Freezing cold winters, seemingly endless forests with wolves and bears, and sparsely populated countryside – not what you would normally associate with rock ‘n’ roll. Nevertheless, Stefan Billy Nilsson was born into this environment. In the small Swedish community of Lillhärdal, only 24 miles from the Norwegian border, life was tough from the very beginning. The second oldest of eleven siblings, Nilsson learned to fend for himself at an early age. Music, however, is in his genes as all of his relatives on his father’s side of the family were musically inclined.
For Nilsson, his musical preference has always been rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly. He explains that from the age of five he became obsessed with the sounds of the 50s. There were no record stores in his hometown in the 70s and early 80s, so instead, Nilsson’s mother bought vinyl records through mail order. With intense passion, the eleven-year-old taught himself to play guitar by listening to vinyl records and carefully studying album cover jackets while taking note on how Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran held their guitars. The urge to sing and play eventually grew ever stronger. As a teenager, it was all he wanted to do. Before being kicked out of a school classroom, Nilsson’s music teacher told him he would never be a musician because he was rowdy in class. Those words of discouragement had no effect on Nilsson as he musically blossomed. Though completely self-taught, he confidently developed his own unique vocal style and can perform proficiently on the upright bass, drums, and harmonica.
In 2007 Nilsson was presented with the “Swedish Kjell Henning” scholarship award. This honor is granted yearly by the Pharaohs Car Club in Lycksele to further the development of young performers in the rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll genres.
With a musical career spanning 25 years, Nilsson has played with numerous bands and in all kinds of venue situations. He recalls one of the wildest places was at the “Sala Motor Circus” in 2013. The band would play for up to 12 hours straight inside a velodrome track while motorcycles were racing around them.
Fronting his own band, Billy and The Kids, they’ve toured Sweden, Norway, and Finland constantly since 2004. Theit music style is hard-hitting, octane-fueled rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, with a modern twist. This past February they completed their first southwest US tour that included dates in Nevada, Southern California, and Arizona. Highlights included a featured showcase at the Lake Havasu Rockabilly Reunion festival.
Nilsson’s first Gretsch was a G5120 obtained in 2008. It’s still his favorite guitar as it’s used exclusively for all performances. He prefers a single-cut, hollow body with Bigsby because of its unbeatable all-round performance capabilities and clear sound. To that point, Nilsson explains it makes the perfect guitar for any music style. The Bigsby vibrato and the control layout suits him to a tee and really brings out the playfulness in his music. His most recent acquired Gretsch guitar was a G5420T which Stefan professes it also embodies that superb Gretsch sound.
Nilsson’s musical influences include early Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Ral Donner, Joe Clay, Paul Ansell, Roy Hamilton, Darrel Higham, and Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister.
Always looking forward to going out on the road to perform LIVE to new audiences, plans are already in motion for Billy and The Kids to return to the US in April 2018 for another tour. So be sure to catch them somewhere along the road.