Billy & the Devil are shrouded in mystery. Little is known about who Billy is, but a debut single called “Even If It Kills Me” gives a quick glimpse into a dark, musical underworld. I’ve tried to keep my spirits up / But I’ve been betrayed, sings Billy, his voice emerging from a fiery lake of bluesy electric guitar.
Even if it kills me, I’m going to find a way out of her, he vows with the bridge, production fading and leaving only sharp piano keys and static. His admission is one of a man at the end of his rope, and the only thing he can do is “set the past on fire,” he says.
“When the burden gets too much, sometimes the only choice is to turn your back and walk away. There’s a power in forgiveness and in starting again,” Billy tells American Songwriter. “We all feel the effects of isolation more than ever, and I felt that grip tightening. For a while there, my instinct was to leave everything and everyone I knew behind.”
“Even If It Kills Me,” produced by indie/pop duo The Darcys (Wes Marskell and Jason Couse), samples a forthcoming self-titled debut EP, coming late 2021.
Initially, the volatile rock track was recorded only with a guitar and was “a lot longer, wordier, and sprawling.” Such a spooky epic is certainly still present throughout the final version, tracked in The Darcys’ Toronto studio, but there is something a bit more animalistic and rebellious about Billy’s performance.
“I had just talked with a friend in California about these dreams I’d been having when this song hit me. I sent what I had to [Wes and Jason], and they let me come in for a few days and get all my ideas out,” explains Billy. “We created a makeshift band and quickly found the song’s voice.”
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, he sings in one stanza. Billy turns from the flames to face the unknown, which stretches out before him like an ocean, but there comes a wave of thrilling possibility. Even if it kills me / And my faith is turning in to fear…
But he takes the leap—and he hopes the listener does the same. “It’s never too late to make peace with yourself,” he shares.
“I love the interplay between the dark lyrical themes, themes of good versus evil, and how they are set against this simple, driving rock song,” he continues. The song wiggles with a creeping “moodiness, the lyrics… dark and pretty heavy, but I use the pulsing rhythm and these sharp guitars to draw people into my world.”
A Toronto native, Billy calls to the work of ‘70s classic rock staples, including The Eagles, and more modern alt-rock affairs, from Queens of the Stone Age to The Killers, in his first outing. A big chorus keeps “Even If it Kills Me” intact, while also unpacking a deceptively more “laid-back and cool” feel.
Perhaps unlike many songwriters, Billy doesn’t spend too much “time searching for inspiration in the darkness” in order to write. Rather, it’s much more “about the discipline. I like to create as much as I’m able to, regardless of any creative spark or motivation. I have to remind myself not to be too precious with ideas. I’m best when I never get too close, when I’m stripping every song down to its most honest and sincere form.”