Brothers have new name, record
Things can get confusing when trying to explain Sons of Sylvia.
First off, you might know the band better as The Clark Brothers, a trio from Franklin County who won the only season of the "American Idol" spinoff show, "The Next Great American Band."
Before that televised victory, they had been part of The Clark Family Experience, a six-brother, country-pop band that splintered after record company troubles and a bankruptcy filing.
By the time Adam, Ashley and Austin Clark signed on for "The Next Great American Band," they weren't really a band at all. Instead, they were touring sidemen based in Nashville, Tenn. The three, on a lark, had sent the Fox show's producers a basement video of themselves jamming.
Nearly three years have passed since then, an eternity in pop culture. But the Clarks have re-emerged with a new name, Sons of Sylvia, a new record, "Revelation" (19 Recordings/Interscope Records) and a spot opening for Underwood on her tour, which comes to the Roanoke Civic Center on Nov. 12.
And most importantly, they have defined themselves as a band, said Dobro and lap steel guitarist Austin Clark. The sound definitely leans more toward pop and rock than country, despite the heavy presence of fiddles and slide guitar.
"Just getting in the studio and writing was basically brand new for us as a band," Austin Clark said. "We didn't exactly know what we wanted to say. We definitely didn't know our sound. It was very experimental. And luckily, everyone working with us was so cool. They let us do that. They let us just find ourselves. They let us grow as a band in the studio.
"Once we figured it out and it clicked, we just ran with it."
They got some help from some high-profile kin, Ryan Tedder of pop-rock band OneRepublic. Tedder, a second cousin to the Clarks, saw OneRepublic gain international fame with its single, "Apologize." Tedder's production work with such acts as Leona Lewis, Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson has put him among the current pantheon of pop music producers.
Tedder and the Clarks go back much further. He and Ashley Clark were roomies who backpacked through Europe together and dreamed of musical success, and it was a given that they would get back together to put in work after Sons of Sylvia got their deal, Austin Clark said. The result: the single, "Love Left To Lose."
"I think they wrote it in like an hour," he said. "I think all the good ones do that. It just popped out. ... We immediately jumped in the studio and started recording it."
When it was time to debut the song, Underwood lent a hand, introducing the band and the song on "American Idol." After the performance, Sons of Sylvia saw "Revelation" go to No. 1 on the iTunes pop chart. The record also spent a couple of weeks in the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at No. 33, and peaked at No. 9 on the rock albums chart.
Underwood also invited the band to help her record "What Can I Say," a tune from her smash hit CD, "Play On." She even had the Clarks join her on her televised Christmas special last year.
"She's just been so good to us," Austin Clark said. "She's a great friend, but she's such an amazing supporter of our music. I don't even know what we did to deserve this, but I'm just so thankful."
On tour, Sons of Sylvia (Sylvia is the Clarks' mother, naturally) are feeling the love.
"Carrie's fans are just so warm and welcoming," Clark said. "After our show we do a meet-and-greet every night, and they're just so cool to us."