Billy Strings

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Billy Strings
Strings in 2023
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Lee Apostol
Born (1992-10-03) October 3, 1992 (age 31)
Lansing, Michigan, U.S.
  • Guitar
  • banjo
Years active2013–present
Spouse(s)Ally Apostol (m. 2023)

Billy Strings (born William Lee Apostol, October 3, 1992) is an American guitarist and bluegrass musician.[1] His album Home won the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2021.

Early life[edit]

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 whom Strings regards as his father. The family later moved to Morehead, Kentucky, and then to Muir, Michigan. While he was still a preteen, his parents became addicted to methamphetamine. He left the family home at the age of 13 and went through a period of hard-drug usage. His family eventually achieved sobriety; Billy stopped using hard drugs and drinking alcohol, becoming "California Sober" and consuming only cannabis and similar "light drugs" (ie psychedelics).[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]

Billy Strings in 2019

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.

Rolling Stone named Strings one of the Top Ten New Country Artists to Know in 2017.[1] On February 12, 2018, Rolling Stone published an article titled "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 Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award in 2016.[10] Bluegrass Situation named him a scene tastemaker in 2016.[10] Lisa Snedeker of HuffPost proclaimed Turmoil & 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 for his song "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, Tool, and more. He has performed at festivals including Frankfort Bluegrass Festival (Frankfort, IL), 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] Of those bands he played with early in his career, he has cited Greensky Bluegrass specifically as a major influence and his "favorite band."[23]

Billy Strings in 2023

In February 2017, Strings was named one of the six new rising stars of bluegrass by Acoustic Guitar.[24] 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 Strings was to be the inaugural performer at the new cave for the renowned series Bluegrass Underground in the caverns of Pelham, Tennessee.[25][26]

Home and Renewal (2019-2021)[edit]

In January 2019, Rolling Stone wrote an article titled "Why Guitarist Billy Strings Is the Bluegrass Star You Don't Want to Miss."[27] He was signed to Rounder Records in June 2019.[28] Strings released his album Home (produced and engineered by Glenn Brown) under the label on September 27, 2019.[29] It became his most successful release yet, reaching No. 1 on the Heatseekers Albums and Bluegrass Albums charts, as well as debuting at No. 11 on the Emerging Artists Chart.[30] 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.

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 part of the Newport Folk Festival in July 2021.[31] On September 24, 2021, he released his third studio album, Renewal.[32][33]

Me/And/Dad (2022-present)[edit]

Billy Strings' touring band was expanded from a quartet to a five piece when frequent guest fiddler Alex Hargreaves was asked to become a permanent member during a show in Baltimore on July 3, 2022.[34] The band consists of Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), Jarrod Walker (mandolin) and Alex Hargreaves (fiddle).

At the 2022 International Bluegrass Music Awards, Strings was nominated for six awards, winning Entertainer of the Year for the second consecutive year, while "Red Daisy" won Song of the Year.[35]

On October 3, 2022, Strings announced the album Me/And/Dad, a project with his father Terry Barber.[36] While Barber is not his biological father, Strings 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."[36]

The album is a collection of traditional, country and bluegrass music from George Jones, Doc Watson, Hank Thompson, A.P. Carter and others, and was released in November 2022. The same day 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."[36]


Billy Strings discography
Studio albums3
Music videos10
As featured artist7
Collaboration albums3
Other appearances4


Studio albums[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart position Sales




Turmoil & Tinfoil[42] 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 album 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[45]
(with Don Julin)
  • Released: October 1, 2014
  • Label: Self-released
  • Format: Digital download
(with Terry Barber)
  • Released: November 18, 2022
  • Label: Rounder
  • Format: Digital download, streaming

Extended plays[edit]

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 artist[edit]

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)[36]
2022 Me/And/Dad
"Life to Go"
(with Terry Barber)[36]
"California Sober
(featuring Willie Nelson)[47]
2023 Non-album single

As featured artist[edit]

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)
Gravel & Gold
"For Your Love"
(Michael Cleveland featuring Jeff White and Billy Strings)
2023 For Your Love
"Muscle Car"
(Andy Hall featuring Billy Strings)[48]
Squareneck Soul
"Brown Ferry Blues"
(Terry Trischka featuring Billy Strings)[49]
2024 Earl Jam: A Tribute to Earl Scruggs

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Album
2019 "Away From the Mire" Home
"Must Be Seven"
2020 "Home"
"Watch It Fall"
2021 "In the Morning Light" Renewal
"Heartbeat of America"
2022 "Love and Regret"
"Long Journey Home"
(with Terry Barber)
"Catch & Release"
2023 "California Sober"
(featuring Willie Nelson)

Other appearances[edit]

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 nominations[edit]

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 Awards[edit]

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 two wins from four nominations.[50]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2020 Emerging Artist of the Year Billy Strings Nominated
2021 Artist of the Year Nominated
2022 Won
2023 Won

Grammy Awards[edit]

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Strings has one win from six nominations.[51]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2021 Best Bluegrass Album Home Won
2022 Renewal Nominated
Best American Roots Performance "Love and Regret" Nominated
2024 "California Sober"
(featuring Willie Nelson)
Best Bluegrass Album Me/And/Dad Nominated
Best Country Duo/Group Performance "High Note"
(Dierks Bentley featuring Billy Strings)

International Bluegrass Music Awards[edit]

The International Bluegrass Music Awards are awarded annually by the International Bluegrass Music Association to honor the best in bluegrass. Strings has won seven[52] awards from 16 nominations.[53][54][55]

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
2023 Entertainer of the Year Billy Strings Won


  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. May 2, 2018.
  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. ^ "Billy Strings breaks away from his mentor and is set to take his new band to the 'stratosphere'". Marquee Magazine. February 1, 2018.
  24. ^ "Next-Gen Pickers: 6 Rising Stars are Carrying on the Bluegrass Tradition by Making It Their Own". Acoustic Guitar. February 16, 2017.
  25. ^ "First Look: Bluegrass Underground's New Home The Caverns". The Tennessean.
  26. ^ "Music and Magic in the Pelham Valley". The Grundy County Herald. October 6, 2023.
  27. ^ "Why Guitarist Billy Strings Is the Bluegrass Star You Don't Want to Miss". Rolling Stone. January 2, 2019.
  28. ^ Lawless, John (June 25, 2019). "Billy Strings to Rounder Records". Bluegrass Today.
  29. ^ a b Woodward, Garret K. (October 2, 2019). "Billy Strings Talks His Brand of Bluegrass, New Album 'Home'". Rolling Stone.
  30. ^ Zellne, Xander (October 9, 2019). "Billy Strings, Dayseeker and Temples Debut On Emerging Artists Chart". Billboard.
  31. ^ "Newport Folk Festival stage schedule 2021". Newport Folk. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  32. ^ "New album #RENEWAL out September 24. Preorder now".
  33. ^ "Grammy Winning Bluegrass Artist Billy Strings Has A New Album". Retrieved September 28, 2021.
  34. ^ "Billy Strings Makes Alex Hargreaves Official Band Member". Retrieved September 21, 2023.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ a b "Billy Strings Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  38. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Country Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  39. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Americana/Folk Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  40. ^ a b "Billy Strings Chart History: Bluegrass Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  41. ^ "Billy Strings Chart History: Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2021.
  42. ^ "Turmoil & Tinfoil track debut from Billy Strings - Bluegrass Today". July 27, 2017.
  43. ^ Bjorke, Matt (March 10, 2020). "Top 10 Country Albums Pure Sales Chart: March 9, 2020". RoughStock. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
  44. ^ "Renewal [Explicit]". Amazon.
  45. ^ "Fiddle Tune X". Amazon.
  46. ^ @billboardcharts (November 28, 2022). "Debuts on this week's #Billboard200 (2/3)..." (Tweet). Retrieved November 29, 2022 – via Twitter.
  47. ^ Willman, Chris (April 27, 2023). "Billy Strings and Willie Nelson Commit to Going 'California Sober' in Duet Released for Willie's Birthday". Variety. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  48. ^ Lawless, John (June 1, 2023). "Muscle Car from Andy Hall, with Billy Strings". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  49. ^ Hudak, Joseph (January 12, 2024). "Hear Billy Strings Join Banjo Great Tony Trischka on a Fiery Salute to Earl Scruggs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 14, 2024.
  50. ^ "Awards".
  51. ^ "Billy Strings". Recording Academy Grammy Awards. Retrieved February 5, 2024.
  52. ^ "Awards". Retrieved October 24, 2023.
  53. ^ "IBMA Awards 2019: See the Winners". September 27, 2019.
  54. ^ "IBMA Awards 2021: See the Full List of Winners". October 2021.
  55. ^ "2022 IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards nominees announced". July 26, 2022.

External links[edit]