Lucy Billings

Photo: Alessandra Petlin

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From Attorney to Singer-Songwriter
Lucy Billings
61, Nashville

How many roads must a woman walk down before she can call herself a folk singer? Well, before Lucy Billings moved to Nashville in 2014 with her acoustic guitars and a 22-year-old Siamese cat named Thunder, determined to write songs for a living, she'd been a cowgirl, scientist and attorney. (So, three roads, it seems.) Billings taught herself to play at age 10—her parents had caught her strumming a tennis racquet the year before and gave her a real live six-string. Her fledgling songs were melodic accompaniment for the poetry she composed. "I wrote to process the world around me," she says, meaning the desert outside Tucson, where she grew up, and the mountains of Wyoming, where as a young adult she made pocket money wrangling horses. Music remained the heart of Billings's life through 4 years of college, 2 years of grad school, 3 years of law school and 20 years in corporate law. "I spent my spare time on my music—late nights, early mornings, weekends," she says. Of course, every folk song needs a little strife: In 2011, Billings's company let her go, and she found herself at a crossroads. She could keep fiddling with legalese, or she could answer a call she'd been hearing for 50 years. Just before her 60th birthday, Billings packed her car and drove to Nashville. The trip took four days—and also a lifetime. Less than a month later, she released her album Carry the Water. "Shaking up your world can make you feel so vulnerable," she says. "But I told myself, Just write about it. Turn it into a song."