Re-Billy Strings

Hey Bob

I don’t think you’ll be surprised that we’ve been fortunate enough to have hosted Billy several times at Newport Folk.  Hell, we even had him play two different sets/days last year coming out of covid. One where he played a “traditional” set dedicated to the bluegrass masters before him and one where he completely lit the stage afire with originals. In my 15 years I’ve only given 7 encores and let’s just say if I hadn’t given Billy and the boys another song last summer I wouldn’t have made it out of the fort alive. To all who bore witness it was clearly one for the books and for Newport that’s truly saying something.

But here’s the thing that needs to be said. Why Billy Strings is who he is and why he’s come to your attention in the most organic way is not simply attributable to his indisputable mastery of instrument and craft, which at his tender age is truly remarkable; it’s because of the people he keeps in his corner.

Billy Strings team is as close a tight knit crew as I’ve ever witnessed. Akin to the road crews of yore that ate, slept, shit and breathed for their artist, Billy’s team set out to build their tribe one show, one fan and one mind blow at a time. I know because six years ago in 2016 I walked out of a music industry panel I was speaking at during one of the major conferences after a sardonic, swear laden rant about the bastardization of the word “independent” and “music”. I suddenly realized Newport Folk & Jazz didn’t really fit into the festival paradigm they literally birthed and thus there was no point in trying to convince anyone of anything anymore. I was done, so I put down my mic and walked off the stage and out of the conference all together.

On the way back to the hotel, Billy’s manager, Bill Orner ran me down and  walked the ten blocks explaining his and Billy’s ethos and stratagem, which he professed mirrored what the Newport family has been striving to rebuild for over the last decade and a half.  In short, we clicked and ever since  I’m constantly impressed but not shocked that Billy, Bill, Patrick, Allyson and their entire karass have stayed tried and true to their collective vision. When boiled down it’s pretty simple: there is no higher purpose than serving the music and the community; everything else is just noise.

While actions speak louder than words, music can save your soul. Four years after we first met, right before we had to officially cancel Newport Folk in March 2020 we pulled together the meager resources we had left in our annual budget as a non-profit and created a musicians relief fund to help our artist friends who were in mounting difficulty due to the spread of the virus. It was quickly evident the pandemic was going to last more than “a few weeks”.  We opened up the simple grant process and blew through our funds in 72 hours. We thought we knew how dire it was for artists, but in truth we had no clue. We faced the gut wrenching reality that we’d have to shut it down before helping all those who needed it.

As if on cue Bill Orner called me out of the blue saying he heard what we were trying to do and the Billy Strings crew wanted to do an online campaign to give a third of all merch sales to the relief fund until we could get on our feet. The amazing amount of money raised in an incredibly short time allowed us to keep the fund going until we could regroup. Soon after countless other Newport Folk alum started pitching in and for good and bad it’s still functioning today as the relief is still needed for many. But the first artist to reach out and offer help …. Well, there is a reason Billy and crew epitomize what we call Folk Family. It’s pretty simple, there is no higher purpose than serving the music and the community; everything else is just noise.

-Rock Steady

Jay Sweet

Executive Producer / Executive Director

Newport Folk & Newport Jazz / Newport Festivals Foundation


Billy and his band are wonderfully talented, we’ve had them through the Cap numerous times for sold out, multi-night runs.  One key aspect to Billy’s development over the past few years you didn’t cover has been the overwhelming support he’s received from the Jam Band community and all the fandom that entails. This demo has a tight network of its own, and its stamp of approval still holds a strong, collective weight across multiple generations.

A Billy show comes with many of the tenets a Grateful Dead show carried in it’s day or a Widespread Panic .moe or Phish show carries today: fans traveling to multiple shows in multiple cities, early-entry rail riders, tapers, exclusive merch and posters for sale, set list scrutiny, lots of tie-dye and good vibes.

Billy surely pulls his fan base from all over the spectrum, but based on what I see when he’s here live the Jam Banders have embraced this guy and play a foundational role in his success.

Bruce Wheeler
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, NY


We’ve been working with Billy for 2-3 years now at Seated and I can say his touring success is largely due to Pat, Liz, Bill, and the amazing team surrounding him.  Since day 1, that team has truly understood the value of capturing first party data on their ticket buyers.

Before every show goes up, they capture email & phone numbers from fans who may be interested in attending.  Every presale launch then gives fans the chance to share their email & phone for early access to tickets.  Additionally, every single one of the sold out shows that you mentioned has a long waitlist of emails & phone numbers that they can then retarget with the 2nd show (or the next time he comes to town).

In a world where all your streaming data is owned by the DSPs and all of your ticket buyer data is owned by the ticketing companies and promoters, Billy’s team has spent years growing their own list and understanding their fans.

Oh and his music is pretty damn good too.

“Who is the next Strings? Someone who’s been doing it for years, practicing in the shadows, not spamming the labels to sign them for an instant hit.”

We’re seeing the same momentum with Goose.  They played Bowery Ballroom the month before the pandemic in 2020.  This month, they sold out Radio City and just put up a 2nd show.  Not all success stories can be found on the Spotify charts.

-David McKay


Billy’s agent is Pat May, co-founder of Crossover Touring. You will never meet anyone who has met Pat that wouldn’t say he’s one of their favorite people. He’s the sweetest man on the planet. Pat has been an agent for over 20 years, representing folks like David Grisman and Del McCoury, and Pat is always looking for new artists that he can take on the slow and righteous path to success. Everything you said about Billy’s career arc is the intentional artist development Pat has been building with Billy for years. He wanted people to discover this kid out of a shared love for music, not because some jockey, or playlist, or algorithm pointed them there. Every aspect of this kid’s rise is as real as it comes.

Adam King


I’m a regular reader, and I’ve never written to you. But because Billy Strings is a bluegrass artist, and I’m a lifelong bluegrass pro who served 15 years as president of the International Bluegrass Music Association, I thought I’d contribute some perspective about what makes Billy special. Several things:

* He is a for-real guitar virtuoso. Having studied Doc Watson deeply for years, his clarity and tone are a close match to Doc’s and just sounds really good even at high speeds. He’s the reigning kind of the flatpicked acoustic guitar sith technique as awesome and as flawless as they come.

* He is 100% authentic, not an easy thing to pull off in today’s big music biz. He sings and writes from the heart, and fully believes in what he’s doing. He grew up on bluegrass (as well as a high interest in metal). There’s a great YouTube of a concert of just him and his dad — an old-fashioned no-mistaking-it bluegrass guy. It’s great to see them interact.

* His band is excellent, no-b.s. bluegrass hounds, and they sing really well. At a Billy Strings show you get to hear first rate banjo picking and mandolin picking, scarcely heard on big stages since the heydays of masters like Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe.

* His music is fully accessible, easy to follow even at high speeds, and his writing is about real things, not mindless pap.

* His life story as detailed in a big NYT article is compelling, growing up in a meth household and getting into trouble while finding his own path. A very unlikely success story considering his troubled start. This helps make him interesting and an object of admiration by young and old alike. It’s natural to root for him.

* He slides easily between honest traditional bluegrass and open-ended experimental jam-grass a la Phish. Combines the clear virtuosity of bluegrass with a style that appeals to Dead types. Being invited onto shows with Bill Kreutzman has helped him widen his appeal.

* His easy facility on the guitar and his body language as he shreds is exciting to watch and is for-real, not concocted or overblown.

* Bluegrass has an honesty about it and a depth of tradition that takes exceptional skill to sell to a wide audience — and Billy’s  steeped in that tradition and can fully communicate it to people who may have no idea what bluegrass is. They just can tell it’s good and different and authentic.

There’s a YouTube of the full version of what they showed for 8 seconds on the Grammys. Great stuff. Check it out.

Bluegrass has never seen the likes of him in its 75 year history, and still in his 20s he’ll be a force for a long time to come.

Pete Wernick
“Dr. Banjo”

Bluegrass Grammy nominee

Niwot, Colorado


Billy is a phenomenon. Pure and simple. Playing with passion every day for years and then finding an audience from the ground up that just wants to experience something as a community around music. I met him and his manager a couple of years ago when they first visited Honolulu. I had reached out to his manager about possibly recording with an artist that i manage for a collaborative album with artists from various decades and styles. They said yes and were excited to stop their vacation for a few hours to play and record. First of all Billy, his girlfriend, now fiance, and his manager were wonderful people from the first second we all met. Watching Billy and Jake meet and subsequently compose and record a new song over a couple of hours was a beautiful experience. We have kept in touch and Billy invited Jake to play with him in Wilkes Barre last fall as we were in the same state touring together. Watching them on stage together play 1 then 2 songs and Billy asking Jake to play the entire second set with his incredible band was inspiring and amazing. I have seen a lot in over 55 years of concerts and 41 years in the biz but this evening was one of a kind as a fan of live music. And i have a feeling most of Billy and his bands live shows feel like one of a kind to his fans. I appreciate you writing about him and spreading the word to your readers. Everyone that follows you should check out a show. You do not have to know one song and may not but I promise you that you will absolutely love the concert experience Billy, his band, and his team bring to the stage.

Thank you Bob!

Van Fletcher
Manager-Jake Shimabukuro


Indeed, Billy’s music has always been a celebration!

We were fortunate to know him when he was still a young guy in a small town.  He played our wedding! And just a few months later put his nose to the grindstone, quit drinking, and the rest is history.

Colleen​ Wares


Yessir Bob! So amped to see the Billy Strings wave cresting wider. Here at SiriusXM we’ve been huge supporters from the beginning.

Before the Grammys and Post Malone collabs, he was in heavy rotation on Jam On and Bluegrass Junction.

We also broadcasted the Cincinnati show you mentioned live, as our first ‘Concert of the Week’ on our newest live music channel, nugsnet radio (search for it on the SXM app).

Billy’s music has been resonating for many years now, and the data we use reflected it very early on.

He’s one of the most streamed artists on nugsnet, a live music platform that also has music from Metallica, RHCP, Dead & Company, Pearl Jam, Springsteen, etc etc.

Thanks for spreading the good word.

Ari Fink



We’ve been rocking to Billy Strings here in Michigan for about 15 years now.  The first time I saw him was in my friend’s living room.  EVERYONE in that room (all 25 of us) were like……fuck! who IS this kid!?  He was about 17-18 at the time.  Just a matter of time.  A lot of it, but it was inevitable.  Love to see a kid who has continuously worked his butt off get some well-deserved recognition.  And he’s NEVER told anyone how great he is.  Super refreshing.  We’ve got a great roots scene here with a number of great writers/players.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of them as a producer here in Grand Rapids.  And Billy, while he’s been at it a while…he’s just getting started.  Cheers!

-Michael Crittenden

Mackinaw Harvest Studios

PS:  and re: Billy Strings….hats off to John Strohm at Rounder.  He truly believes in the careers of the artists he gets behind.


HI Bob
Definitely something in the water with artists doing things on their own terms.  Another act that should be on your radar if not already is Turnpike Troubadours.   Their recent tour numbers:

All headline hard ticket shows have sold out within hours (if not minutes) of the on sale:
May 14/15 – Morrison, CO (Red Rocks) – 2 nights – 18,560 – 100% sold out – Grossed $1,049,462.00
April 8/9 -Tulsa, ok – 100% sold out – 2 shows- 3400 tickets – Grossed $166,040.
April 21/22/23 – Ft. Worth , TX – 15,000 tickets – 100% sold out – Grossed – $1,320,000
May 6 – Helotes, TX – 4000 tickets – 100% sold out – grossed – $239,000
May 7 – Houston, TX – 5000 tickets – 100% sold out – grossed – $267,650

A few of their Current headline (hard ticket) shows that have yet to play (not including headline festivals)
June 10 – Council Bluff, IA – currently at 8,652 tickets sold
June 11- Waite Park, MN – sold out on on sale date- 5500 tickets
July 29,30 – Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium – both dates sold out day of on sale – 4,724 tickets
Aug 19 – St. Louis, MO – sold out within minutes – 3400 tickets
Aug 20 – Bonner Springs, KS – current ticket count at 11,500 tickets sold

This is an artist that has never had a “radio hit”.    With that said, they realistically have a 90 min set full of hits if you if you judge “a hit” by every single person at every show singing EVERY SINGLE SONG IN THE SET, WORD FOR WORD, AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE!

Random video a fan posted from Red Rocks: – the top row is as engaged as the front row.

Another random video from a fan – undeniable hit :  The Bird Hunters

This band is real and their overnight stardom has taken over 10 years.  Open invitation for you to come to any show.


As Agent for Turnpike Troubadours
Nashville, TN


I asked a friend of mine who owns a guitar shop how did the pandemic affect you. He said, “We sold three times as many guitars to ALL sexes as we did pre-pandemic.” Which means that we are going to have a lot of warm guitar players in the next few years.

Michael Des Barres.

Comments are closed