This article originally appeared in the Kentucky Kernel.
By Matt Wickstrom
Sometimes it’s the words not spoken, or in this case sung that are the most poignant. While the music of Asheville, North Carolina’s Jon Stickley Trio features no words, the complexity and synchronicity of the group’s instrumentals speak of stories that could fill a novel.
“With our music there’s no words telling a story, but the music is influenced by things happening in the world and in my life,” Stickley said. “I’ve realized more and more with music that the more you put into it the more music will help you deal with life’s hurdles.”
The lack of lyrics allow Stickley’s mind to wander the depths of reality during shows, letting him fall into a state of mind that’s one with his music. The result is compositions that cry out for attention, penetrating the mind, body and soul.
“I get these weird visions that help inspire the music I’m writing at the time,” Stickley said. “One time I was drumming on my guitar and I got this intense hunger pain in my stomach. For some reason since I was playing drums on my guitar it got me thinking of Africa and people starving all over the world. It put so much energy and feeling into that moment. It’s like going into a trance. All you can focus on are those feelings and it really carries you forward.”
The Trio, led by Stickley on guitar, also features the intoxicating fiddle of Lyndsay Pruett and steady rhythms of Patrick Armitage on drums. According to Stickley the group first started off as a three-piece with himself, Pruett and bassist Saravanan “Sav” Sankaran. When Saravanan unexpectedly had to miss a show Stickley improvised by having a buddy join them on drums. The show was well received, and soon thereafter the group switched out bass for drums full-time and brought Armitage on board.
The group still occasionally adds bass to the mix. Prior to the formation of the Jon Stickley Trio Stickley played bass for esteemed bluegrass act Town Mountain.
“It’s a unique challenge trying to cover the bass’ role and make the music as full as we can,” Stickley said. “We don’t miss the bass player consciously when we’re playing without one, but on the occasions when we add one to the mix it feels really good.”
The group recently won studio time through Virginia’s Red Wing Roots Festival, jumping into the studio and laying down five new tracks during a two day session. The resulting EP will release in conjunction with a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for its second full-length album, opening in October. The full-length is set for a December release.
The group successfully crowdfunded its debut album Lost at Last last fall, and while the group has had success with the crowdfunding approach, Stickley said it’s not a method that comes very naturally to him.
“Having to reach out to people, it was surprising how many people were thankful we asked for their help in making this happen,” Stickley said. “It’s nice too because you get direct feedback on how far-reaching your fan base is and how much people are invested in your music.”
Catch the Jon Stickley Trio in Lexington at The Burl on Wednesday Sept. 21.