Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (born 24 December 1970 in Louisville, Kentucky), is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. Prior to adopting his current moniker, he performed and recorded under various permutations of the Palace name, including Palace Brothers, Palace Songs, and Palace Music (1993-1997).
Will Oldham is known for his "do-it-yourself punk aesthetic and blunt honesty," and his music has been likened to Americana, folk, roots, country, punk, and indie rock, although Oldham is dissatisfied with these labels: "I don't think it's roots music, though it's definitely influenced by Western popular music." He has been called an "Appalachian post-punk solipsist" and is notable for his unique voice, which has been described as "a fragile sort-of warble frittering around haunted melodies in the American folk or country tradition."
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. I mean, I don't want people buying my records and being disappointed that it doesn't sound like the last one... Within my own tiny little world, the first full-length Palace record is with one kind of musician and it was recorded in a certain type of way, while the second one was completely different-sounding and there was a fifth of the amount of people involved. The songs to me also seemed really different. And then the third record was another completely different recording environment and I had different kinds of musicians involved. So those things seemed different enough for me to alter the name. I'll admit that that's just me in the process of moving forward without any benefit of perspective, distance, or time whatsoever.||”|
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.||”|
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 performed that is valid and unbreakable."
Much of Will Oldham's music has received considerable critical praise. Some of his albums, such as There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You (1993), Viva Last Blues (1995), and I See a Darkness (1999), have appeared on greatest albums lists.