Telluride Bluegrass: Billy Strings, FirstGrass & Thursday

Telluride Bluegrass: Billy Strings, FirstGrass & Thursday

The 45th Annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival takes place June 21-June 24. The event is completely sold out. But tune in to the live Festival stream at And learn more about other Planet Bluegrass festivals at

On Wednesday, June 20, Telluride Bluegrass invites everyone to board the free gondola from Telluride up to Mountain Village for a FREE outdoor show, FirstGrass, in the inspiring Sunset Plaza, 5-8 p.m. Two of the most exciting young artists in the progressive bluegrass scene are featured: Billy Strings opens, followed by the 2016 Telluride band contest winners The Lil Smokies.

Billy Strings also performs on the Main Stage, opening day, Thursday, June 21, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m.

Please scroll down to listen to a podcast featuring Billy Strings.

At the end of his debut set at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the 2018 FirstGrass Concert in Mountain Village, June 20, 5 – 8 p.m., then again close to 2:45 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, on the Main Stage in Telluride’s Town Park, he is likely to play “Meet Me At The Creek,” his closer for some years now and one of the songs on his debut release, “Turmoil & Tinfoil.”

The one he claims to have written because, as he told American Songwriter, “I grew up right on the Maple River in Muir, Michigan. Sometimes when I was having a rough day I would wander alone by the river and just let the sound of the flowing water calm me down…”

By then, however, his electrifying persona, manic flat-picking and heart-rending lyrics – tales of incarceration, racism, and turmoil – should have you out of your seat dancing and in the young man’s pocket.

Because the musician currently known as Billy Strings has very quickly developed a reputation as one of the most remarkable young roots guitarists in the world. Also arguably the poster child for the future of bluegrass music, his signature sound revealing a reverence for earlier legends, but layered with the intensity of hard rock and the energy of an intensely committed 20-something to “Doin’ Things Right.”

Brian Eyster, marketing guru, Planet Bluegrass affirms:“With his virtuosic, ultra-clean picking and heartfelt reverence for legends like Doc Watson, Billy is the guitar hero everyone is talking about. But it’s Billy’s youthful head-banging energy that elevates that talk to a full-on scream. As the artist who will play the first notes of the 45th Telluride Bluegrass (at FirstGrass), Billy’s guitar will be pointed strongly toward the Festival’s future and the thrilling times to come.”

“The head-banging speed of a thrash metal band channeled through flat-picked guitar and mandolin, with a touch of end-of-the-world psychedelia,” said Rolling Stone of Strings’ sound.

Born William Apostol in small town Michigan, Billy Strings worshiped his dad, Terry Barber, an amateur bluegrass picker who bought him his first guitar when he was a stripling of four.

In middle school, Strings played in a metal band that allegedly jumped all over the stage, kicked each other and spat at the audience.

Blame it on testosterone.

By high school, however, blame it on the drugs.

Strings went down a rabbit hole.

It was his love for bluegrass that pulled him out.

Bluegrass and a mentor with whom he performed for awhile until Strings decided to fly solo and head for Nashville.

That was early 2016.

Turmoil & Tinfoil, released in 2017, was produced by Glenn Brown, who also produces recordings for Telluride regulars, Greensky Bluegrass.

Tunes from Turmoil & Tinfoil, which will fill Strings’ Telluride Bluegrass, tap into a deep vein of psychedelia in Americana, referencing everything from the Dead to Sturgill Simpson, but all underlaid by the artist’s undeniable virtuosity and his knowledge of the roots of American music.

Today Billy Strings is one of the most beloved young bluegrass guitarists within the bluegrass community. His front porch in East Nashville is constantly filled up with Nashville’s best roots musicians picking up a storm.

The tricky part of making the new album, Turmoil & Tinfoil, was allegedly translating Strings’ incendiary live show into a studio environment.

Returning to his home state of Michigan, Billy enlisted acoustic roots wizard, the aforementioned Brown as producer, and centered the music around his new band: Billy Failing (banjo); Royal Masat (bass); Jarrod Walker (mando).

Turmoil & Tinfoil debuted at #3 on the Billboard’s bluegrass charts and continues to have a seat on the bluegrass radio charts.

The freshman release has also received much critical acclaim:.

“True Weird America… living, breathing thing with the scorching technicality of speed metal or jazz and the raw ferocity of punk rock,” No Depression, by Corbie Hill.

“… while this latest effort does boast chops and energy in spades, he’s also a talented lyricist, telling honest, often painful tales about addiction, incarceration, racism, and remaining positive in the face of negativity and, of course, turmoil,” American Songwriter, by Brittney McKenna.

“Bluegrass, just like all of music, must evolve to stay relevant to modern ears. Yet doing so within the discipline where the roots of the music remain intact is the trick that takes an additional level of ingenuity and passion to accomplish. And this is what Billy Strings does with Turmoil & Tinfoil,” Saving Country Music.

Strings was also named one of Rolling Stone Country’s “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: August 2017”; received the IBMA 2016 Momentum Awards’ “Instrumentalist of the Year” (for guitar, banjo and mandolin); and was voted #1 in The Bluegrass Situation’s Top 16 of (20)16.

Obviously around Strings, there is really something really special going on.

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