Backpacking is in Billy’s blood

B.C.‘s Billy the Kid discusses life on the road, songwriting and acting like everyone else

  • Is today the best day ever? Western Canadian singer/songwriter Billy the Kid seems to think so. She’ll perform at the Park Theatre Jan 28.

Young, sweet and personable, B.C. musician Billy the Kid (a.k.a. Billy Pettinger) kicked off her four-month tour in Edmonton last week and is currently making her way east. A veteran of the road, the former runaway realizes this lifestyle isn’t for everyone.

“Living out of a backpack is in my blood. I guess that’s why I’m doing the solo thing. It’s not for everyone. Once you get out there, being dirty ... I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Pettinger said.

Having produced three previous albums with her band, The Lost Boys, the 27-year-old released her solo debut, The Lost Cause, two years ago under the moniker Billy The Kid.

Produced by Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida, the five-song EP even boasts the likes of Garth Hudson (of The Band fame) on one particular track.

 

Pettinger may have no plans for a new album at the moment, but the indie folk-rocker is constantly crafting new material.

“Until then I’m always making little demos and putting them online. So there’s never a stop of creative output. I try to do a lot of online stuff that’s free so people don’t get bored,” she said.

The prolific singer-songwriter writes from experience about the human condition. She prides herself on being able to extract from the broad to the intricately specific, crafting empathic songs from others’ perspectives. This approach lends a certain honesty to her music as well giving it a universal appeal, with songs like I Don’t Want to Know.

“I do have songs about other people’s situations, but I write about them from the first perspective.”

Putting herself in other people’s shoes is something Pettinger’s continued to do by broadening her artistic horizons into acting. Despite her complete lack of experience, she bluffed her way through her second-ever audition and was hired on the spot to play a 23-year-old mother in an upcoming film.

This attitude – taking the bull by the horns – may have taken her a long way, but she credits music with essentially saving her life.

“I don’t want to be so dramatic to say that I would be dead without music, but I wouldn’t be succeeding in any kind of socially acceptable way. To sum it up, music is everything.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2010)

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