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Somewhere Between Bluegrass and Heavy Metal, Billy Strings Discovered His Own Sound

Billy Strings
Shane Timm
/
Courtesy of the artist
Billy Strings

I want to chill like Billy Strings is chilling. Sitting in front of a tapestry on his couch at his home in Nashville, the bluegrass all-star has a truly down-to-earth attitude about things. He tells me about restoring his old Chevrolet Chevelle, the silence and solitude of his favorite fishing spot, and his bluegrass-can-be-anything attitude. With his virtuosic guitar playing front and center, Strings fuses bluegrass to psych rock, country and jam music, without fussing over what bluegrass should be. Like I said, chill.

Strings grew up in Michigan, learning to play traditional bluegrass alongside his stepdad. Later, Billy thrashed in local VFW halls playing in the metal scene before discovering his own sound after hearing bands like The String Cheese Incident and Greensky Bluegrass.

Now, Strings is a bona fide phenom and part of the upper tier of jam bands. We're lucky enough to showcase some of his dynamite live performances with his band, the first of which was recorded at Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, N.C., in November 2019. That and more in the player above.

Copyright 2020 XPN

Since 2017, John Myers has been the producer of NPR's World Cafe, which is produced by WXPN at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Previously he spent about eight years working on the other side of Philly at WHYY as a producer on the staff of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. John was also a member of the team of public radio veterans recruited to develop original programming for Audible and has worked extensively as a freelance producer. His portfolio includes work for the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, The Association for Public Art and the radio documentary, Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. He's taught radio production to preschoolers and college students and, in the late 90's, spent a couple of years traveling around the country as a roadie for the rock band Huffamoose.