“Crazy how you can have everything but time,” Sons of Sylvia frontman Ashley Clark sings in “Revelation,” the band’s autobiographical tale of finding destiny through music and the unbreakable bond of brotherly love. “And I don’t know where I’m going, but I know it’s going fast,” he continues, delivering the passion of truth with every line of the country-rock anthem, beginning with, “I was born the day John Lennon died.”
It’s a fitting introduction to the genre-defying trio whose previous incarnation, The Clark Brothers, won Fox’s American Idol-inspired Next Great American Band in record time and with seemingly little effort. Granted, the three brothers — Ashley, Austin and Adam — individually were well practiced when auditions came around. Ashley had been playing fiddle and singing background vocals in Carrie Underwood’s band, while Austin and Adam had toured with SheDaisy. At the time, all three were living in Nashville (not together), but they didn’t have an actual band to speak of. “We just went down in the basement, filmed ourselves playing a few songs and sent it in,” Ashley explains of the submission process. “And next thing you know, we got a call back.”
“We all kept thinking, ‘How are we going to win a band show without a band,’” adds Adam of their lack of a rhythm section. “So when we got there, it was all a little overwhelming and I just wanted to make it to the top 5. I didn’t think we were gonna get very far in it.” But thanks to fan votes, not only did they make it past the top 5, The Clark Brothers went on to win the 2007 competition, beating out 10,000 contenders for the title and scoring a recording contract with 19 Recordings/Interscope Records in the process. Says Austin: “It was amazing and at the same time, humbling. We just felt very honored that from all the bands, people picked us.”
Call it a fluke, but the way the brothers see their television discovery, it was all a matter of fate and faith. In fact, there are two things Ashley, Austin and Adam have never doubted: that music runs in their blood and wherever it may lead them, that’s the path they were meant to take. Such has been their mantra from a very young age where the siblings, three of 11 born to preacher parents, began playing and touring North America. Over time, the brothers had ostensibly gone their separate ways, at least professionally, until Ashley orchestrated the basement reunion that would lead to the formation of Sons of Sylvia, the name change (inspired by their mother) signifying “a clean, fresh start,” according to Ashley.
What followed their Next Great American Band win were months of nonstop writing as the guys continued on their musical journey. Destination: unknown. “We took everything we love about country music and put it into this record,” Ashley explains. “And after writing, like, 300 songs, we weren’t ready to stop there, so we thought we’d take a leap of faith and do something totally new and different.”
The result? The hard-driving “John Wayne,” in which Austin does to the dobro what autotune did to the pop chorus. Indeed, distortions abound on this track, Ashley proves his vocal range has no limits and Adam takes the mandolin to another dimension. Upping the ante on “50 Ways,” the brothers deliver undeniable hooks while upping the BPMs on their stringed instruments. But it’s on the anthemic “Love Left to Lose,” which Ashley co-wrote with their cousin, hit maker and OneRepublic frontman, Ryan Tedder, that these Sons wear their hearts on their sleeves, while making the audience’s melt. Or at least that’s been the case as nightly sing-alongs have sprung up on Carrie Underwood’s tour, which S.O.S. is opening. “‘Love Left to Lose’ is a special song because Ashley and Ryan have a really cool history of living and traveling together before Ryan made it big,” says Adam. “And now we’re on the same label! It’s so weird how our lives are a series of strange events like that—impossible situations over and over again, becoming possible.”
From Ashley’s purview, nothing was weirder than sitting in a room with his cousin-turned-Grammy nominee, and putting pen to paper. “It was surreal,” Ashley says. “We were just laughing, like, ‘Can you believe this?’ It’s been a crazy road.”
Recorded in Nashville, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, Canada, featuring production by Jack Joseph Puig, Ryan Tedder, Jeff Trott, Brian Howes, Gerald O’Brien, Catt Gravitt, and Mike Shimshack along with co-writes by them and Lindy Robbins, Revelation is the beginning of a newly-charted course for this immensely talented group. And Ashley, who has been on a steady diet of the Beatles, U2, Elvis and The Doors and considers himself a “late bloomer,” is gladly leading the charge — with gusto and swagger. “I think in my heart, I’m more of a rocker,” he says. “For a long time, it was like I couldn’t always express myself or how I really feel. Now, I want to go wild and dance around the stage.”