Sons of Sylvia -- More than just country music
By Patrick D. Muir
Sons of Sylvia is filed under "country" at the records store, but that's really only because you have to call the Nashville-based trio something.
They sound more like post-grunge, power-ballad commercial rock than they do like anything else on country radio. But you can't call them that either, because, while they're more like the Goo Dolls or Collective Soul than they are Merle Haggard, there definitely is a fast-pickin' bluegrass side to them, too. So, at some point, probably because they were in Nashville, someone labeled them a country band.
Had to call 'em something.
"It's a result of growing up playing bluegrass but later in life being exposed to rock and pop and blues and even some jazz every once in a while," says Austin Clark, one of the three Clark brothers in the band.
Austin, who plays dobro and sings backing vocals, is joined by Adam, who plays mandolin and guitar, and Ashley, who sings lead and plays guitar. The three were raised together in Virginia in an Evangelical Christian environment that Austin says turned out to be quite sheltered.
"We didn't get out much when we were younger," he says. "So pretty much what we'd do is stay home and play (music)."
The story that the boys, then billed as The Clark Brothers, had never heard the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" before learning it for the Fox reality series "The Next Great American Band" is true, Austin says. (They won the series and now include the song in their live show.)
Since then, the brothers have delved into the catalogs not just of The Stones, but also The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It's been quite an education, Austin says.
"It was mind-blowing," he says. "I mean, you go from just playing banjos your whole life to hearing The Beatles, and it will be mind-blowing."
Hence the rock influence in their music. There's enough country in there, too, though. That's why Carrie Underwood picked them as openers on this tour. Criss-crossing the country with Underwood has been a career boost for Sons of Sylvia, but it's also been a lot of fun, Austin says.
"I'm going to remember a whole bunch of things," he says. "One is just how amazing Carrie has been toward us. She's really been so kind and loving and given us an amazing opportunity."