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Billy McLaughlin, of Irish ancestry, graduated with honors from the University of Southern California. He is one of nine children. McLaughlin now resides in his home state of Minnesota where he is raising his two boys. In 2005 Billy announced via his website that he is suffering from focal dystonia, which severely limits his ability to play. He began teaching himself to play his distinctive hammering style "left-handed," with the neck of the guitar toward his right shoulder. A documentary entitled "Changing Keys" was made about this phase of his career. He returned to performing publicly in 2006 both solo and with his band. During his December 2006 concerts with Simple Gifts, the sextet he formed in 2002 to play Christmas music, he performed the hammering style left-handed and more traditional strumming style right-handed, using separate sets of guitars tuned for the manner in which he was playing. Also, McLaughlin released a new album, entitled "Into the Light", in early 2007. This album was recorded live and features some new compositions as well as old favorites like "Fingerdance" and "Helms Place".