In a 2019 interview, Billy Strings candidly discussed struggles to maintain his mental health as a road warrior – a challenge for many artists. Revisit the story today at Local Spins.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Four years ago, as his star shot to global fame, Michigan’s Billy Strings had wrapped up his most grueling year of touring while preparing to play a sold-out New Year’s Eve show at The Intersection in Grand Rapids. Today, our “Billy Strings Month” series continues with a look back at our 2019 interview with Billy, revealing the strains that come with touring and success — success that’s only grown since. Revisit that interview here. And it’s your last chance to enter our Billy Strings contest: What’s your favorite Billy Strings song and what makes him so special? Email your response to email@example.com with “Billy Strings” in the message field by Friday (Oct. 20) for a chance to win a Billy Strings/Local Spins gift pack. Billy Strings plays Van Andel Arena on Oct. 31.
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When you play “Meet Me at the Creek” — the “first-ever Billy Strings board game” — it’s only apropos that you’d navigate your game pawn via “Hellbender Hwy.” and “Red Daisy Way,” culled from fan-favorite tunes.
The unique handmade board game available on Etsy that joins the flurry of merchandise surrounding Billy Strings and his bluegrass guitar prowess could also reflect the ups and downs of the journey for this Ionia County-bred guitarist.
“There’s a hard place on one side and a rock on the other, no corners to cut in this maze,” he sings on the aforementioned “Hellbender.” “Only one way to do it, just to grin and bear through it.”
It’s a fitting lead-in to Local Spins’ 2019 interview with the national bluegrass star and Michigan native who noted at the time that things are not always what they seem for an award-winning artist with a No. 1 album who sold out every show on his national tour.
“I’ve got everything going for me and it’s unreal. This is literally my biggest dream coming true. This is what I’ve always wanted, but it’s amazing what touring 200 days a year does to a person mentally,” said the guitarist who grew up in Muir as William Apostol.
“There’s a lot of pressure.”
So much pressure and such a hectic schedule that Apostol said he had panic attacks and sought counseling with a therapist.
“People think I must be the happiest kid ever, but in real life, I’m having panic attacks. I’m the busiest guy ever. It’s just a lot to take in,” said Apostol, noting there’s been “a huge awakening” about mental health and depression in the music industry following the deaths of several well-known artists.
“Everybody that’s in the limelight has to deal with that. We’re always objectified. (But) I’m a person, I’m a complex person with thoughts and feelings and points of view.”
Apostol said he’d taken steps to ease the pressure, relax away from the chaos and strike a balance in his life. It’s important for fans to understand that being in the limelight, handling the pressures of celebrity and traveling the globe can take its toll.
“The whole year, I’ve had to learn how to settle down a little bit and take my foot off the gas pedal,” said Apostol, noting he started feeling overwhelmed and experiencing “some real anxiety” earlier in the year.
“I just have to remember to take a step back and breathe. I’ve devoted every ounce of my life and my being to this musical project that I’ve almost forgotten about living my life and being a person.”
Touring artists also have to face spending huge amounts of time away from their families.
“I miss them and that’s tough. It’s tough being away from them,” Apostol said. “I’m trying to get back to earth – get out of the stratosphere and get my feet back on the ground. It’s a balance. … I’m looking forward to taking some of that time off and spending it with family.”
He said it’s also important to stay true to yourself.
“I’m just taking the mask off. I don’t care being somebody I’m not. I’m just trying to be myself and make music. I’m just a guy that plays a guitar,” he said.
“I don’t have to dress up like a doll to go on stage. This is what I do, I play music and if you like it, fine, but I’m just being myself and that’s the healthiest thing for me to do.”
Read Part I of Local Spins’ 2019 interview with Billy Strings: Billy Strings misses Michigan, ‘manifests own destiny’ with meteoric rise as bluegrass star
Review of his 2019 Grand Rapids show: Billy Strings welcomes 2020 with rousing, psychedelic bluegrass fire
More Billy Strings coverage here.
VIDEO: Billy Strings at The Intersection (New Year’s Eve 2019)
VIDEO: Billy Strings Live at Brooklyn Bowl (Set 1, Nov. 15, 2019)
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