‘Flabbergasted’: Bluegrass star raised in Michigan wins Grammy

Michigan

MUIR, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ionia County village of Muir has a population of 611, zero stoplights and, now, one Grammy.

Billy Strings‘ “Home” won the Grammy for best bluegrass album at the awards ceremony Sunday.

“In that moment, I was just kind of flabbergasted I guess and all sort of emotions. But the past 24 hours, I’ve been really reflective,” Strings told News 8 Monday.

Reflective about his band, his career and growing up in Muir.

“It was a small town, you know. I would ride my skateboard down by the little hardware store, up at the Twin Rivers schools; went to Twin Rivers,” Strings said of his childhood in the village about 7 miles east of Ionia.

It was there that Strings found his passion.

He grew up William Apostol. An aunt gave him the nickname Billy Strings.

“My dad played (guitar) around the house when I was little and I just picked it up when I was real young, 3, 4 years old,” Strings said. “He kind of taught me come chords and I just kept going with it.”

There were others who inspired him along the way. Long before his career took him on stages like Red Rocks Amphitheatre near Denver, there was his music teacher, Mrs. Mercer.

“She gave me a little solo one time in one of our shows we did at the Ionia Theatre. Yeah, she let me play my guitar at one of the shows way back in the day,” Strings said. “It meant so much to me.”

But as Billy Apostol grew into Billy Strings, he also noticed another side to his small town.

“A lot of my friends and people I knew had gotten into drugs and stuff and there was sort of a dark side,” he said.

That’s reflected in songs like “Dust in a Baggy,” which is about someone sent to prison for meth possession:

“I used my only phone call to contact my daddy,” the lyrics go. “I got 20 long years for some dust in a baggy.”

“That song I wrote about a friends of mine, from around that area, from Lyons,” Strings said.

More than just a trophy on his mantle, he’s hoping his Grammy and his story inspires others.

“You’re in control,” he said. “You’ve got to put your hands on the wheel and control your life, and you can do whatever you want with it. You’ve just got to steer in the right direction.”

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