Sons of Sylvia: Meet the band of brothers who performed on tonight's 'American Idol'

SonsofsylviaDid you recognize Sons of Sylvia, the country-pop trio who performed their single “Love Left to Lose” on tonight’s episode of American Idol? In 2007, these guys won Fox’s The Next Great American Band, the Idol-for-bands series created by Idol mastermind Simon Fuller. Back then they were known as the Clark Brothers, and their distinctive bluegrass interpretations of tunes like Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” led them to victory over 11 other semifinalists. “We went from sending in an audition tape to being on the show to having to figure out, every week, a new way to play a song,” lead singer Ashley Clark (pictured, left) tells the Music Mix now. “When we won and all the fireworks went off, it was pretty much like, ‘How did we get here?’”

You might ask them the same question today. Almost immediately after winning The Next Great American Band, Ashley Clark and his brothers Adam and Austin Clark (pictured, center and right) hit the studio to start work on what would become their debut. “I would say we’d written about 350 songs, something crazy like that,” Ashley says. “We were just trying to discover our sound more…We wrote some bluegrass stuff, [but] it just didn’t feel like, at least right now, that was the time for it.” So the Clarks kept plugging away in studios from L.A. to Nashville to Vancouver to Colorado. As the winners of NGAB, they were signed to 19 Recordings, the same label as Idol alums like Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Daughtry, Jordin Sparks, and more. 19 and Interscope Records helped set the siblings up with industry pros who guided them toward the glossier pop style heard on Revelation, which arrived in stores at last this week.

About a year ago, the Clark Brothers became Sons of Sylvia. “We wanted to change our name with the music. We just wanted a fresh start with a fresh sound,” says Ashley. Sylvia, naturally, is their real-life mom’s first name. “She’s totally thrilled. When we told her we changed the name, she was crying. My dad was like, ‘Why don’t you name it Sons of Frederick?’”

That’s not the only family connection that’s come in handy for Sons of Sylvia. Hitmaker Ryan Tedder (“Bleeding Love,” “Halo”) is a second cousin — Tedder’s mother and Sylvia herself are first cousins, for those keeping track at home — and he co-wrote and produced “Love Left to Lose,” the single they played on Idol. “I knew [Tedder] before he got big,” Ashley says. “My early twenties is when we started hanging out more in Nashville. We lived together. We were broke together. We backpacked across Europe together, just for fun. We got mugged in Paris one time together.”

Ashley Clark was only “a little nervous” about performing on Idol tonight. “I just try to do my best and get into the song, even though there’s cameras and things. I can’t imagine what the contestants — well, actually, I can imagine,” the reality competition veteran realizes with a chuckle. “Actually, it feels a lot better. It’s not like people are going to vote you off.”

After Idol, Sons of Sylvia go back to opening for Carrie Underwood on a U.S. tour that extends through December (including some Canadian dates along the way). “We’ve been on the road since March, just going non-stop,” Ashley says. “It’s a blast. It keeps getting better and better. We don’t want it to end.”

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Comments (37 total) Add your comment
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  • Jess

    They are from my hometown in Virginia. I remember them as tiny boys. I’m so happy for them. The entire family of 13 is VERY talented. There are 9 boys and twin girls.

    • darclyte

      Their performance from last night was actually taped several weeks ago, I remember reading about it in one of those “behind the scenes at Idol” blogs that EW.com posts. I thought it was ok, but it started out very rough. I’m surprised that they didn’t record it again (as pre-taped performers sometimes do) because of that rough start.

  • Becci

    I remember them from the competition on Fox. I was routing for Six Wire, but I thought these guys were exceptionally talented. Nice to see them again.

  • jenn

    Andrew Garcia should ask them how to play “Gimmie Shelter” by the Rolling Stones. There version blew Andrew out of the water compared to when he did it on Idol…They did it under the Clark Brothers. Everyone should check it out.

    • JBD

      I totally agree. “Gimme Shelter” was so awesome by the Clark Brothers that when Andrew sang it, I had to go back and listen to the brother’s cover which is amazing!

  • Myla

    Incredibly talented!!!! I’m definitely buying their album.

  • typeogirl

    My jaw hit the floor when I recognized them on American Idol tonite! My husband and I were so happy when they won Greatest American Band and we always wondered what happened to them and tonite!-there they were! Their performance tonite was wonderful!

  • Jared

    I loved these guys! I’ve been waiting on their album. A bit sad to see that they aren’t bluegrass anymore, but they still sound great.

  • Natalie

    I was thrilled to hear the brothers would be on Idol this week! I’ve been eagerly awaiting an album from them since seeing them on the Band show. I bought their album last night on iTunes and I’m loving it. I do miss some of their bluegrass style, but I think they’ll sell much better with the rock/pop sound. I think we’ll hear Sons of Sylvia on the radio soon!

  • ~Sher~

    Oh My Gosh..I thought they looked familiar..I remember seeing them at my State Fair a few years ago as “The Clark Brothers”..

    I admired their “talent” and wondered what had happened to them..I had not seen The Greatest American Band show so was unaware of their winning that competition..

    GREAT to see them getting the ATTENTION they so deserve!

  • David

    Is it me or does the mandolin player look like the weird brother from “The Wedding Crashers?”

  • maggie

    Sylvia must be proud……..like to see all the Idols sticking together and not turning their back on the shows once they win – would like to see more coming back – like Michael Johns – where is he these days?

    • Davey

      Michael Johns made an album and has been more than busy performing. I think it’s more than AI hasn’t asked him back yet to perform which is too bad. He’s also performed with Brooke White in concerts.

  • Thought so!

    I thought they were the Clark Bros! It was awesome to see them on Idol last night. Was thrilled they won their competition even though I thought it would be Six Wire.

  • Mike Therrien

    I really enjoyed them on NGAB. While they were playing on AI I commented that they reminded me of a darker version of the clark brothers. Not a bad thing but didn’t seem too squeaky clean. I am looking forward to hearing more of what they have to offer.

  • DTC

    the lead singer looked really creepy last night, not blinking and staring into space. I know that they feel like they have to put on the whole “tortured, tormented artist” look, but they may need to reconsider this tactic and actually look animated.

  • Sue

    Honestly, I thought they did better than Rascal Flatts last night! And that’s saying something!

  • joannt

    I really didn’t remember them but I really liked their song! Will look for the album!!!

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