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Interview:
Billy Strings at the Flagstar Strand, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Billy Strings is becoming a name for bluegrass fans in the know.



The Ionia native, who now lives in Nashville, has released an EP and an album -- last year's "Turmoil & Tinfoil," which debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Bluegrass chart -- and has made a name for himself with heavy touring. He's bubbling under the big names in the genre but is clearly an up-and-comer who's being watched closely.



Big things are expected from Strings because of that, of course, but the 26-year-old is well up to the challenge -- and even looking forward to it as he wraps up his year with a three-show run at the Flagstar Strand Theatre in Pontiac...



Fifteen months after "Turmoil & Tinfoil's" release, Strings says by phone that, "I didn't know we were making that record when we were making it. I'd never made a record that I was really proud of or anything, but his record I sort of am. We made it and a year has gone by and we're still playing the songs, and the songs have taken on new life live, on stage. So I'm happy with it."



As for the songs' new life, Strings explains that, "We improvise a lot during our show, and I think hat happens is you play them for audiences all the time and night after night you try new, little things. And if something happens on stage that's never happened before we all look at each other and go, 'Whoa! That was cool!' Then the next night you might remember that cool thing that happened and try to get back there. So after doing that for awhile these songs take on entirely new riffs and new musical ideas and everything, and they get really fresh for us and the audience."



Strings grew up in a musical household -- his father was a guitar player and singer as well -- which inspired him to try his hand at it. "When I was little I would watch my dad play and see the joy it brought people, and I realized that's what I wanted to do. I never thought I'd really amount to anything, to be honest, 'cause I never thought of music as something you could make living on. It's just something I did around the house with my dad and with friends, just an everyday part of life. About 2011 I began to think that maybe I could do it as a living. I was working at hotel and doing gigs at other places on the side, and I eventually started getting so many gigs I had to quit my job."



Strings has "a batch of tunes" ready for his sophomore album, with plans to record with producer Glenn Brown (of Greensky Bluegrass) during January in Nashville. "Now that we've got a little money we can spend on a nicer studio and stuff, so that's what were' going to do. It'll probably come out in the fall, and I think it's kind of where 'Turmoil & Tinfoil' left off -- and maybe just a step up from that."



Strings is looking forward to his Pontiac run and finishing the year a little closer to home. "I'm always excited to be back in Michigan to play. That's where I'm from and where all the folks have encouraged me and put me in this little rickety boat off to sea and said 'Go, Billy. You can make it!' Whenever I get to come back and play for my folks back home I'm really, really grateful, and we'll try to do three nights without repeating a single song -- and that's with two sets a night."



Billy Strings performs at 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 29-30, 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31 -- at the Flagstar Strand Theatre, 12 N. Saginaw St., Pontiac. $29.50. flagstarstrandtheatrepontiac.com.

Web Site: www.flagstarstrandtheatrepontiac.com

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