsville, VA – Rives Theatre
5/17 Richmond, VA – Dominion RiverRock
5/23-24 Cumberland, MD – DelFest
5/25 Thornville, OH – Dark Star Jubilee
5/26 Martinsville, VA – Roosterwalk
5/31 Salt Lake City, UT – Red Butte Garden **
6/1 Grand Junction, CO – Mesa Theater
6/2 Buena Vista, CO – Camp Out For The Cause
6/6 Wellston, MI – Camp Greensky
6/8 Haugan, MT – Silver Cloud Campout
6/11 Livingston, MT – Pine Creek Lodge
6/15 Eau Claire, WI – Blue Ox Music Festival
6/20 Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium ***
6/22 Bend, OR – 4 Peaks Music Festival
*with Cedric Burnside
** supporting Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
*** with Steep Canyon Rangers
Billy Strings plays hard and he lives hard, picking so fast and intensely that he’s known to break multiple strings per song, and basing the songs he writes on the hard lives he grew up around in the abandoned rural communities of America. His new album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, taps into a deep vein of psychedelia in Americana, referencing everything from the Dead to Sturgill Simpson, but all underlaid by Billy’s undeniable virtuosity and his knowledge of the roots of American music. He’s one of the most beloved young bluegrass guitarists today within the bluegrass community, and his front porch in East Nashville is constantly filled up with Nashville’s best roots musicians just picking up a storm.
The tricky part of making the new album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, was translating BillyStrings’ incendiary live show into the studio. Returning to his home state of Michigan, Billy enlisted acoustic roots wizard Glenn Brown (Greensky Bluegrass) as producer, and centered the music around his new band, featuring Drew Matulich on mandolin with banjo prodigy Billy Failing and much-loved Nashville bassist Brad Tucker. Rich with special guests, Turmoil & Tinfoil shows off Billy’s East Nashville community of picking friends, among them Miss Tess, Molly Tuttle, John Mailander, Shad Cobb and Peter Madcat Ruth. Of special note is a virtuosic duet between Billy and bluegrass guitarist Bryan Sutton on “Salty Sheep” that shows the speed, precision, and creative craftsmanship of bluegrass when it’s done right.
Connect with Billy
CASHORTRADE PARTNERS WITH BILLY STRINGS
MAY 1, 2019- NASHVILLE, TN — CashorTrade.org is proud to announce their partnership with Billy Strings. The partnership is the first in a series of artist endorsements to be unveiled by CashorTrade, and closely follows the site’s endorsement by Summer Camp Music Festival as the festival’s official secondary ticketing resource.
“We really appreciate Billy Strings’ commitment to his fans and could not be more excited to partner with him,” says CashorTrade co-founder and CEO Brando Rich. “As Billy continues to rise, we will follow him every step of the way to help make sure his fans can score tickets at face value”
With Billy’s endorsement, a focus on keeping his tickets in the hands of real fans will be applied to the site’s marketing strategy. Both CashorTrade and Billy’s teams will work together to push fans toward the site, where they will avoid scalping, a practice Billy has personally been very vocal against. The partnership will also include ticket giveaways and content creation between Billy and fellow CashorTrade partner, Osiris Podcast Network.
CashorTrade is the world’s first social network where fans buy, sell, and trade tickets at face value. Touted as the “Airbnb of tickets” (Al.com), CashorTrade has worked tirelessly to provide fans with the face value experience. Founded by Brando and Dusty Rich, CashorTrade came to life after the brothers were shut out of Phish’s triumphant return to Hampton Coliseum. The website supplied over 50,000 tickets to fans at face value throughout Phish’s recent Baker’s Dozen, amounting to nearly 25% of all the seats Madison Square Garden sold during the 13-night run. CashorTrade is disrupting a $9 billion industry that is expected to reach $15 billion by 2020, taking on ticket giants such as Stubhub and TicketsNow.
About Billy Strings:
Poised to take bluegrass in bold new directions, singer/songwriter/guitarist Billy Strings is quickly gaining attention for his incendiary live performances and imbuing his take on Americana with distinctive bursts of psychedelic virtuosity. While deeply reverent of the roots of traditional bluegrass music, which his father shared with him as a boy, Strings learned his high-energy performing skills by playing fleet-fingered guitar solos in a heavy metal band in his native Michigan. While he has matured as a player, singer and songwriter in his own right, and re-embraced the music his father introduced him to, Strings has applied the intensity of heavy metal to bluegrass. The end results, as demonstrated on his most recent release, Turmoil & Tinfoil, provide a fresh jolt to the genre. Look for a new album from Billy Strings this fall.
NEW ALBUM HOME – DUE OUT SEPT 27 (ROUNDER RECORDS)
“Strings is no doubt the most exciting act to hit the Bluegrass scene in a while”
HOME, Billy’s second full length studio album will be released on Sept 27. The band will be touring extensively through the end of the year, making stops across the country playing a mix of headlining shows and festivals including appearances at Railbird, Americana Music Festival, and Red Rocks. Dates are selling out quickly including a two night stop in Atlanta.
All up to date news and tour information can be found at billystrings.com
Billy Strings has been hailed as the future of bluegrass, transcending tradition and genre with his high velocity, flat-picking guitar technique and intense, confessional songwriting. HOME, Strings’ remarkable second studio album, is undoubtedly the Michigan-born, Nashville-based artist’s bravest excursion thus far, reshaping bluegrass into his own exceptional form, completely rewiring the aesthetic with elements of punk, country, folk rock, and genuine psychedelic exploration to fashion something altogether original and all his own.