It’s hard to deny that Billy Strings is one of the hottest artists in the bluegrass world today. Ask a millennial who is new to bluegrass, country, or roots music who brought them in. A majority of them will probably point to this Michigan-born picking prodigy. For years, Strings and his band have been ambassadors for roots music. Now, his signal is getting a little more powerful. Last night, Billy Strings made his Late Show with Stephen Colbert debut and brought bluegrass to the masses.
In the past couple of years, Strings and his band have been playing for increasingly larger audiences. Currently, they’re packing amphitheaters across the country as well as across the pond. However, appearances like his Late Show debut give Billy Strings an even bigger audience.
The studio audience contains a little over 400 people. However, nearly 2 million people tune in to watch Stephen Colbert every night. As a result, Billy and the boys probably earned a good number of new fans with their appearance on the show. More importantly, they’ve introduced even more people to the thriving American art form that is bluegrass. Check out the killer performance below.
Billy Strings Captivates Late Show Audience with ‘Know It All’
Billy Strings hit the Late Show audience with the album opener from his latest release Renewal. “Know It All” is a great introduction to Strings and the band. For one, it showcases the introspective songwriting that is, to me, the hallmark of Renewal. On top of that, it’s just a great bluegrass tune. The lyrics might be a little more vulnerable than ones you’d find in traditional ‘grass, but the musicianship here would make Bill Monroe beam with pride.
The best part of the performance comes around two-and-a-half minutes into the song. Billy Failing kicks off a line of solos with a killer banjo break. Then, Jarrod Walker lays down a blazing mandolin solo before kicking it over to Billy for a guitar break. Alex Hargreaves caps it off with a fiddle solo that surprised even Failing. In many genres, musicians will write their solos ahead of time. They’ll have every note memorized long before it is time to hit the stage or studio. However, improvisation is at the heart of bluegrass. So, we’re seeing Billy Strings and his band improvise for the millions of people in the Late Show audience.
Strings Is No Stranger to Late-Night TV
Sure, this is the first time that Billy Strings and the boys graced the Late Show stage. However, it isn’t his first time in front of a late-night talk show audience. Strings and company have brought their instantly-recognizable strain of ‘grass to the Jimmy Kimmel Live audience a couple of times.
First, he played “Taking Water” from the Station Inn in Nashville for Kimmel’s audience back in the summer of 2020. More recently, Billy and the boys took the Kimmel stage to play “Red Daisy” from Renewal back in October of last year.
These late-night talk shows have the potential to introduce Billy Strings to a whole new audience. He’s come a long way from the YouTube video that brought him to countless fans’ attention. For the sake of nostalgia, check out the infamous “Dust in a Baggie” video below.