Jon Stickley Trio Returns to Bluegrass Roots on ‘Scripting the Flip’

The Jon Stickley Trio, a genre-defying instrumental trio, released their fifth studio album, Scripting The Flip, earlier this month. The eleven-track collection is their debut with Organic Records.

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The trio began as a group of friends in Asheville, North Carolina. Stickley explained that he first met violinist, Lyndsay Pruett through the Asheville music scene. Both just sidemen at the time, the two were introduced by a mutual friend. From there, they started booking gigs, slowly evolving into a trio with the addition of drummer, Hunter Deacon. During this time, around 2010, Stickley shifted gears from playing in the bluegrass band, Town Mountain, to a full-time focus on his new group. 

What started as a side passion project naturally evolved as the three musicians began touring with Town Mountain, and playing festivals. After a self-produced debut album and three more electro-rock leaning records, the Jon Stickley Trio has returned to their bluegrass roots with their latest record release. 

The trio takes a non-traditional look at the songwriting experience. “We do try to get feelings and a message across with the music that we play,” explained frontman Jon Stickley. “t’s not just like background instruments and instrumental music. It’s, it really does tell a story.”

Produced by Dave King, Scripting The Flip is his third project with Jon Stickley Trio. King used his expertise to help the trio identify their strengths as musicians. An instrumentalist at heart, Stickley had never really written lyrical music. Stickley was previously working with other people’s material, so lyrics were not an intimate part of his music. 

“He played a big part in us becoming an all-instrumental band,” Stickley admitted of their producer’s role. “We used to vocalize a little bit. Maybe 20% or 30% of the material was vocal tunes and the rest was instrumental. Dave just pointed out the fact that our most compelling and original and most personal sounding music was instrumental. And so he said, why don’t you just take that and run with it? Because that’s what people are going to relate to. It turned out to be a great move for us, it’s way more natural.” 

“I just didn’t even know that was an option,” Stickley remarked of their shift away from vocals.  

Typically an outlier on the festival bill as far as the only all-instrumental band. Initially, this felt intimidating, but the trio soon realized they were filling a much-needed place for it to diversify a festival lineup. After winning audience approval, the musicians felt their set was a welcomed pallet cleanser between other vocal acts. 

Before founding this trio, Stickley spent almost a decade focusing solely on Bluegrass. While playing a few different instruments professionally, he wasn’t writing as much, just studying the craft. “I worked on honing in on that sound, learning that tradition, and trying to play as authentically as possible within those bounds,” he recalls. 

It wasn’t until this group came together that he found himself needing more material, ultimately leading him more in the direction of songwriting. “That led me down some pathways into my past of music I grew up listening to,” he explained about his exploration into grunge punk-pop and hip-hop influence. “It was leaning into older influences that made my writing more interesting, but because I had worked so hard to get the bluegrass sound down, all that music is now processed through a bluegrass lens.” 

With Pruett as a classically trained violinist and bluegrass musician and Deacon’s complex rhythmic background, there are nods to each individual’s personality in their songs. “Sometimes we differ on our opinions on the way things should sound, but the music is all about compromising and coming up with a sound that we all can agree on,” Stickley remarked on the interworkings of his namesake trio. 

“It was just an experiment,” he explained of Scripting The Flip. “And next, the next album will be even more so. Every step of the journey we try to explore new territory. We’re pretty happy with the way this one turned out.”

Listen to the Jon Stickley Trio take it back to their roots with Scripting the Flip below. The group is anxious to get back on the road and will keep fans posted on their rescheduled tour dates here.

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