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Audio File: The rise of Billy Strings

How this newspaper became part of the story of the enthralling young bluegrass star

The year was 2014. It was a Thursday morning, if I recall correctly, and Billy Strings and his friend Don Julin were stopping by the Colorado Daily newsroom to record a few tunes for our Second Story Garage live music session videos.


I was the recording engineer and producer of the growing music video series, which was an exciting project we started in 2012, just outside the newsroom area. After scores of sessions, we began to be known in the bluegrass scene as THE place to bang out a session for YouTube if you’re in Colorado. A recording technique I came up with to satisfy the YouTube medium with just the right amount of center-focused sound for bluegrass was catching fire with the local groups and distant alike, and my partner Paul Aiken’s vivid, multi-camera take on the events had our views growing by the month.

Was that brag humble enough? Hopefully not. By 2014, in just the bluegrass genre we had recorded Greensky Bluegrass, The Deadly Gentlemen, Grammy-winner John Jorgenson’s bluegrass band, the Whiskey Shivers and most of the local outfits like The Railsplitters and Gypsy Moon, and many more I can’t remember off the top of my head. We kept it up in subsequent years with videos of greats like Yonder Mountain, Cornmeal, Jeff Austin, Larry Keel and on and on.

But back in 2014, a name like Billy Strings attached to an unrecognizable face with a big smile and an even bigger guitar captured our attention. Quite a bold name, I thought, as I set up for the session, but I liked it. I liked the laid back, quietly confident energy from this guy as he focused to stay in the zone before we were rolling.

If you search “Billy Strings Second Story Garage” in YouTube, you’ll see what happened next. Start with “Little Maggie,” which is the track we started with. By the third word of Billy’s, we knew something special was happening. You’ll see what I mean.

Well it’s been fun to watch Billy’s rise to the top, and these days he is a household name for followers of bluegrass, folk and jam genres. His willingness to grind out extended tours — in support and headlining — and collaborate or sit in with anyone, anytime, anywhere means his immense talent gets seen by as many people as possible.

Want to see a great collab of his? Search “Phoffman Beck Quartet” on the YouTubes. Neither the stage nor the fact that he’s not in the title of the group can contain the Billy Strings. His energy is bursting the seams of those videos, which feature the lead singer/mandolinist and dobro players of Greensky Bluegrass, Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck respectively, and also the son of Dawg himself, Sam Grisman on bass.

Anyway. I’m just trying to get you stoked about a guy who is leading a revival in old-time acoustic music, and whose band just released a new album. Spice up your weekend with the past-meets-future, energetic stylings of Billy Strings and band, and stream or download the new record Home wherever music is available.