With vivid, original storytelling, vibrant musicianship and intelligent arrangements, Asheville, NC band Tellico creates an innovative sound that redefines what today’s Southern Appalachian music can be. Instead of modernizing tradition, Tellico takes it deeper, effortlessly weaving meaningful, imaginative songwriting with intelligent arrangements. There is no gimmick here, and yet, there is nothing tired or cliche. Tellico explores the beauty of songcraft through the lens of tradition and an unmistakable sound.
At its core is the voice and guitar of Anya Hinkle. Her sound is rooted in the mountains of her home in southwestern Virginia, but seasoned by travels across the world and back. With arresting honesty, her singing and songwriting comes from the heart. The foil to Hinkle’s heartfelt singing and songwriting, can be found in fellow songwriter, vocalist, bass and harmonica player, Greg “Stig” Stiglets. Inspired from the stories and events of daily life, his attention to melody and groove help to further showcase the instrumental prowess of the band.
Both Aaron Ballance (dobro, lap steel, pedal steel) and Jed Willis (mandolin, clawhammer banjo, electric guitar) hail from central North Carolina. The state itself provides its own conservatory for study, and its students learn from first generation roots music pioneers as well as serious students of the genre in the classrooms of jams, bands, and festivals. Obsessed with playing music going back to their teen years, Ballance and Willis are veteran players.
These four musicians deepen their awareness each year of the synergy among them while eyeing terrain that is yet uncovered. From their converged paths emerges a sound that has jelled over more than a decade of collaboration. Their freshman effort Relics and Roses was well-received, gathering accolades from tastemakers and earning them stage appearances at the country’s most prestigious festivals (MerleFest, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival, Official Showcase Artist and World of Bluegrass-IBMA).
"Born in Blacksburg, VA, I grew up playing fiddle and guitar and singing in church choir. In college, I became interested in fingerstyle blues guitar and singing in addition to bluegrass. Later I began studying fiddle and harmony singing in the trenches of bluegrass festivals, jams and late night parties in northern California. In 2005 I began exploring old time duet singing with Jackson Cunningham (White Top Mountain Band, Cunningham Handmade Guitars) in and around the Floyd Country Store jam after moving back to Virginia. We recorded a cd for the Crooked Road: Virginia Heritage series called Old Time Duets. In 2006 I moved to Asheville, NC where I met Stig and Aaron and the other members of the bluegrass band Dehlia Low. We recorded three independently-released albums together between 2007 and 2010; our fourth album, "Ravens and Crows," was released on Rebel Records in 2011. Currently I am performing with Tellico as well as solo performances (schedule and info here) and raising my little girl Sachi, age 5." (Anya plays Kinnaird guitars and Reedy fiddles)."
"I'm originally from Jackson Misissippi. I developed an interest in music early, which wavered before it stuck. I started gigging around Jackson in my 20's, doing the folk/blues troubadour sort of thing. Moved to Asheville NC in 1999 and fell in love with the music scene there, particularly bluegrass and old time. I became active in the robust singer/songwriter circuit in Asheville and played with various groups including County Farm and The Hightown Strutters. Jumped at the chance to play bass for Dehlia Low, which had a great deal of success as a touring and recording act and I'm excited to be a part of Tellico to see where we go next..."
"I'm originally from Winston-Salem, NC, where I studied guitar with Jeff Foxall, and began performing publically at age 17, playing the electric guitar with various rock bands. During my last year in college in 2003, I bought a dobro, and from 2003-05, was a frequent guest with Boss Hawg, Wise Apple, and various bluegrass acts in the North Carolina High Country. In 2005 I was a finalist in the National Resonator Guitar Competition. I moved to Asheville in 2006, and began freelancing there on dobro and steel guitar. I co-founded Dehlia Low in 2007, and performed with that group from 2007 to 2013. In 2010, I won the Rockygrass Dobro Championship in Lyons, Colorado. In addition to working with Dehlia Low, I've played dobro and lap steel with Asheville-songwriter Galen Kipar since 2008, and also worked with Piedmont-songwriter Bruce Piephoff." (Aaron is endorsed by Fishman and plays Appalachian and Guild guitars).
"I began playing mandolin under Charles Pettee at 15 in my hometown of Chapel Hill, NC. By age 20 I was a working musician playing in bands across the country including The High Town Strutters (Asheville, NC) with Stig, and Steam Powered Airplane (Jackson, WY). In 2004 I helped found Asheville-based bluegrass band Town Mountain, and played mandolin for them until 2007. In recent years I have played regionally with various Asheville bands, performing styles that range from Rock (Wooden Toothe) to Classic Country (Cary Fridley & Down South) and from Folk-Punk (Hillside Bombers) to Old-time (Chompin at the Bit). Aside from these projects, I've also had the pleasure of sharing the stage with the likes of David Grisman, Larry Keel, The Biscuit Burners, Blue Jeans & Khaki Pants, Mary Ellen Davis (Swayback Sisters/formerly of Menage), and Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon)."
About Relics and Roses (2015): Tellico independently released their debut album Relics and Roses on June 2, 2015. The album features the singing and songwriting of Anya Hinkle (guitar, fiddle) and Stig Stiglets (bass), and showcases Aaron Ballance on dobro and pedal and lap steel and Jed Willis on mandolin and clawhammer banjo. Guitar virtuoso Jon Stickley (Jon Stickley Trio) produced the album and makes a few guest appearances with drums and guitar.
All of the songs on Relics and Roses were penned by Hinkle and Stiglets with the exception “White Line-River of Pride,” a Neil Young and Crazy Horse medley of two dirty electric rock tunes buttoned up bluegrass-style. The leading track, “Backstep Blues” [Hinkle] has a “backstep”, a rhythmic hiccup that is typical of old time music, telling the story of a man’s successive retreat from his wife (with the refrain “hey where did your daddy go wrong?”), leaving her with the “backstep blues.” “Calamity”, written by Stiglets, is a tale of disaster sparked by a combination of Hurricane Katrina and Japan’s 2011 tsunami, and the destructive and terrifying images of those events.
“Forsaken Winds” is poetry unto itself with the ethereal sounds of Ballance’s pedal steel filling in the spirit of the lyrics; while “Hawkeye Pierce and Honeycutt Blues” is a tongue and cheek raggy romp in an Asheville street busker’s shoes. “Can’t Go Home Again” is inspired by Asheville author Thomas Wolfe’s book of the same name. Anya found the book to be so richly descriptive in Wolfe’s longwinded style, especially when the protagonist DOES go home again, which she said, “reminded me of something that my dad always used to say: ‘you can’t go home again’! Of course you can’t. The comforting idea of home is just that, an idea. You have to face yourself and your life. Running from it, either to home or far away from it, doesn’t alleviate your suffering.”
“Mexico 1995” is a coming-of-age story penned by Hinkle after a solo four month journey, mostly by bus, from Nogales, Arizona through Guatemala and back. It was before the internet, before cell phones, and after a grisly war and genocide in southern Mexico and Guatemala, a real eye opener for a kid, all during the winter after Jerry Garcia died. Hinkle says, “That early morning that I walked back, on foot, into my post-college privileged American life after crossing the border at Nogales was like a dream, I was a ghost in my own shoes, my idea of who I was as porous as the haze that seemed to linger that entire day that I re-emerged.” The song uses samples from iconic songs that set up the general feeling that it’s all been done before. Hinkle reflects, “Where does a kid go with that? What’s ahead that’s worth anything?”
Relics and Roses is the first since Anya, Stig, and Aaron formed Tellico after recording four records with the Asheville-based bluegrass band Dehlia Low, whose final album Ravens and Crows was released on the Rebel Records label in 2011.
“I love how the songs on Relics and Roses sound with these musicians covering all details that I didn’t even realize I was longing to hear. The band’s rich playing overlays absolutely perfectly with the meanings of the songs, whether playful and amusing or searching, haunting and lonely,” says Hinkle.