Will Oldham

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Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Bonnie prince billy.jpg
Will Oldham, June 6, 2009
Background information
Birth name William Oldham
Also known as Palace Brothers
Palace Music
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Born (1970-12-24) December 24, 1970 (age 45)
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Origin Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Genres Folk, alternative country, country
Years active 1993–present
Labels Drag City, Domino, Spunk
Associated acts Dawn McCarthy, The Cairo Gang, Matt Sweeney, Mick Turner, Tortoise, Trembling Bells, Harem Scarem, The Picket Line, Alex Neilson
Website www.bonnieprincebilly.com

Will Oldham (born December 24, 1970), better known by the stage name Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, is an American singer-songwriter and actor. From 1993 to 1997, he performed and recorded under variations of the Palace name, including the Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music. After releasing material under his own name, he adopted the "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" moniker for the majority of his output since 1998.


Oldham was born on December 24, 1970, in Louisville, Kentucky.[1] Oldham lived in Louisville until he graduated high school in 1988. After graduating from high school, Oldham briefly attended Brown University.[2] He attended Brown University periodically amidst his career in music and film.


Oldham is known for his "do-it-yourself punk aesthetic and blunt honesty,"[3] and his music has been likened to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock. He has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist",[3] with a voice that has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition."[3]

Will Oldham first performed and recorded under various permutations of the Palace name, including Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace Music, and simply Palace. Regarding the name changes during this period (1993–1997), Oldham said:

Beginning in 1998, Oldham has primarily used the moniker Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, which draws inspiration from several sources:

Oldham has explained that "the primary purpose of the pseudonym is to allow both the audience and the performer to have a relationship with the performer that is valid and unbreakable."[5]


Studio albums[edit]


Some of his albums, such as There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You (1993),[7] Viva Last Blues (1995),[8] and I See a Darkness (1999),[9][10][11] have appeared on greatest albums lists.

He is mentioned in the lyrics of the Biffy Clyro song "Saturday Superhouse" and is the main character in the song "Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror" by New York anti-folk artist Jeffrey Lewis.

The song "Emerging From Gorse" by Half Man Half Biscuit includes lyrics that describe the narrator's sister mocking him for listening to "Palace Brothers, Bonnie Prince Billy, that kind of thing".[12]

Johnny Cash recorded a version of "I See a Darkness" on his American Recordings disc, American III: Solitary Man (2000). Oldham provided backing vocals.

Marianne Faithfull included Oldham's A King at Night on her 2003 Kissin Time tour.

Steve Adey also covered "I See a Darkness" on his 2006 LP All Things Real.

Mark Kozelek recorded a version of Oldham's "New Partner" on his 2008 disc, The Finally LP.

Katatonia covered "Oh How I Enjoy the Light" on their 2001 EP Tonight's Music.

In 2009 Mark Lanegan and Soulsavers recorded a cover version of "You Will Miss Me When I Burn". The release is a split single, backed with the Lanegan penned "Sunrise" featuring vocals by Oldham.

In 2011, Deer Tick's cover of Oldham's song "Death to Everyone" appeared in an episode of Hell On Wheels.

Cadaverous Condition covered "Black" on their To The Night Sky album (2006).


Will Oldham began his acting career at the age of 17, when he portrayed a teen preacher in John Sayles's film about an Appalachian mining community, Matewan (1987). Oldham moved to Hollywood to pursue acting in the late 1980s,[13] and landed roles in a couple of films. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the film industry and quit in 1989.[14] He has since had several minor roles in independent films, such as Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), Junebug (2005), and The Guatemalan Handshake (2006). Oldham took a lead role in Old Joy, which was featured at SXSW XX and opened at New York's Film Forum on September 20, 2006. During this time, Will Oldham also played the role of a preacher in the "Horse Apples" special of WonderShowzen in series 2 of the show. In 2007, Oldham starred alongside Zach Galifianakis in the alternate music video for Kanye West's Can't Tell Me Nothing.[15] In 2009, he was the narrator of "Madam and Little Boy", a documentary film about atomic weapons directed by Swedish artist Magnus Bärtås. In 2010, Oldham had a small part in Jackass 3D as a gorilla trainer. Oldham revealed that he had to write a theme song in the style of a Saturday morning cartoon show for filmmaker Lance Bangs' life to get the role.[16]



Will Oldham shot the black-and-white cover photograph of Slint's 1991 album Spiderland. The photo depicts members of the band treading water in the lake of an abandoned quarry.[17]

Oldham also featured as guest aesthetic designer for the North American literary magazine Zoetrope All Story (vol 11, no 1) in 2007. In a note contained in the issue, he jokes that it would be "really magnificent to imagine this issue as a cocktail party at which all of the contributors, word and image, are present. add a bowl of keys and some mushroom cookies and i am there."


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (May 27, 2011). "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  2. ^ Derek Walmsley (March 14, 2013). "Exclusive Bonnie 'Prince' Billy Interview". The Wire. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Baldwin, C. (March 28, 2002). "The Wanderer". Chico News & Review. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Ashare, Matt (January 20, 2003). "Mystery Man: Palace Brother Will Oldham becomes Bonnie 'Prince' Billy". The Phoenix. Retrieved May 9, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" (PDF). Foggy Notion. April 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 10, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  6. ^ Knott, Alex. (April 30, 2012) Bonnie 'Prince' Billy announced new EP, book + reissue of 6 LP's | Music News. Frost Magazine. Retrieved on 2012-05-04.
  7. ^ Irvin, Jim; Colin McLear (2003). The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion (3rd ed.). Canongate. p. 585. ISBN 1-84195-438-1. 
  8. ^ LeMay, Matt (November 17, 2003). "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  9. ^ Irvin, Jim; Colin McLear (2003). The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion (3rd ed.). Canongate. p. 651. ISBN 1-84195-438-1. 
  10. ^ Bowers, William (November 17, 2003). "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  11. ^ Dimery, Robert (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe. p. 854. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  12. ^ ""Emerging From Gorse" - Lyrics and Videos". The Half Man Half Biscuit Lyrics Project. Retrieved September 29, 2014. 
  13. ^ Roberts, Randall (June 3, 2009). "Will Oldham's Trouble with Hollywood". Dallas Observer. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 
  14. ^ Byck, Peter (February 4, 2006). "Oldham journeys back into acting". Scene. p. 5. Archived from the original on July 10, 2007. Retrieved May 8, 2007. 
  15. ^ The Kanye West/Will Oldham/Zach Galifianakis Collabo You Never Saw Coming. Wired.com (July 25, 2007). Retrieved on 2012-08-23.
  16. ^ Will Oldham Discusses Jackass 3D, Working on 'Blueprints' for New Album. Buzzgrinder.com (March 9, 2011). Retrieved on 2012-05-04.
  17. ^ McCarthy, Shannon. "Slint Lyrics and Biography" Musicianguide.com. Retrieved on November 25, 2007.

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