Billy Strings

Billy Strings (born William Lee Apostol, October 3, 1992) is an American guitarist and bluegrass musician.[1] He won a Grammy Award in 2021.

Billy Strings
Billy Strings 2021.jpg
Strings in 2021
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Lee Apostol
Born (1992-10-03) October 3, 1992 (age 30)
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
  • Guitar
Years active2013–present

Early lifeEdit

Billy Strings was born William Lee Apostol on October 3, 1992, in Lansing, Michigan. His father died of a heroin overdose when he was two and his mother remarried Terry Barber, an accomplished amateur bluegrass musician. Billy regards Barber as his father. The family moved to Morehead, Kentucky, then to Muir, Michigan. While he was still a pre-teen his parents became addicted to methamphetamine. He left the family home at the age of thirteen and himself went through a period of hard-drug usage. His family eventually achieved sobriety; Billy stopped using hard drugs and drinking alcohol.[2][3]

Barber was a heavy influence on his stepson, introducing him to traditional bluegrass artists at a young age,[1] including Doc Watson, Del McCoury, David Grisman,[4] Bill Monroe, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley, Earl Scruggs, and Larry Sparks.[5][6] Strings is also a rock and metal fan, influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Widespread Panic, Phish, Grateful Dead, Def Leppard, Between the Buried and Me, and Black Sabbath, and played in hard rock and indie rock bands in his teens.[3][7]

Apostol got his stage name Billy Strings from his aunt, who saw his ability on multiple traditional bluegrass instruments.[8]


Beginnings and Turmoil & Tinfoil (2012-2019)Edit

In 2012, Don Julin, a mandolin player from Traverse City, Michigan, and author of Mandolin For Dummies, asked Strings to join him on a paying gig. The partnership lasted for the next four years.

Photo by Jesse Faatz (September 2021)

Rolling Stone magazine named Strings one of the Top Ten New Country Artists to Know in 2017.[1] On February 12, 2018, Rolling Stone published an article entitled "Bluegrass Prodigy Billy Strings Plots 2018 Spring Tour," saying, "Billy Strings doesn't have any trouble living up to his name. [He is] one of the latest breakneck guitar pickers to emerge in the bluegrass world."[9] The International Bluegrass Music Association awarded him with the 2016 Momentum Award for Instrumentalist of the year.[10] Bluegrass Situation named him a scene tastemaker in 2016.[10] Lisa Snedeker of HuffPost proclaimed Turmoil and Tinfoil as one of the best albums of 2017, writing, "in September it charted at No. 3 on the Billboard Bluegrass charts. ‘Nuff said.".[11] In March 2018, Rolling Stone released Strings' debut music video Dealing Despair from his album Turmoil & Tinfoil.[12] He planned to play over 200 shows in 2018.[13]

He has been invited to play on stage with artists including Dierks Bentley,[14] Del McCoury, Bill Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, David Grisman, Larry Keel, Sam Bush,[15] The Marcus King Band,[16] Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters,[17] The String Cheese Incident, Leftover Salmon, Widespread Panic and more. He has performed at festivals including Hookahville, Blue Ox, Pickathon, Merlefest, DelFest, High Sierra Music Festival, Lollapalooza, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, John Hartford Memorial Festival,[18] Aiken Bluegrass Festival, Appaloosa Music Festival, Wheatland Music Festival, Red Wing Roots Music Festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Rooster Walk, French Broad River Festival, Makers Trail Festival, Under the Big Sky Festival, and the All Good Presents 4848 Festival. At Grey Fox, he served as their very first artist in residence in 2017 and 2018.[19][20] Strings has appeared on famous PBS musical TV programs Austin City Limits and Bluegrass Underground.[21] He has toured with Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, I'm With Her, Cabinet and others.[10][22]

Photo by Jesse Faatz (2021)

In February 2017, Billy was named one of the six new rising stars of bluegrass by Acoustic Guitar magazine.[23] He also collaborated with Molly Tuttle on the songs "Sittin' on Top of the World" and "Billy in the Lowground."

Strings at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival, 2017

In March 2018, PBS announced that Billy was to be the inaugural performer at the new cave for the renowned series Bluegrass Underground in the caverns of Pelham, Tennessee.[24][25]

Home and Renewal (2019-2021)Edit

In January 2019, Rolling Stone wrote an article entitled "Why Guitarist Billy Strings Is the Bluegrass Star You Don't Want to Miss."[26] He was signed to Rounder Records in June 2019.[27] Strings released his album, Home (produced and engineered by: Glenn Brown) under the label on September 27, 2019.[28] It became his most successful release yet, reaching number one on the Heatseekers Albums and Bluegrass Albums charts. He also debuted at No. 11 on the Emerging Artists Chart.[29] On September 26, 2019, Billy Strings was voted the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year in Raleigh, North Carolina.

His album Home won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

His touring band consists of Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), and Alex Hargreaves (fiddle).

In 2021 he joined Bill Kreutzmann's Billy & the Kids for a number of shows, along with James Casey (saxophone).

As a solo artist he was inter alia part of the Newport Folk Festival in July 2021.[30] On September 24, 2021, he released his third studio album, entitled Renewal.[31][32]

Me/And/Dad (2022-present)Edit

At the 2022 International Bluegrass Music Awards, Strings was nominated for six awards. For the second straight year, He won for Entertainer of the Year while "Red Daisy" won Song of the Year.[33]

On October 3, 2022, Strings announced his forthcoming album Me/And/Dad is a project with his father Terry Barber.[34] Though not his biological father, he is a father to Strings as he credits Barber with raising him.

"Terry raised me and taught me how to wipe my ass, tie my shoes, and play guitar. That’s my fucking dad."[34]

The album is a collection of traditional, country and bluegrass music from George Jones, Doc Watson, Hank Thompson, A.P. Carter, and others. The album is set for release on November 18. The same day as the album was announced, "Long Journey Home"/"Life to Go" was released as a two-song single. Barber takes the lead vocal on the Jones-written song "Life to Go."[34]


Billy Strings discography
Studio albums3
Music videos8
As featured artist4
Collaboration albums3
Other appearances4


Studio albumsEdit

Title Album details Peak chart position Sales




Turmoil and Tinfoil[40] 3 18
  • Released: September 27, 2019
  • Label: Rounder
  • Format: Digital download, streaming
41 11 1 1
  • Released: September 24, 2021
  • Label: Rounder
  • Format: Digital download, streaming
82 9 4 1
"—" denotes single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


Title Album details Peak chart position
Rock of Ages
(with Don Julin)
Fiddle Tune X[43]
(with Don Julin)
  • Released: October 1, 2014
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: Digital download
(with Terry Barber)[34]
  • Released: November 18, 2022
  • Label: Rounder
  • Format: Digital download, streaming

Extended playsEdit

Title EP details Peak chart position

Billy Strings
  • Released: June 10, 2016
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: CD, digital download, streaming
Billy Strings | An OurVinyl Sessions
  • Released: 2018
  • Label: N/A
  • Format: Digital download, streaming
"—" denotes single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


As lead artistEdit

Title Year Album
"All the Luck in the World"
(with Circles Around the Sun)
2020 Highway Butterfly: The Songs of Neal Casal
"The Great Divide
(with Luke Combs)
2021 Non-album singles
(featuring RMR)
"Midnight on the Stormy Deep"
(with Del McCoury)
(with Fences)
"Fire Line" Renewal
"In the Morning Light"
"Long Journey Home"
(with Terry Barber)[34]
2022 Me/And/Dad
"Life to Go"
(with Terry Barber)[34]

As featured artistEdit

Title Year Album
"Bells of Every Chapel"
(Sierra Ferrell featuring Billy Strings)
2021 Long Time Coming
"Charm School"
(Béla Fleck featuring Chris Thile and Billy Strings)
My Bluegrass Heart
"Dooley's Farm"
(Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway featuring Billy Strings)
2022 Crooked Tree
"High Note"
(Dierks Bentley featuring Billy Strings)

Music videosEdit

Year Title Album
2019 "Away From the Mire" Home
"Must Be Seven"
2020 "Watch It Fall"
2021 "In the Morning Light" Renewal
"Heartbeat of America"
2022 "Love and Regret"
"Long Journey Home"
(with Terry Barber)
"Catch & Release"

Other appearancesEdit

Title Year Credited artist(s) Album
"Slippery Eel" 2021 Béla Fleck
(featuring Chris Thile and Billy Strings)
My Bluegrass Heart
"This Old Road" Béla Fleck
(featuring David Grisman and Billy Strings)
"Tentacle Dragon (Revenge of the)" Béla Fleck
(featuring Billy Strings)
"Road Trip"
2022 Cory Wong
(featuring Billy Strings)
Power Station

Awards and nominationsEdit

Billy Strings awards and nominations
  1. ^ Certain award groups do not simply award one winner. They recognize several different recipients, have runners-up, and have third place. Since this is a specific recognition and is different from losing an award, runner-up mentions are considered wins in this award tally. For simplification and to avoid errors, each award in this list has been presumed to have had a prior nomination.

Americana Music AwardsEdit

The Americana Music Honors & Awards are awarded annually by the Americana Music Association to honor the best in Americana and American roots music. Strings has received three nominations.[45]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2020 Emerging Artist of the Year Billy Strings Nominated
2021 Artist of the Year Nominated
2022 Won

Grammy AwardsEdit

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Strings has won 1 award from 3 nominations.[46]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2021 Best Bluegrass Album Home Won
2022 Renewal Nominated
Best American Roots Performance "Love and Regret" Nominated

International Bluegrass Music AwardsEdit

The International Bluegrass Music Awards are awarded annually by the International Bluegrass Music Association to honor the best in bluegrass. Strings has won six awards from 15 nominations.[47][48][49]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2019 New Artist of the Year Billy Strings Won
Guitar Player of the Year Won
2020 Nominated
Entertainer of the Year Nominated
Album of the Year Home Nominated
Instrumental Recording of the Year "Guitar Peace" Nominated
2021 Guitar Player of the Year Billy Strings Won
Instrumental Group of the Year Nominated
Entertainer of the Year Won
2022 Won
Guitar Player of the Year Nominated
Instrumental Group of the Year Nominated
Album of the Year Renewal Nominated
Song of the Year "Red Daisy" Won
Instrumental Recording of the Year "Ice Bridges" Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: August 2017". Rolling Stone. August 8, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  2. ^ Hudak, Joseph (June 22, 2022). "Drugs, Bluegrass, and Bass Fishing: How Billy Strings Outran His Past and Infiltrated the Mainstream". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 25, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "The Amazing Billy Strings". Northern Express.
  4. ^ "Watch Billy Strings Crush Garcia & Grisman's "Dreadful Wind & Rain"". March 23, 2018.
  5. ^ "Midwestern Gentleman - Keep Stringin': The Billy Strings Interview". December 8, 2019.
  6. ^ "Billy Strings: Just Beginning An Already Wild Ride". NPR. Archived from the original on May 19, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2018.
  7. ^ "JUMPING INTO THE DEEP END: A CONVERSATION WITH BILLY STRINGS". The Bluegrass Situation. October 18, 2017.
  8. ^ "Billy Strings Is A Fascinatingly Unpredictable Performer". Greenville Journal. May 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "Bluegrass Prodigy Billy Strings Plots 2018 Spring Tour". Rolling Stone. February 12, 2018.
  10. ^ a b c "Crossover Touring".
  11. ^ "Year in Review: Favorite musical picks for 2017". Huffington Post. January 2018.
  12. ^ "See Bluegrass Shredder Billy Strings Call Out Violent Culture in 'Dealing Despair' Video". Rolling Stone. March 13, 2018.
  13. ^ "Steeped in versatility, Billy Strings Keeps Returning to His Bluegrass Roots". Daily Progress.
  14. ^ "WMOT Fundraiser: An Evening with Dierks Bentley". March 6, 2018.
  15. ^ "Greensky Bluegrass Collaborate with Sam Bush and Billy Strings in Nashville". January 21, 2018.
  16. ^ "Marcus King & Billy Strings To Team For 'King & Strings' Set At Rooster Walk".
  17. ^ "The Infamous Stringdusters, Fruition, & More To Bring The Pickin' To Aiken Bluegrass Festival". April 13, 2017.
  18. ^ "John Hartford Memorial Festival - Previous Lineup History". Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  19. ^ "Lineup". November 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "2018 Lineup".
  21. ^ "Cave Concert Venue Gives New Meaning to Underground Music Scene". NY Post. March 21, 2018.
  22. ^ "Greensky Bluegrass & Billy Strings Take Manhattan". Jambase.
  23. ^ "Next-Gen Pickers: 6 Rising Stars are Carrying on the Bluegrass Tradition by Making It Their Own". Acoustic Guitar. February 16, 2017.
  24. ^ "First Look: Bluegrass Underground's New Home The Caverns". The Tennessean.
  25. ^ "Music and Magic in the Pelham Valley". The Grundy County Herald.
  26. ^ "Why Guitarist Billy Strings Is the Bluegrass Star You Don't Want to Miss". Rolling Stone. January 2, 2019.
  27. ^ Lawless, John (June 25, 2019). "Billy Strings to Rounder Records". Bluegrass Today.
  28. ^ a b Woodward, Garret K. (October 2, 2019). "Billy Strings Talks His Brand of Bluegrass, New Album 'Home'". Rolling Stone.
  29. ^ Zellne, Xander (October 9, 2019). "Billy Strings, Dayseeker and Temples Debut On Emerging Artists Chart". Billboard.
  30. ^ "Newport Folk Festival stage schedule 2021". Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  31. ^ "New album #RENEWAL out September 24. Preorder now".
  32. ^ "Grammy Winning Bluegrass Artist Billy Strings Has A New Album". Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  33. ^ Grein, Paul (September 30, 2022). "Billy Strings, Béla Fleck, Dolly Parton Win Big at 2022 IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards: Winners List". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  34. ^ a b c d e f Freeman, Jon (October 3, 2022). "Billy Strings Picks and Sings With His Father on New Album 'Me/And/Dad'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  35. ^ a b "Billy Strings Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  36. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Country Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  37. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Americana/Folk Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Billy Strings Chart History: Bluegrass Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  39. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  40. ^ "Turmoil & Tinfoil track debut from Billy Strings - Bluegrass Today". July 27, 2017.
  41. ^ Bjorke, Matt (March 10, 2020). "Top 10 Country Albums Pure Sales Chart: March 9, 2020". RoughStock. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  42. ^ "Renewal [Explicit]". Amazon.
  43. ^ "Fiddle Tune X". Amazon.
  44. ^ @billboardcharts (November 28, 2022). "Debuts on this week's #Billboard200 (2/3)..." (Tweet). Retrieved November 29, 2022 – via Twitter.
  45. ^ "Awards".
  46. ^ "Billy Strings". Recording Academy Grammy Awards. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  47. ^ "IBMA Awards 2019: See the Winners". September 27, 2019.
  48. ^ "IBMA Awards 2021: See the Full List of Winners". October 2021.
  49. ^ "2022 IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards nominees announced". July 26, 2022.

External linksEdit