Billy & His Mother, Debra Apostol, Part 2

“If it’s something he feels in his heart…”

In his early teenage years Billy, explored metal with a few different bands in W. Michigan.

Debra Apostol and Terry Barber knew right away.  And ever since they watched little Boomer (Billy Strings’ family nickname) strumming away in his high chair, keeping the rhythm of any song he heard, they knew he was a guitar player.

And like the best mothers, Debra supported her son as he explored and pursued the passions of his heart.  But at times, it wasn’t always as easy. 

“I didn’t care for metal. It’s not for me. I don’t understand it. But I had to let him do what he had to do. …If it’s something he feels in [his] heart … If I held him back, maybe he wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing today,” Debra Apostol told Local Spins in 2023.

Mom’s support and openness have often inspired Billy’s playing, acutely clear as they both came full circle this spring when Billy sat in with Western Michigan metal band Flesh and Blood Robot. What many new fans are learning is that Mama Strings’ love, energy and support extend beyond her son into the loving, creative community that has coalesced around Billy.  

In the parking lot before some Billy Strings’ shows, a ‘Lot Scene’ emerges.

Nowadays, before the arenas fill up  with eager fans, many venue parking lots are home to a growing “lot scene” full of vendors, artists and fans.  While it’s rare to see Billy venture out before a show, it is more common to brush arms with the light-hearted and high-spirited Mama Strings. 

“‘They put their heart and soul into it,’ Apostol [told Local Spins] of the artisans and vendors who comprise the ‘beautiful community’ surrounding her son and his band.”  

It’s no wonder Billy has always celebrated his heartfelt, spiritual side when considering the bright panoply of colors captured in his mother.  

From his earliest interviews to his most recent, Billy emphasizes his admiration for his music idols and how he emulates them in many ways, but at the very core of Billy Strings, he’s playing from the heart.  And that’s a messy mix of feelings, genres, inflections, tones and more. That focus on heart and letting it explore openly has always been at the core of Debra Apostol not only as she watches her son embark on each journey but also as she does as well.

Before a Billy Strings show, some of Deb Apostol’s art being sold on the fans’ ‘Lot Scene.’

Nowadays, Mama Strings can be found anywhere from the line surprising a fan by knowing their name and thanking them for their positive energy to the heart of Shakedown Street in the parking lot sharing her own art with her son’s community.

So next show, keep an eye out because just as Billy’s smile beams from stage and fans reflect easy smiles back, suddenly, spinning in a tapestry of colorful patchwork, topped with her 8-panel Gatsby cap, may be the source of that bright smile flashing by. 

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