Return to Sons of Sylvia

Sons of Sylvia Make mom proud
By Paul Freeman

For The Daily News

Posted: 09/23/2010 12:47:46 AM PDT

Ashley Clark arrived in Nashville with no prospects for establishing a music career. But he had faith.

Soon after, he landed in emerging star Carrie Underwood's group. With his brothers, he won a network TV band contest. Now, as Sons of Sylvia, they're touring with Underwood (playing San Jose's HP Pavilion on Monday). Soon these charismatic siblings should be headlining arenas themselves.

Opening for Underwood, playing appealing songs from their hit "Revelation" album, Sons of Sylvia are earning enthusiastic responses and long lines at the autograph table. "Crazy things happen in the line sometimes," lead vocalist/fiddler Ashley said, laughing. "Girls grabbing you, trying to kiss you, showing you their boobs."

That's a far cry from growing up with a preacher daddy. "We'd go with him to tent revivals and play bluegrass festivals and churches. Looking back, it was a wild experience," Ashley said. "All the traveling. There were 11 kids in the family. It was a family circus."

But that background was valuable to Ashley and his siblings. "It gave me something solid to hold onto. Going to churches, being in a conservative environment your whole life, then being thrown out into the rock 'n' roll environment. I have my crazy days, but I'm glad I was raised with a good foundation. I know God, family and friends are the most important things."

Ashley, 29, co-wrote the album's first single, "Love Left To Lose" with his cousin, Ryan



Tedder, front man for the now red-hot OneRepublic. "I played a few shows with him and OneRepublic before they were signed. I was their fiddle player. I left to go be with Dad. But Ryan inspired me. He never gave up. He kept going for it. His dreams are coming true. That made me feel like we could do it, too."

Ashley left OneRepublic to join his father's travels. "I was just trying to find my way. Dad always pressured me. He wanted me to be a preacher, really bad. But my heart was in the music. Finally, I took a leap of faith and moved to Nashville. I bought a truck and just went.

"There's always little moments of doubt, like 'Man, did I make the wrong decision?' But then you realize you've got to keep going and embrace the unknown. That's what faith is, believing in something, when you can't touch it or see it. Believe it, and you can walk on water."

Ashley found a gig shortly after committing to music. "I had just moved to Nashville and I got a phone call. I still don't know how they got my number. They asked me if I wanted to play fiddle and sing background for Carrie Underwood. At the time, I didn't know who Carrie Underwood was. I didn't know much about 'American Idol.' This was right when Carrie won in 2005. I was, like, sleeping on couches. So I said, 'Sure!'

"I started playing with her and we did, like, Jay Leno, David Letterman, all these big shows and I was like, 'Whoa!'"

Ashley played in her band for two and a half years. Brothers Austin and Adam were playing with SheDaisy.

Then another opportunity presented itself. "I was watching 'American Idol' one night and I saw an advertisement for 'The Next Great American Band.' I called up my brothers and said, 'Hey, guys, we can be a band. Let's do it. We've played together our whole lives. Why not?' So we went down in the basement, filmed an audition tape and sent it in."

They were asked to perform on the show. Billing themselves as The Clark Brothers, they wound up winning the competition. That led to a recording contract. They created a unique sound, beyond categorization. The brothers' influences range from Bill Monroe to Elvis to The Doors and U2.

"We started out writing just straight-up country stuff. But we got to a point where we just said, 'Who cares what anyone else says? Let's just do what we feel, make music we believe in and let the chips fall.' There's a fine line between the pop world and country world, and we're just trying to bring the two worlds together. It was a revelation, discovering who we were, musically, and as people, too."

The brothers decided to call themselves Sons of Sylvia. "Our sound was changing so much, it just felt natural to switch it up, to have a fresh start. So we wanted a fresh new name. Our mom's never been in the spotlight. She had 11 kids. We thought it would be cool, like a monument to her name."

An appearance on "American Idol" helped bring the Sons of Sylvia widespread recognition. "After we were on, our album went No. 1 in pop on iTunes and we were the most Googled for that day. It was a great launching pad."

They're releasing a new single, "I'll Know You." Soon the brothers will know how it feels to be full-fledged superstars.

"I feel so blessed," Ashley said. "Not a lot of people can just hang out with their family all the time and not want to kill each other, let alone play music together. These are the times of our lives. I'm thankful for every opportunity with my brothers. I'm just enjoying life."

The son of a preacher man plans to get involved in helping charities and believes he can accomplish good through his music. "I don't think God has any walls. We put up all these walls for him. He's like, 'Hey, I don't live in your little box, man.' If we just have faith and let him do his thing with us and our lives, then nothing is impossible."