WATCH: Billy Strings Talks About the ‘Magic’ of Music and Songwriting After His ‘Austin City Limits’ Debut

by Clayton Edwards

Billy Strings has been making a name for himself over the past few years. His album 2019 album Home won a Grammy Award, he’s taken home several trophies from the International Bluegrass Music Association, and has played all over the world. It seems like the Michigan-born flatpicking prodigy’s star continues to rise. Last year, Strings made his Austin City Limits debut.

The episode of ACL featuring Billy Strings and Sarah Jarosz premiered on October 23rd, 2021. However, they recorded their performances earlier in the year. After playing a full set in front of a packed house for the first time in what must have felt like ages, Strings sat down for an interview. He and ACL executive producer Terry Lickona discussed a wide range of topics. At one point, Billy talked about how important music and songwriting are to him.

Billy Strings on Songwriting

Billy Strings doesn’t just play guitar like he was born to do it. He also writes and composes his own songs. During the ACL interview, Strings revealed that he started writing songs when he was a teenager. “About the time I was like 16 or something I maybe picked up a pen and started messing around. I wrote one little song. I was up all night one night and I just started writing this song. That one never went anywhere. But, the very next song that I wrote – which was actually a couple of years later, I was like 19 by this time – was ‘Dust in a Baggie.’”

Billy Strings based that song on a guy he grew up playing guitar with. He ended up going to jail for a quarter-gram of methamphetamine. During the interview, Strings talks about that and adds that he saw a lot of that growing up. His songs reflect his life experience.

About his songwriting, Billy Strings said, “There’s a lot of honesty in there. And, a lot of personal stuff that’s honestly kind of therapeutic to put it in there.” Then, he pointed to an example. Strings said that he wrote “Away from the Mire” because Billy was mad at his brother and wanted to convey his message through song. Later, though, Strings realized that he needed to hear those words as well.

The “Magic” of Music

Even though many of Billy Strings’ songs are deeply personal, they still resonate with his fans. They’ve either gone through similar things or interpreted his words in a way that matches their stories. “Sometimes little things relate and that’s how you really touch somebody. There’s that little bit of magic that music has that we’re all kind of wondering how to achieve and we’re all kind of wondering what is that? What is that in music that can make me bust out laughing or shed a tear?”