Return to Sons of Sylvia

Sons of Sylvia brothers find climb to the top suits them just fine
Published: Monday, December 13, 2010, 12:58 PM

Chad Swiatecki, Flint Journal

At first it's hard to take Austin Clark at his word when he says the proposition of playing music in front of tens of thousands of fans every night doesn't rattle him.

That is, until he's asked about the first big-time concert he ever attended growing up.

"Honestly, it was as part of an opening act for a Tim McGraw concert when I was 13 years old," Clark said by phone from Bismark, N.D. "We went from playing bluegrass festivals where we were playing in front of 20 or 30 people to something huge and mind-blowing like Tim McGraw. It wasn't that I was nervous at that point but more that I was excited, and it opened up your eyes to what was possible as a performer."

Given that early exposure to huge crowds and life on the road, it's no wonder Clark seems perfectly at ease with his current spot as an opening act, with his brothers Ashley and Adam as the band Sons of Sylvia, for country superstar Carrie Underwood.

Since those lofty beginnings the brothers have had a run of luck and success in their music career, including a winning bow on the Fox reality show "The Next Great American Band," while they were performing as The Clark Brothers.

That exposure helped them land a guest spot performing on the song "What Can I Say" from Underwood's 2009 album "Play On," and the superstar also introduced them for a guest spot on an "American Idol" episode this spring to coincide with the release of their album "Revelation," which is a hybrid of country, pop and rock music.

About to complete the second leg of Underwood's tour that has had the band on the road for most of 2010, Austin Clark said he and his brothers are impressed every night when they watch the headliner deliver knockout performances.

"It's easy to say, but she never ever has an off night, is the epitome of a professional and every time she goes out there she's giving the crowd a thousand percent," the 27-year-old said. "Watching her do that, it's inspiring and it makes you want to keep working hard so you can get to her level."

Clark said one of the keys to Underwood's success is her versatility as a singer and her ability to move from heart-felt ballads to pop songs to raucous country throughout the course of an evening.

"Some people try their whole lives to have that kind of diversity with their instrument or, in her case her voice, and it's amazing what she can do with it," he said. "She has soaring ballads and then will just rock it out. To be able to shift gears like that takes real talent and few can do it as well as she can."

Wednesday's stop in Auburn Hills is the trio's final stop on the road with Underwood. Clark said the past year has been dizzying but he's grateful to have family members there with him to keep a sense of reality and home around him at all times.

"We were all sidemen in other bands before we did this, so we know what it's like and it's really special to be able to do this with your family because they're there for you always and if you get in an argument or anything you get away for a while and then it's back to normal," he said. "It's been fun and I'm glad to have them here with me, but it'll be really nice to have a break and sleep in my own bed again. We might barely get home by Christmas, so I'm hoping we can make it."