Billy Strings was the subject of a profile segment on this weekend’s episode of CBS Sunday Morning.
In the segment, Conor Knighton and Strings, real name William Apostol, dove into the 30-year-old guitarist and bandleader’s long-help bluegrass dreams via an old class assignment from his kindergarten class. On a prompt about what he wanted to be when he grew up, the young Billy had written “bluegrass player.”
“I mean, I was already… sort of a musician already,” Billy explained of his youthful foresight. The segment continued with various photos and video clips of Strings through the years as he spoke about being schooled on bluegrass by his dad, Terry Barber. “Playing bluegrass all night, and my dad was the life of the party. And I was like,’man, that’s what I wanna do.”
“It was amazing, and then, somewhere, those parties started to get a little darker and people started going to jail. As a little kid, I’m going, ‘Oh man, what’s going on?'” he explained, referencing his parents’ struggles with methamphetamine addiction. “It just felt like if I was there, I was gonna become an addict or go to prison or end up dead somehow.”
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After moving out of his home at age 13, Billy took up with a metal band, which helped him hone his now-famous stage presence. “I learned how to play music by playing bluegrass around a fire with my dad and stuff,” he said, “but I learned how to perform in a metal band.”
He sees that as something that sets him apart from bluegrass stars of the past. “It’s better if you just have no expression, if you just look like a statue. That’s the best,” Billy said of the buttoned-up aesthetic favored by conventional bluegrass. “And even better yet, if you just look like you’re not even stoked to be there.” He confirmed that he, on the other hand, is “very stoked to be there.”
When Knighton made the comparison between Billy’s current fanbase and those associated with the Grateful Dead and “jam bands” in general, Strings retorted, “I don’t really think of us as a jam band that much. We kind of jam. Maybe I’d like a more sophisticated word.” Knighton, quoting a review by American Songwriter, offered an alternative option: “The future of bluegrass.”
Related: Billy Strings Recounts A Brush With The Law In New Single, “Catch & Release” [Watch]
Billy also took Knighton out for some fishing on the lake by his house, spoke about his upcoming album with his dad (his parents have now been sober for ten years), and his goal to focus on his current field of vision instead of dwelling on what’s behind him.
“My whole sort of adult life I’ve been looking in the rearview mirror, dwelling on the past, dwelling on the years I lost with my folks, or dwelling on the poverty that I endured, or whatever. And I’m finally getting to a point now where I’m starting to gaze through the windshield instead. I’m not worried about what’s behind me or ahead, really. Just…” he shrugged, trailing off briefly, “going for a cruise.”
Watch the full clip below. For a complete list of upcoming Billy Strings tour dates, head here.
CBS Sunday Morning – Billy Strings Profile