Billy Strings and Willie Nelson Tout the Benefits of Being ‘California Sober’ in New Collab

The bluegrass star and country legend sing about the high life in the rollicking song, released on the eve of Nelson’s 90th birthday

“ California Sober” is an up-tempo bluegrass tune that’s about (mostly) clean living. “I’ve had years I don’t recall, but I’m told I had a ball,” Strings sings in the first verse, confessing that he left drink and the harder stuff behind for his favorite crop. “I’m California sober as they say,” he sings in the chorus, a hook that’s appropriately aided by noted weed advocate Nelson. The country legend gets his own turn at the mic later, singing about pills, liquor, and cocaine all having their points of diminishing returns. There are fast, blazing solos from the talented instrumentalists in Strings’ band.

In the video, Strings is seen embracing Nelson in the studio as the group of musicians, including Nelson’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael, lays down the track. And, oh yeah, there’s also lots and lots of weed — joints are rolled and lit up, and in one particularly impressive scene, Strings rips through a guitar solo while contentedly puffing away at his spliff.

Strings is one of many artists who will join Nelson at the singer’s all-star “Long Story Short” 90th birthday celebration at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on April 29 and 30. Other performers at the concerts will include Neil Young, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Orville Peck, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Margo Price, and Sheryl Crow.

Up ahead, Strings will bring his thrilling live show to sold-out venues including Colorado’s Red Rocks, Denver’s Mission Ballroom, and Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre, along with a stretch of dates that’ll keep him on the road through the end of 2023. His latest full-length release is 2022’s Me/And/Dad, a collaborative project with his father, Terry Barber.