Flatland Harmony Experiment to bring its diverse grooves

March 29, 2019

Hailing from the big city surrounded by fruitful farmland, the Flatland Harmony Experiment trio brings fun acoustic music to the Tri-State from Indianapolis.

The band has been together since 2011 and has over 1,000 shows under their belt while building up a fervent fan base due to their energetic flow. Not tied to any one genre, the Flatland Harmony Experiment are about instrumental and vocal fun.

On Friday, March 29, the Flatland Harmony Experiment will perform at Black Sheep Stage venue along with Moonshine Crossing. The show is all ages, will begin at 9 p.m. and the cover is $5.

The members of the Flatland Harmony Experiment include Scott Nelson on bass and vocals, Kris Potts on mandolin and vocals, and Johnny Plott on banjo and vocals.

The trio works their magic while performing around a single large diaphragm condenser microphone, playing their brand of bluegrass, newgrass, Gypsy jazz and more.

“I’m about 10 years older than the other guys in the group and I have been in a couple of bands over the years playing newgrass music and the band that I was in was at the end of its run,” said Scott Nelson. “Then, one day I went to a jam and met Johnny and Kris and I had a whole book of songs that I had already been playing. I recognized right away that these guys were just fire pickers and great players. They said that they were ‘kind of in a band,’ but it wasn’t really active, so I suggested that we get together as just the three of us. So, we got together and I ended up recording that rehearsal. We were immediately able to tell that we could sing three-part harmony together. It sounded good to begin with, so we worked really hard to build up some material.”

Once together the Flatland Harmony Experiment decided to keep their repertoire wide open, not tied to any one form of music.

“The easiest thing I have said when it comes to describing our sound is to say we are a non-traditional bluegrass band,” said Nelson. “The only thing that really makes us bluegrass is we sing around a single microphone and we play acoustic instruments. I just listened to our shows from this weekend, and we have over 50 shows up on archive.org right now, and some of our stuff is complicated instrumentals based in jazz and fusion, while a lot of the tunes that I write are more simple Americana songs.”

Nelson writes a lot of the band’s songs and one unique aspect of that are lyrics that are not of the same old formula.

“I try to have high intent when it comes to my lyrics,” said Nelson. “I realize that sometimes a lot of people don’t listen to the lyrics unless there is a catchy hook up front. But, if you like what we do, I want there to be another layer of lyrics that you can dive into the rabbit hole with and enjoy. In some of the songs I have written, I will make up stories or studied up on historical events and written around them. For instance, I wrote a song called ‘Leaf On A River’ about the fall of the Incan Empire. I have written songs about an old country doctor. I am always looking for cool stories. I keep a book of song seeds. A lot of people say these weird things that are a little bit off that are either insightful or interesting, and when that happens I try and write them down. I have a bank of those that I can go back and build a song around.”

One thing that has helped Flatland Harmony Experiment has been their appearance at festivals, from MerleFest to Telluride Bluegrass Festival to the John Hartford Memorial Festival that happens in their home state of Indiana. The late John Hartford was no stranger to the Tri-State area as he performed here regularly and rode in and captained some boats on the Ohio River as well.

“I have been a part of the John Hartford Memorial Festival from the beginning,” said Nelson. “I ran the sound and managed the second stage at the festival for the first seven years and as a part of that, my band got to play there. I have to say that this festival has had as much to do with making our band happen as anything else. When I first started working with the festival, I did not know John Hartford’s music at all. Now, in the last three years, the Flatland Harmony Experiment has done an album cover set of Hartford’s music. In previous years we performed John’s Mark Twang and The Love Album, and this year we will be combining his Dillard, Hartford, Dillard album with the Vassar Clements, John Hartford and Dave Holland album.”

This will be the group’s second trip to Huntington, although Nelson has rafted the Gauley River before in the New River Gorge. The Flatland Harmony Experiment is looking forward to having some fun this weekend.

“We played the Black Sheep Burrito venue the last time in Huntington and are looking forward to performing at Black Sheep Stage this time,” said Nelson. “It was a great time. It was a cool room and a really cool audience, so we are excited to get back to town.”