When he isn’t working for the Denton State Supported Living Center, Billy Hensley writes and records for his Wirerims project. It’s a one-man-band, and he plays every instrument and sings on the recordings. After he put out a full LP called Self-Construction earlier this year, he set a goal of releasing 52 new songs before we ring in 2018.
Music runs deep in Hensley’s life. His father was a drum major at Texas A&M and always had a guitar and a set of drums in the house. Hensley spent some of his childhood in San Antonio but mainly grew up in the Houston suburb of Kingwood. Although it's nowhere near the hip parts of Houston, he found the community he was looking for through music.
“It was a cool little community,” Hensley says. “There was definitely that bubble aspect. You don’t realize you’re living in a bubble until you get out of it.”
After playing in various punk bands and a ska band called Skamakozi in Kingwood, he moved to Denton to attend UNT. He went to the school to study sports broadcasting but made one critical oversight.
“I wanted to be a baseball broadcaster. But I found out in my first semester, UNT did not have a baseball team," he says, "so I stayed with the program.”
He moved forward with a radio-TV-film major and found Denton to be a great place to call home.
Hensley played in a few bands around Denton but decided to do something on his own in his home studio, using the GarageBand program on his Mac and iPad. Dave Grohl, who recorded almost all of the instruments on the first Foo Fighters LP, provided inspiration.
Hensley put 12 songs on his debut release, exactly the number of songs on the Foo Fighters’ debut. Also like Grohl, he released the music under the guise of a band.
“Honestly, calling it a solo project — I feel like there’s an inherent lameness to that,” he says. “I like the secrecy aspect of doing a project.”
With a digital distribution deal through which he can upload an unlimited amount of music for a year onto digital services like Spotify and iTunes, Hensley challenged himself to make the most of the 12 months.
“Right after I finished the album, I was super pumped,” he says.
Taking inspiration from the Dakota Pipeline protests, he decided to write a song called “Dakota War Drums” and made a video for it. More songs have surfaced online, including a sludgy cover of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song." His most recent release is a tribute to Weezer’s first two albums called “Both Weezer Albums.”
He has no shortage of song ideas and works with the Denton Songwriter’s Guild. He promises the whole 52 will be online no later than Dec. 31.
Hensley isn't releasing a new song every week, but he’s well on his way to his goal. He has a couple of punk rock-tinged albums in the works. One is in the vein of the Descendents, one is a tribute to bands on the Fat Wreck Chords label and another is Top 40 pop songs given the punk treatment, à la Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
Hensley credits the town of Denton for fostering his goal. He's not surrounded by a bunch of doubters; instead he lives near Eric Pulido of BNQT and Midlake and George Reagan of Hagfish, and he occasionally runs into Jason Lee.
“Denton has this artist community vibe,” he says. “Whether you’re a comedian, a musician, a painter, barista or whatever. If you have some sort of artistic or creative drive, it draws you in. It’s one of those chicken-or-egg things.”