The Jon Stickley Trio recently welcomed new drummer Hunter Deacon to the fold, just in time for a busy start to the festival season. Firebrand guitarist Jon Stickley and violinist Lyndsay Pruett know a little something about changing tempos: The band’s lightning-fast runs are heavily featured in their live performances. Now, their skilled musicianship will be delivered over a brand new beat, as the departure of former drummer Patrick Armitage has freed up the drummer’s throne for Deacon to settle in and make it his own.Though any lineup change is tough on a band at first, its impact on a trio can be particularly difficult to adapt to, with 1/3 of the sound suddenly being transformed. As the Jon Stickley Trio got their footing with their new band member on a recent run of shows, we caught up with Stickley to get his thoughts on the state of the band. Check out our exclusive chat below: Rex Thomson: So, big news first off…new drummer, Hunter Deacon. I am assuming your band uses the same the “jump-in” initiation process that most gangs do…How bad did you and Lyndsay wail on him?Jon Stickley: Yeah, we put him through the wringer. He’s been learning all the material and that as actually got the creative juices flowing. Lots of new stuff in the works…RT: What does Hunter bring to the table?JS: Well, he is classically trained, he has toured with a lot of singer-songwriters and played pretty much all types of music under the sun. He has a really strong jazz-improvisational bent that has led him to be extremely sensitive to intuitively playing with others, so he has really slipped into the role easily. He fit like a glove right away. I gotta say the music feels better than it ever has. RT: The Jon Stickley Trio has an idiosyncratic sound, especially live. Obviously, you want to stay relatively true to your sound, but how close is this configuration to the previous iteration?JS: It’s very similar. We’re playing the same songs, so it’s not like people will be lost. Hopefully, they’ll be more entertained. We’re not going to be going into “free jazz” or anything like that. It’s all gonna be the same tradition. We’re just glad to have a drummer that is on equal footing with Lyndsay and myself.One last taste of the old before we catch some of the new out on tour:RT: You mentioned the creative juices were flowing…Does that mean new material is already being conceived?JS: Let’s just say we are stoked to get out and play some new stuff for hopefully old and new fans alike in 2018.RT: How packed is the 2018 Jon Stickley Trio concert calendar so far?JS: Really packed. We have a lot–more than ever if you look at this point in previous years. We are returning to some of our favorite festivals, and a few that we have always wanted to play we are finally getting to this time around. Besides all the festivals, a lot of good rooms and clubs are opening their doors to us finally. It’s like all this hard work is paying off.RT: You’ll be bringing Hunter to Spirit of the Suwannee for the first time this March for the Suwannee Spring Reunion Festival. The Trio and Suwannee have a long-standing relationship, and you’re well-known there for your wild sets and all-night pickin’ parties. Is it gonna be business as usual this year?JS: Oh yeah, we were telling him about it last night. We were like, “Spring Reunion is the festival that we always try and be there the whole weekend. We like to set up camp, find a fire and pick. That feeling, that sharing…it’s pretty much what we live for.” By far our favorite place play.RT: Gonna keep him up all night?JS: I don’t know. We’ll see if he can hang.RT: Shots fired! Can he hear you right now?JS: I think so, actually.RT: Well, the gauntlet has been tossed.JS: Suwannee brings it out of you. It’s our favorite festival site, to be sure. It’s just so huge and well laid out. There’s no crowding or rushing to get to one of the good spots. They are all good spots. Plenty of room for everybody. You can ride right into it with your car, no shuttles or anything like that. And I honestly think everyone there feels the same way. We love going there to play music as much as people love going there to hear it.The “Spirit” part of the name, “The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park,” it’s a real thing. You feel it when you are there. Honestly, the best music we play each year seems to happen at the Spirit Of The Suwannee.RT: How natural is the mix and match of your styles and influences for you mentally? When you play through it all live, it looks and sounds effortless. But is that the case, say, during the songwriting stage?JS: I guess I have to say it’s really natural, mentally. Every style and influence you hear in my playing is just my own interpretation of a sound already. It’s that type of music through my own style or mental lens.RT: Well, thanks for taking a few minutes to introduce us to the new guy! Looking forward to hearing what you’re cooking up for us!JS: Come see us out here and the road!