Baygrass Bluegrass Festival’s most anticipated musical act, Billy Strings, is set to rock the main stage at Founders Park on Sunday, Jan. 14. After wrapping up a very busy 2017 with a New Year’s Eve show at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre, Strings said from his Nashville home, Florida doesn’t sound like a bad change of pace.

William Apostol, also known as Billy Strings, grew up with his father Terry Barber feeding him a healthy diet of bluegrass by legends Doc Watson and Bill Monroe. He picked up how to play guitar – he also plays banjo and mandolin – by ear, and in high school even played in a metal band called To Once Darkened Skies. Metal is still a big influence in his style of play, as his musical palette varies from Canadian death metal act Cryptopsy and Grateful Dead.

It was six years ago when Strings set out to make it playing bluegrass music, and by early 2016, his passion finally became a viable career option.

“I always knew that my future was in music; it just didn’t seem realistic a few years back,” he said. “I was burning the candle at both ends working at a hotel and playing gigs. It got to a point where I couldn’t do that any more, and my body said ‘no.’”

So he moved to Nashville and surrounded himself with talent.

“I was trying to find my other three Beatles,” said Strings.

The lineup for the Baygrass festival has Billy Failing on banjo, Florida native Jarrod Walker on mandolin, and filling in on bass, Adam Chaffins. Royal Masat, who normally handles bass duties, is meditating on a beach somewhere in Thailand, according to Strings.

Back in September, Strings debuted his album “Turmoil & Tinfoil” and it skyrocketed up the Billboard bluegrass music charts to number 3.

Strings attributed much of the album’s success to the time he’s dedicated to touring. Strings has been playing about 200 gigs a year for the last four years. With such a busy schedule, he’s only at home for three days at a time before leaving again, but says he appreciates visiting historic venues and sharing the stage with some of the greats.

“Four years ago, I’d be playing for like 10 people on some corner in Vermont. The next time I’d go it’d be 20. Eventually I was going to back places and it would be in the thousands,” said Strings. “I think that’s been the reason I’ve gotten such good feedback by local DJs and radio stations. I’ve toured every part of the country and put in the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 people or 10,000, I’ll try to blow those 10 people’s minds.”

Before the concert, catch Strings at the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District for the festival’s Picking Party & BBQ happening on Saturday, Jan. 13. Music starts at 5 p.m. For concert tickets and the rest of the entertainment lineup, visit baygrassbluegrass.com

Picking Party (pik-ing pahr-tee) noun: gathering of bluegrass musicians, their instruments, and usually a 6-pack. Source: Billy Strings

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