A Musical Revelation with Ashley Clark of Sons of Sylvia
by Troy Rogers
With Sons of Sylvia out on the road, we caught up with Ashley Clark for an exclusive one-on-one to learn more about the success of the trio, how the brothers approach song writing, what they've gotten from working with Carrie Underwood, and how Ashley describes the sound of Revelation.
THE DEADBOLT: Since you won The Next Great American Band, what do you think of the American Idol judges? Who would be a good fit?
ASHLEY CLARK: [laughs] Isn’t Steven Tyler one now?
THE DEADBOLT: It’s all still up in the air.
CLARK: I think Steven Tyler would be a cool choice because it would make it really legit. Shania Twain, she would be cool, too. I would say those two. Shania Twain, Steven Tyler and ...
THE DEADBOLT: Ted Nugent.
CLARK: [laughs] You read my mind.
THE DEADBOLT: Well, after you guys won, how much opportunity did the competition give the band? Did it really put you guys on the map, or did you still have to do a lot of legwork?
CLARK: Oh, man! Well, we didn’t even have a record, we just won a show. We were like, "Okay, now what do we do?" So we just immediately went into the studio to start making a record and it took longer than we thought because we literally formed our band for that show.
We were playing together our whole lives but we never were a band. We just played for other people and jammed around the house and I played old gospel songs and stuff. But we were never like, "Hey, let’s be a band and go do it." We saw an ad for that show, The Next Great American Band, and we said, "Hey, let’s go down in the basement and film some stuff." [laughs].
So we went down and filmed some stuff and sent it in. I didn’t think much of it. I was like, "That would be cool if we could do that." Then they called us and asked, "Can you guys fly out to Las Vegas for an audition?" I was like, "Okay." They liked us and said, "You guys are great. We want you guys on the show." But later one of the producers came and told us, "Well, you guys might not be on the show because we have to cut some bands. We’ll let you know."
So, eventually, to make a long story short, we got on there and we won. We were all playing for other people then. I was playing with Carrie Underwood and - Let me back up even further ...
Before I came to Nashville in 2005, within a year I was playing with Carrie Underwood. I don’t even know how they got my number. I didn’t even know who Carrie Underwood was. They asked if I could sing background vocals and I said "Yeah." They asked, "You play the fiddle, too?" I said, "Yeah." So there it was. We were playing David Letterman and going on huge tours.
I left Carrie to go on The Next Great American Band and then when we won. Carrie called us and said, "Hey, do you want to do a duet on my album?" We were like, "Sure!" Then, after that, they asked us if we wanted to open up for her. We didn’t have our album done, but we were like, "Sure!" [laughs]. Now we’re on tour with Carrie, we played American Idol, we have a record out, and now I’m talking to you. [laughs] I’m like, "What’s tomorrow going to bring?"
THE DEADBOLT: Do you know how many bands are probably envious of you guys?
CLARK: Man, I don’t have one thing to complain about at all.
THE DEADBOLT: You also co-wrote "Love Left to Lose" with Ryan [Tedder] of OneRepublic. What kind of advice has he given you about the business?
CLARK: You know he's our cousin, right?
THE DEADBOLT: I do.
CLARK: Well, I used to live with him for about two and a half years in Nashville and we kind of just hung out and laughed a lot and talked just like friends. He said that you just have to do what you believe in.
We went out to Colorado and wrote the song with him and we mostly just talked that whole time about old times. I hadn't seen him in a few years, like since 2006, and he said he saw us on the show and he was voting for us. We looked on the internet of where we used to live and we wrote the song in about an hour. The song was the last thing [laughs].
It's like when you're having a good time and you're in a good environment and it's easy to write and just do things, as opposed to meeting someone new and having to get to know their style. We've just known each other for so long.
THE DEADBOLT: Since it only took an hour to write, what is your typical writing process like? Do you all contribute ?
CLARK: It's always different. Sometimes we'll all get together in a little studio and we'll play a riff and just starting writing over that riff, putting in new chords and sectioning it out. Or one of us will be in a room by ourselves writing and then bring it to the guys and they're like, "That's a piece of crap." [laughs] It's always different. It's never like, "Here's the formula, let's stick to it."
THE DEADBOLT: Revelation has a good mix of styles. How would you describe the sound?
CLARK: I always keep it really simple and say it's a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. It's just a blend of things. There's some pop in there. Even the song "Revelation" is true. It's all true. I just keep it really simple. It's kind of eclectic.
THE DEADBOLT: What have you learned from being on the road with Carrie?
CLARK: Well, I've known her for a couple of years. Her level of professionalism is just the highest I've ever seen in my life. She's such a pro. Night after night, hitting those notes and being crystal clear, effortlessly, it just makes me like, "Okay, I've got to go to the gym and run more." You have to keep up and get plenty of stamina. She's a pro and just a good friend. She's real.
THE DEADBOLT: What other names did you guys kick around before you changed from The Clark Brothers?
CLARK: Oh, man. We had names like The A-Team, Triple A, and more. There were some really bad ones.
THE DEADBOLT: The A-Team would've been funny. One of you would've needed a mohawk.
CLARK: [laughs] I know. I was like, "We can't be The A-Team,
man! We've got to get a big van."