Bryan Sutton

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Bryan Sutton
Sutton (second from right) playing guitar in 2022, in support of Bela Fleck's album My Bluegrass Heart.
Sutton (second from right) playing guitar in 2022, in support of Bela Fleck's album My Bluegrass Heart.
Background information
Asheville, North Carolina, U.S.
OriginUnited States
GenresCountry, bluegrass
Years active1997-present
LabelsSugar Hill

James Bryan Sutton[1] is an American musician. Primarily known as a flatpicking acoustic guitar player, Sutton also plays mandolin, banjo, ukulele, and electric guitar. He also sings and writes songs.


Early career[edit]

Sutton's grandfather and father were regionally recognized fiddlers, and Sutton grew up playing in the family band, the Pisgah Pickers. In 1991, he played guitar for Karen Peck and New River, a gospel group. In 1993, he moved to Nashville.[2][3]

Ricky Skaggs[edit]

Sutton first came to prominence in 1997 as lead guitarist in Ricky Skaggs' band Kentucky Thunder when Skaggs returned to bluegrass. Sutton eventually left the band to focus on session work.[4]

Hot Rize[edit]

Hot Rize in 2004: Pete Wernick, Nick Forster, Tim O'Brien, Bryan Sutton

Bryan was asked to join the bluegrass quartet Hot Rize in 2002. He has toured and recorded with them ever since, and has only missed one show since they re-formed.[5]

Session work and touring[edit]

In addition to Skaggs and Hot Rize, Sutton has toured with the Dixie Chicks, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Hot Rize, Chris Thile, Tony Rice and others.[6]

In 2007-08, Sutton toured with Chris Thile & The How to Grow a Band, a project which later turned into the Punch Brothers.[7]

Bryan is one of the most in-demand session players in Nashville, and recently produced a record for Della Mae and the Cash Cabin. His style is a unique blend of staccato mixed with powerful chromatic and melodic movements which is integrated into the more common bluegrass, blues and folk leads that are common to the genre.[8]

Other projects[edit]

In June, 2011 he launched the Online Bluegrass Guitar School with Bryan Sutton, as part of the ArtistWorks Academy of Bluegrass.[9]

In 2013, Sutton recorded the album Ready for the Times with T. Michael Coleman and David Holt. They recorded the album as a tribute to Doc Watson.[10] The trio got together in 2011, and have performed frequently under the name Deep River Rising.[11]


For Almost Live, Sutton was joined by 17 guest musicians, including Béla Fleck (banjo), Jerry Douglas (resonator guitar), Russ Barenberg (guitar), Chris Thile (mandolin), and Stuart Duncan (fiddle).[7]

Sutton's album Into My Own featured guests Bill Frisell (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Noam Pikelny (banjo).[3]

On 2016's The More I Learn, Sutton continued to develop and showcase his singing and songwriting skills. The album prominently features Bryan Sutton Band members Casey Campbell (mandolin), Mike Barnett (fiddle), and Sam Grisman (bass).[12]


  • 2000 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2003 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2004 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2005 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2006 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2007 - Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance for Whiskey Before Breakfast w/ Doc Watson. The song was recorded using 3 vintage Neumann microphones and a laptop in a Colorado hotel room by Engineer Phil Harris.[2]
  • 2011 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year [13]
  • 2013 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2014 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year
  • 2014 - Into My Own was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Bluegrass Album category[14]
  • 2015 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year[15]
  • 2016 - IBMA Guitar Player of the Year[16]


Bryan supports Bourgeois Guitars and performs regularly with his own signature model, a Bourgeois Bryan Sutton Limited Edition. He also uses a Bourgeois "Country Boy Deluxe" model dreadnought, and a Bourgeois "Banjo Killer" slope-shouldered dreadnought, which is another model directly inspired by Bryan. He also regularly performs with a 1940 Martin D-28.[3]



  1. ^ "BIG ISLAND HORNPIPE". ASCAP. American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved April 26, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Emily Glaser. "Bluegrass and Balsam: Appalachia's Own Bryan Sutton". Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Stone, Steven (December 1, 2014). "Bryan Sutton: Into His Own". Vintage Guitar Magazine. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Netherland, Tom (March 1, 2017). "Guitar phenomenon Bryan Sutton looks to next challenge". Bristol Herald-Courier. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  5. ^ Leslie, Jimmy (February 6, 2015). "Bryan Sutton on Hot Rize, Low End, and Fluid Flatpicking". Guitar Player. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "Bryan Sutton Bans". Music City Roots. Archived from the original on May 30, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Ellis, Andy (April 1, 2010). "Bryan Sutton". Guitar Player. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  8. ^ Reed, James (May 30, 2013). "Della Mae puts extra pluck in its bluegrass". Boston Globe. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  9. ^ staff writer (May 26, 2011). "ArtistsWorks to Launch Online Bluegrass Guitar School with Bryan Sutton". Guitar Player. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  10. ^ "Sutton, Holt & Coleman-Ready for the Times". Bluegrass Unlimited. October 1, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  11. ^ Gevock, Nick (July 11, 2012). "Inspired by Doc Watson, Deep River Rising trio carries on tradition". Montana Standard. Retrieved August 10, 2017.
  12. ^ Donald Teplyske. ""The More I Learn" by Bryan Sutton". The Lonesome Road Review. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  13. ^ "STEVE MARTIN & THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS NAMED IBMA ENTERTAINERS OF THE YEAR". International Bluegrass Music Association. Archived from the original on 2011-11-23. Retrieved 2011-12-08.
  14. ^ Kopp, Bill (March 6, 2015). "Bryan Sutton on the "DNA of Bluegrass"". No Depression. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  15. ^ "Bryan Sutton, Rhonda Vincent win at IBMA!". Bourgeois Guitars. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  16. ^ Lawless, John (September 29, 2016). "2016 IBMA Awards results". Bluegrass Today. Retrieved June 14, 2017.

External links[edit]