Billy Strings is one of the hottest names in bluegrass today. Even those who aren’t ‘grass fans know his name. His laid-back demeanor, striking lyrics, face-melting live sets, and lightning-fast guitar playing made him a musical sensation. Most fans know that Strings learned to play guitar from his dad, Terry Barber. On his next album ME/AND/DAD, Billy and Terry recorded a handful of songs that they’ve been playing together for years.
It’s easy to picture a happy upbringing for Billy Strings. Barber married Billy’s mom and raised him like his own. He not only taught him to play guitar but put him in the middle of the central Michigan bluegrass scene. It sounds almost idyllic. However, there was much more to the story of Strings’ childhood. He shared some of the details on CBS Sunday Morning.
Billy Strings Sheds Light on His Past
During the interview, Billy Strings looked back on the nights when they would play bluegrass all night. “My dad was the life of the party,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Man, that’s what I want to do.’” However, as he got a little older, he started to realize that the nonstop party in his trailer park came with consequences.
“Somewhere, those parties started to get a little darker. People started going to jail. As a little kid, it was like, ‘What’s going on?’” By the time Billy Strings was a young teenager, his parents had fallen into methamphetamine addiction. As a result, he left home at the age of 13. At the time, it was the best thing he could do for himself. “It just felt like if I was there, I was going to become an addict or go to prison or end up dead somehow,” Strings explained.
Billy Strings said his parents have been sober for about ten years. “I talk about this stuff sometimes and I worry that it will make my parents look bad or something,” he said. “But like, it’s really a success story.”
As the Sunday Mornings feature points out, Strings sang about those days in “Taking Water” from his 2017 album Home. Lines like “Nothing left but memories / Of things I still can’t stand to see,” hit a little harder in this context.
Strings Is Done Living in the Past
Billy Strings revealed that he has spent too long living in the past. He’s done with that, now. “I’ve been looking in the rearview mirror dwelling on the past. Dwelling on the years I lost with my folks. Dwelling on the poverty I endured or whatever. I’m finally getting to a point now where I’m starting to gaze through the windshield instead. I’m not worried about what’s behind me or ahead, really. Just going for a cruise.”