A&E Latest

Running wild again: Jesse Iaquinto of Fireside Collective

Fireside Collective will play the Salvage Station March 16. File photo Fireside Collective will play the Salvage Station March 16. File photo

Celebrating a decade together with a special anniversary gig this week at the Salvage Station in Asheville, Fireside Collective has become a rapidly rising force in the Americana, bluegrass and jam realms in Southern Appalachia and beyond. 

“At our core, we’re a grassroots band,” said Jesse Iaquinto, lead singer/mandolinist. “We thrive on meeting people across the country and learning different interpretations of folk music — it’s the traditions from where we come from and the new directions, we can go that keeps inspiring us to learn and create.” 

Originally from the foothills of northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier region of New York, Iaquinto was a young kid when his mother brought him to a bluegrass festival. During that time, his father would also toy around with a banjo while at home.

“Through my formative years, bluegrass would lay dormant in my mind and not emerge again until my college years,” the 39-year-old said. “Once I got to college, I started listening to a lot of [the] Grateful Dead and bluegrass reemerged in my life.” 

At the foundation of Iaquinto’s love for music was (and remains) the psychedelic rock, American roots and improvisation jam aspects of the Grateful Dead. That was dovetailed with his discovery of the “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe, New Grass Revival and Old & In The Way — the latter featuring the Dead’s Jerry Garcia on banjo.

“[Bluegrass] is such a beautiful thing — the harmonies, instrumental proficiency and live experience,” Iaquinto said. “Bill Monroe blended together so many elements from the music of his day and created something progressive and raw.”

Related Items

Although he started playing piano at age five and dabbled with other instruments (guitar, percussion, saxophone), it wasn’t until Iaquinto was 22 when he experienced a musical epiphany once a mandolin found its way into his hands.

“[The mandolin] blended all of the qualities of the instruments I had played throughout my life,” Iaquinto said. “I love the percussive nature and the harmonic opportunities. Listening to Sam Bush and Chris Thile, I was blown away by how expressive the instrument could be.” 

As an artist, Iaquinto looks at Monroe as an ongoing inspiration to always be a musical sponge, to be in constant awe of the world, to soak in every sight, sound and spectacle one may come across — only to wring it all out into something completely your own.

“I used to view life as one linear experience. Now that I’ve grown and traveled, I see it as an endless cycle,” Iaquinto said. “These cycles feed the artistic journey and keep everything fresh and moving forward — art is just a reflection of those cycles told through the eyes and hearts of the artists themselves.” 

Following college, Iaquinto landed in Western North Carolina. Formed in 2014, Fireside Collective came to fruition in the vast Asheville music scene. The group had a deep desire to tap into not only the ancient tones of the “high, lonesome sound” that is bluegrass, but to also create a festive atmosphere onstage.

“In particular, Asheville is a microcosm of the creative side of the American story,” Iaquinto said. “There are writers, painters, chefs and musicians who come here to be inspired by the beautiful landscape and vibrant culture.” 

Right out of the gate, Fireside Collective was a hardcore bluegrass entity, so much so it won the band competition at MerleFest in 2016. That nationwide notoriety eventually parlayed itself into a nomination from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) for “Momentum Band of the Year.” In 2022, the band received an IBMA nod for “New Artist of the Year.”

“Since [we began], we went heavy into the bluegrass and are now returning back to the hybrid roots ensemble that was originally envisioned,” Iaquinto said.

That circling back to a hybrid roots model included the addition of drummer Michael Tillis, a move that sonically complements the finely tuned skillset and unrelenting drive of Iaquinto, Joe Cicero (acoustic guitar), Tommy Maher (dobro) and Carson White (electric bass).  

“I’ve never really been in too much of hurry — I’d rather build something that lasts than have quick, but fleeting success,” Iaquinto said. “That’s why I’ve always loved blending many different influences into a unique, yet familiar sound.” 

Together, this latest chapter of Fireside Collective is a quintet reinterpreting a slew of original melodies and covers — an intricate acoustic unit with a rhythm section of sound and fury. 

“It’s exciting to think about bringing our bluegrass knowledge into the current incarnation of Fireside Collective,” Iaquinto said. “Knowing we have something unique, and everyone is enthusiastic about the new opportunities is definitely keeping the flame alive and burning brighter than ever before.”

With 10 years now behind them, Fireside Collective is quickly bubbling out of Southern Appalachia and into the national scene — a juncture of time and place that only could have been reached by persistence and passion from the depths of the creative self in constant motion.

“We’ve always been the type of band that let our roots run deep and didn’t force anything,” Iaquinto said. “At the same time, we’ve always strived to grow and evolve — never [staying] in the same place for too long.”

Want to go?

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Americana/bluegrass act Fireside Collective will hit the stage at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Salvage Station in Asheville.

Popular regional jam-band Dangermuffin will kick things off. Doors open at 7 p.m. The show is ages 18 and over. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day-of-show. Onsite parking is free.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to salvagestation.com. To learn about Fireside Collective, go to firesidecollectiveband.com.

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.