Did 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.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Kelly Clarkson tweets angrily about leaked song
Regina Spektor covers Radiohead’s “No Surprises” for charity
Grizzly Bear gives a new song to Washington’s Lottery ad: Watch and hear it exclusively here!
Tokyo Police Club, ‘Boots of Danger (Wait Up)’: A Music Mix exclusive stream