- In a new interview, Billy Strings explains how he got his name from his late Aunt Mondi when she was “fixing to die.”
- Billy Strings is dominating the live music world right now, with upcoming dates in New England, Texas, Atlanta, Nashville and Michigan.
- If you haven’t caught Strings live, don’t miss it – each live show is a true hootenanny throwdown.
- Fixin’ to listen to a Billy Strings show? Re-listen to Billy Strings live via nugs.net
Billy Strings is having one heck of a good run right now.
Back in March, Billy Strings won a GRAMMY for Best Bluegrass Album, his 2019 studio effort Home. Fast forward to September, when the bluegrass phenom released his highly anticipated studio album, Renewal, available to stream on Spotify and all other music streaming platforms. This came with a string of accolades and critical praise, including a profile with New York Times about his breakout success and how he was “raised on raging, partying, playing bluegrass until 3 a.m.” That was followed by his debut on Austin City Limits. A couple of days later, Strings swung by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to perform Red Daisey, an instant-classic bluegrass anthem written by Strings’ mandolin player, Jarrod Walker with Christian Ward.
There’s no denying that Strings is slaying America right now, growing bigger and bigger. He’s finishing the year strong, with sold-out shows in Maine, Boston, Detroit, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, Nashville, and more.
For us hopeless live music junkies, boy oh boy is it fun to watch. In addition to being a master guitar player, Strings has the perfect blend of charisma, showmanship, and a damn good head on his shoulders.
Where did Billy Strings grow up?
Strings was born William Lee Apostol, hailing from the tiny Western Michigan town of Muir – population, 733. Strings was born in Lansing, Michigan and spent part of his childhood in Kentucky, but technically grew up in Muir, attending school in nearby Ionia, Michigan.
In fact, Strings recently took the time to swing by his old elementary school, Twin River Elementary School, to donate acoustic guitars to every member of the school. Strings pulled up in a U-Haul, gifting 200 guitars total, handing off each instrument personally to every student in the school.
“I used to go to this school when I was your age,” Strings told the students. “I started playing guitar and guitar has always been a really cool friend of mine, even when times were really sad. I wanted to give you guys some guitars that you could take home with you!”
“My guitar has always been there for me. Through good times, bad times, and everything in between. The guitar has taken me places that I could only dream of. My hope is that one of these guitars does the same thing for one of these kids. I look forward to coming back and seeing how these future musicians progress for years to come.”
Here’s a video of the moment – a truly thoughtful gesture.
Strings father, Billy, died from a heroin overdose when he was only two. In the Times, Strings said he grew up in “a meth house… with tweakers in my living room smoking meth one day, getting hauled off to prison for 20 years the next.”
String said music was his way out: “Music was my one opportunity — otherwise, I was going back to being a meth head, overdosing, prison. I was not going to mess this up with booze.”
How did Billy Strings get his name?
In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Strings told a wonderful story about the origins of his name.
This brings us to his Aunt. The Billy Strings name comes from his Aunt Mondi, which stuck when “she was fixing to die.”
Strings explained the origin story of his name to the Boston Globe:
Q. Your Aunt Mondi gave you the nickname “Billy Strings.” It stuck right away?
A. It didn’t really stick until much later on when she was fixing to die. I went over to see her, she got up and danced and drank a beer, smoked a joint. She said, “[Expletive] it, I’m getting ready to die, this music’s so good, I love you guys, let’s just party.” It was heavy. She died a few days later.
Strings has talked about his Aunt Mondi and her influence in the past. Previous, Strings had called his Aunt Mondi “a real spiritual, hip lady.” In an interview with Boston’s WBUR in March 2021, Strings elaborated:
Strings, born William Apostol, says his name came about from his Aunt Mondi, a woman whose vivacious life had a great impact on the young man. She dubbed him “Little Billy Strings” when he was a kid.
Mondi was on her deathbed during his teenage years, he says. On an unplanned visit to her house, he recalls how she got out of bed right away.
“And it wasn’t long before the guitars got busted out, because Mondi always wanted to hear us play,” he says. “Man, it was just this crazy thing.”
Drinks and joints were in abundance at this extemporaneous music session, he says. She had been sober for about four or five years because of her illness, he says, but nothing could stop her from indulging in the joy of a night surrounded by good company and non-stop jams.
She died shortly after that night, he says. He had just started dabbling with open mic nights, so after her death, “when I went up to the chalkboard to write my name up there, I wrote Billy Strings in her honor,” he says.
What a moving way to pay tribute to his late aunt.