Bonnie “Prince” Billy
wsg Faun Fables
Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo
July 16, 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. show
$20 advance, $25 day of show
21+, Bellsbeer.com, (269) 382-2332
Singer/songwriter Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka actor Will Oldham) is one man with two names and his own sense of reality.
Oldham, 45, has learned to merge his own world with ours on record, stage and screen. July 16 he delivers his mythical musical vision at Bell’s Brewery.
“We are presenting a world to different audiences each time we perform,” Oldham said of his life on the road. “When we come to Kalamazoo, there will be glimpses of Kalamazoo for us, but we will be essentially on our own planet. So we will be presenting that reality to the audience.”
“The stronger we believe in our reality that we’re presenting to the audience, the more willing the audience is to suspend their disbelief, or welcome the idea of existing in an unreal environment for a couple of hours,” Oldham said. “And usually the audience has a willingness to let go and allow us to be their guide.”
Oldham’s vast collection of work goes back more than 25 years, from his early days in the ‘90s working under various forms of the “Palace” moniker, to his numerous independent film roles. He even scored an unexpected part in R. Kelly’s peculiar, yet engaging “Trapped in the Closet” video series.
His prolific output as Bonnie “Prince” Billy over the last decade and a half has earned widespread acclaim for its daring approach and haunting execution. Most notably, the legendary Johnny Cash personally asked him to perform alongside him on his cover of the Bonnie “Prince” Billy song “I See A Darkness” for his 2000 album, American III: Solitary Man.
“It’s something that continues to resonate pretty actively through today,” Oldham said of working with Cash, recalling a recent visit to the Johnny Cash Museum with a friend in Nashville.
“It was mind-blowing because the man who owns and curates the museum, he wanted to meet me and get a picture taken with me. Through this circumstance I’ve become a minor player in the myth of Johnny Cash. It makes my brain hurt to think about that.”
Oldham’s personal group of colleagues and musicians centers in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., but reaches all over the world. He’s played in places as remote and isolated as Cuba and said he hopes his music can resonate across all cultural divides.
For his Kalamazoo show, Oldham and his band will team with longtime friend Dawn McCarthy (of opening act Faun Fables), who he recorded an album of duets with in 2013.
“We’re leaving Kentucky specifically to play these shows with Faun Fables,” Oldham said.
“So we will definitely be learning a number of songs centered on the idea that she’s going to be joining us for five or six songs during our set. Usually the set should have some sort of specific, contemporary purpose. In this case we’re going to use Dawn as our driving force.”