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[photo by Jack Rowell]

KRISTINA STYKOS

Kristina Stykos is a music producer, recording engineer, songwriter, radio host, podcaster and musician based in Vermont.

Kristina solidified her launch as an audio engineer in 2008, earning a certificate in studio production from the Berklee School of Music. As of 2019, she holds producer credits for upwards of 30 albums created at her hill-top recording loft, Pepperbox Studio: a solar, wind and generator powered, fully off-grid facility. She is also founder-owner of a small, Americana label, Thunder Ridge Records.

Kristina was awarded “Best Songwriter of 2013” by Vermont’s Times Argus newspaper, for her 5th solo album, Wyoming Territory. The album was supported in its development by the Ucross Foundation & Brush Creek artist residencies of Wyoming. Her first self-produced release, In the Earth's Fading Light, was awarded “Best Vermont Album of the Year” by the same paper in 2005.

Her recent albums include three collaborative projects: The Detangler (2018) with Ariel Zevon, daughter of Warren Zevon; Beautiful Blood (2013) with singer-songwriter Steve Mayone of Brooklyn NY, and Raven (2011), with Grammy-nominated pianist Philip Aaberg of Montana.

Kristina's newest solo album River of Light (2019) features Jackson Browne guitarist Val McCallum, along with other notable friends & session players.

 

IN KRISTINA’S WORDS

"I was born in Ithaca, NY, and came of age in the 1970s surrounded by the new wave of steel-string guitar junkies & fiddle-driven bands at the epicenter of an exploding folk music scene. I was there for the Highwoods String Band’s first old time music and moonshine parties, and spent every Sunday night of my teenage years at Phil Shapiro’s "Bound for Glory" live acoustic café/radio show at Cornell. At other campus venues, watching artists like Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Stevie Wonder, Taj Mahal, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Bonnie Raitt, the Incredible String Band, Aretha Franklin and James Taylor play live, inspired me nearly to madness & set my guitar picking on fire.

My performing life got started in Boston where I moved in 1976 to be a student, and I began singing my songs with a guitar in clubs and restaurants occasionally joined by then-boyfriend Bela Fleck. Alienated by school and eventually a drop-out, I none-the-less took away lessons about writing & life and new translations of dead Sufi poets from poet-mentor Michael Benedikt. Working as a volunteer for avant-garde filmmakers, I was awakened to all kinds weird happenings in weird places like the punk rock lofts of Boston’s North End, the Barnum and Bailey Circus Train parked behind North Station, and Arrowsmith parties in Back Bay mansions.  Short on worldly experience I took a scrap of paper with a name written on it, showed up unannounced at a resort hotel in Sweden and got hired as a prep cook. Several months of the midnight sun and a spiritual awakening later, I found myself in Vermont, where I settled in 1980 to begin the slow work of learning to hear my inner voice and write better songs.

In 1986, in a remote mountain farmhouse in winter, while living with no running water and just a trickle of electricity to run my electric piano, I wrote & recorded much of the material for my first album using a Fostex 4-track tape machine. That seemed promising until a difficult personal situation developed and derailed me. For the next decade my composing and performing went underground. Overwhelmed by the demands of full-time single parenting and recovering from an abusive relationship, I did what I could. Not content to say "uncle", I eventually worked my way back to music from a new angle.

In 1997 from my home office I built a successful non-profit organization [Live Art Folklife Center] whose mission was to invigorate professional acoustic music presentation in Central Vermont. As founder and director, I booked major acts at the newly restored Barre Opera House as well as other venues, forging connections locally, nationally and abroad. During my near decade of being a music presenter and workshop organizer, I enjoyed working with artists including Dougie MacLean, Maura O'Connell, Johnny Cunningham, Tony Trischka, Bill Staines, Laurie Lewis, Loudin Wainwright, Tommy Sands, Andy Irvine, Vedran Smailović, Greg Brown, Suzi Roche, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, Garnet Rogers, Bela Fleck, Kelly Joe Phelps, Rory Block, Paul Brady, Tom Paxton, Dar Williams, Richard Shindell, John Doyle, Liz Carroll,Aly Bain, Chris Smither, and Jackson Browne ... to name a few.

Influenced by this rich soup of folk and traditional musicians, I began playing guitar with fiddle players, to train my ear to the regional repertoire: Irish, Scottish, Quebecios, French and Appalachian tunes in the form of reels, jigs, waltzes and two steps. I sought out musical "pub"gatherings where I could and eventually started bands to suit my creative explorations, over the next 20 years honing my style at weeklygigs and dances with the motley likes of bands Lunatique, Scatter the Mud, Chix from the Stix, Bellatrix, Wagtail and The Holy Plow; and as an accompanist, hiring on with artists such as David Francey, Bow Thayer, Nikki Matheson and Michele Choiniere. Summers meant performing at bandstands, tractor pulls and weddings, as well as at the Lake Champlain Folk Festival, the Tweed River Festival, and the Black Fly Festival; the colder months led me to smelly biker bars, dim-lit night clubs and polite folk music venues, all over hill and dale.  Not much money in it, but the deep roots music made gave me a fine sense of place surrounded by friends and local, rural culture.

Finally around 2004 after seeing Jackson Browne playing solo, and sobbing silently throughout the entire concert, I decided to reclaim my passion as a singer-songwriter but on my own terms. I entered the digital age of recording with an early version of the Roland workstation, often frustrated but thirsty for knowledge. My first "re-entry" album made “Best Vermont Album of 2005”, in the local paper. Finally with a clear sense of accomplishment & rewards from self-producing, I was motivated to plunge into Berklee's pro-audio courses for a couple years. It was during this period I married luthier Michael Millard of world renowned Froggy Bottom Guitars, and plunged into an even deeper relationship with fine, hand built instruments. I'm now in my 2nd decade of making records for myself and other artists who value artisan recording. The studio allows me to roll up my sleeves, and experiment unencumbered by judgments. It's a kind of midwifery. I get to guide the process from the idea of the seed to the final ecstatic milk weed pod release."


Welcome to Kristina's world

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