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KRISTINA STYKOS

artist/producer/audio engineer

Kristina Stykos is a music producer, recording

engineer, songwriter, radio host and performer based

in Vermont. She completed an audio engineering

production certificate from the Berklee School

of Music in Boston in 2008. Her recording studio,

Pepperbox Studio,is solar, wind and generator powered

and fully off-grid. She is founder-owner of

Thunder Ridge Records and has released upwards of

20 albums for her label. 

Kristina was awarded “Best Songwriter of 2013”

from Vermont’s daily newspaper the Barre-Montpelier

Times Argus, for her 5th solo album Wyoming Territory.

This album was supported in its development

by the Ucross Foundation & Brush Creek artist

residencies of Wyoming. Her first self-produced

release, was awarded “Best Vermont Album of the Year”

by the same paper in 2005. Her recent albums include

Horse Thief (2015) and two collaborative projects,

Beautiful Blood (2013) with singer-songwriter

Steve Mayone of Boston, and Raven (2011),

co-produced with Grammy-nominated pianist

Philip Aaberg of Montana.

 

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 like 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 weekly gigs 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 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 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 through

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 work station, often

frustrated but thirsty for knowledge. My first

"rentry" 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.

I'm now in my 2nd decade of making records

for myself and other artists. 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.”

New Music

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Links to Kristina Stykos on:

CD Baby -- http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/kristinastykos1 Facebook -- https://www.facebook.com/kristina.stykos Google+ -- https://plus.google.com/107345445433525414326/posts Instagram -- https://www.instagram.com/pepperboxstudio/ Twitter -- https://twitter.com/kristinastykos YouTube -- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoiJMvrMpntNTRtk9wPyU6w

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Wyoming Territory (2013)

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Beautiful Blood (2013)

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The Lost Tapes (2011)

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Raven (2010)

My Radio Show & Podcast

 

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In the Earth's Fading Light

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