Anthony Billups has always appreciated and related to music and art.
His earliest memory is of riding to in a Ford Ranger, listening to "On the Road Again," and singing along with two of his heroes--his father and Willie Nelson. Starting with those moments, music has had a profound impact on him. "I can hear a soundtrack for every single monumental part of my life-that's just one of the things I love about music."
When they drove past the city sign of Marceline that said "Boyhood home of Walt Disney," Anthony would tell his father, "Daddy, my name's gonna be on that sign someday."
Performing has been a part of Anthony's life; however, it didn't begin on stage. By age 17, he was hurlin' fastballs over 90-mph, drawing attention from every major college and numerous Major League Baseball teams. At the height of his collegiate career, in June of 2003, something happened that no one was prepared for: Anthony lost his sight.
No, that's not metaphorical-on June 6, 2003 in Nashville, TN-he was put in the hospital with an unknown condition that was causing headaches and blindness. Testing started immediately--with his little brother participating in the Special Olympics, his mother trying to get a flight from Chicago and his father trying to get back from overseas business, Billups was all alone in a hospital bed with his guitar.
"All I had was the music, I had my headphones-I didn't know which CD I was grabbing, so I was listening to them all. I had my little Alvarez guitar that I had just bought from Chambers Guitars...I couldn't see the frets, so I just had to FEEL the music. I fell in love with the music all over again. I only knew the basic chords, but I felt that I was creating music, to the dismay of the hospital folks . But I forgot about it, man, all of it. I didn't care that I was blind, I didn't care that I was alone, I didn't care that I had absolutely no clue what was goin' on, I didn't care that I might not ever get to play baseball again--all I cared about was the music. I knew that I had to get serious about it."
A few months, a lot of tests and medication later, his sight did come back. He went back north to Eastern Illinois University and tried to get back into collegiate baseball. "I still showed flashes of having it back--but, between losing my sight and all that time off--something in my mind just wouldn't allow it to happen."
"So, a year removed, I packed up my stuff and headed back down south. I made up my mind that it was time I came down here and start being me." He played baseball and at Cumberland University, graduating with a degree in Art. "I always loved art when I was growing up-and the only reason I got out of it was that I couldn't imagine future employment. By the point I returned to art, I had learned that the future is no guarantee, so I started painting, drawing and sculpting again."
Billups is just starting to make his rounds in the music and art industry, but he is already turning some heads as a singer-songwriter, and as an artist. He is finding his own style, in songs and art. Telling stories of his life is his passion, and the stories attract followers wherever he goes. "It's all about the story, man. I can remember sitting around with my uncles, grandfathers, great-uncles, and great-grandfathers and just listening to their stories and watching the stories unfold in my mind."
"That's what it's all about for me. I just tell my stories about my family, where I grew up, how my life has been. It hasn't been great, it's not the best story out there...it's just my life. By inviting people in, they can relate, and then I get to hear their stories. When you die, it's not about the money-it's not about the success-it's about the stories that those people are gonna tell each other when they walk through that receiving line at your funeral."