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Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Background information
Birth name William Oldham
Also known as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Born December 24, 1970 (1970-12-24) (age 39)
Origin Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Genres Singer-songwriter, folk, country
Years active 1993–present
Labels Drag City, Domino, Spunk

Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (born 24 December 1970 in Louisville, Kentucky), is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. From 1993 to 1997 he performed and recorded under variations of the Palace name, including the Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music.



Will Oldham is known for his "do-it-yourself punk aesthetic and blunt honesty,"[1] and his music has been likened to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock. He has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist"[1], with a voice that has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition."[1]

Will Oldham first performed and recorded under various permutations of the Palace name, including Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, Palace Music, and simply Palace. Regarding the name changes during this period (1993-1997), Oldham said:

Well, I guess the idea is that when you have a name of a group or an artist, then you expect that the next record, if it has the same name, should be the same group of people playing on it. And I just thought we were making a different kind of record each time, with different people, and different themes, and different sounds. So I thought it was important to call it something different so that people would be aware of the differences.[2]

Beginning in 1998, Oldham has primarily used the moniker Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, which draws inspiration from several sources:

Yeah, the name has so many different references that it could almost have a life of its own. Bonnie Prince Charlie has such a beautiful ring to it, and I was very conscious of appropriating that mellifluous sound. And I was also thinking about the name Nat King Cole. But it wasn't until later, and this may have been subconscious, that I remembered that Billy the Kid was William Bonney or Billy Bonney.[2]

Oldham has explained that "the primary purpose of the pseudonym is to allow both the audience and the performer to have a relationship with the performer that is valid and unbreakable."[3]




Some of his albums, such as There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You (1993),[4] Viva Last Blues (1995),[5] and I See a Darkness (1999),[6][7][8] have appeared on greatest albums lists.

He is mentioned in the lyrics of the Biffy Clyro song Saturday Superhouse and is the main character in the song 'Williamsburg Will Oldham Horror' by New York Anti-Folk artist Jeffrey Lewis.

Johnny Cash recorded a version of "I See a Darkness" on his American Recordings disc, American III: Solitary Man (2000). Oldham provided backing vocals.

Steve Adey also covered "I See a Darkness" on his 2006 LP All Things Real.

Mark Kozelek recorded a version of Oldham's "New Partner" on his 2008 disc, The Finally LP.

In 2009 Mark Lanegan and Soulsavers recorded a cover version of "You Will Miss Me When I Burn". The release is a split single, backed with the Lanegan penned "Sunrise" featuring vocals by Oldham.


Will Oldham began his acting career at the age of 17, when he portrayed a teen preacher in John Sayles's film about an Appalachian mining community, Matewan (1987). Oldham moved to Hollywood to pursue acting in the late 1980s,[9] and landed roles in a couple of films. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the film industry and quit in 1989.[10] He has since had several minor roles in independent films, such as Julien Donkey-Boy (1999), Junebug (2005), and The Guatemalan Handshake (2006). Oldham took a lead role in Old Joy, which was featured at SXSW XX and opened at New York's Film Forum on September 20, 2006. Will Oldham also played the role of a preacher in the "Horse Apples" special of WonderShowzen in series 2 of the show.



Will Oldham shot the black-and-white cover photograph for Slint's 1991 album Spiderland. The photo depicts members of the band treading water in the lake of an abandoned quarry.[11]

Oldham also featured as guest aesthetic designer for the North American literary magazine Zoetrope All Story (vol 11, no 1) in 2007. In a note contained in the issue, he jokes that it would be "really magnificent to imagine this issue as a cocktail party at which all of the contributors, word and image, are present. add a bowl of keys and some mushroom cookies and i am there. [sic]"


  1. ^ a b c Baldwin, C. (March 28, 2002). "The Wanderer". Chico News & Review. Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  2. ^ a b Ashare, Matt (January 20 2003). "Mystery Man: Palace Brother Will Oldham becomes Bonnie 'Prince' Billy". The Phoenix. Retrieved 2007-05-09.  
  3. ^ "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" (PDF). Foggy Notion. April 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  4. ^ Irvin, Jim; Colin McLear (2003, 3rd ed.). The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion. Canongate. pp. 585. ISBN 1841954381.  
  5. ^ LeMay, Matt (November 17, 2003). "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  6. ^ Irvin, Jim; Colin McLear (2003, 3rd ed.). The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion. Canongate. pp. 651. ISBN 1841954381.  
  7. ^ Bowers, William (November 17, 2003). "The Top 100 Albums of the 1990s". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  8. ^ Dimery, Robert (2006). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe. pp. 854. ISBN 0789313715.  
  9. ^ Roberts, Randall (June 03 2009). "Will Oldham's Trouble with Hollywood". Dallas Observer. Retrieved 16 January 2010.  
  10. ^ Byck, Peter (2006-02-04). "Oldham journeys back into acting". Scene. pp. 5. Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  11. ^ McCarthy, Shannon. "Slint Lyrics and Biography" Retrieved on 25 November 2007.

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