Thursday, 30 June 2016

Eight questions with Sylva Kay

(c) Ian Wallman

1. Who is Sylva Kay? (a short introduction)

English, self-taught multi-instrumentalist, living in Oxford. Named Sylva Megan Hermione Rose Kay. Plays Experimental pop. Lingers around folk music. Moves into blues rock sometimes. Has been much more ‘Alt/Indie rock in the past. Is recording her second album with Grammy Winning record producer Jimmy Hogarth.

2. When was the Heart Of Stone EP recorded and where? If there is an interesting story behind how you and any producers & session players met and started playing together, please do share.

At the end of 2015 in a shed on wheels in my garden and in Jimmy Hogarth’s former studio in Kilburn.

I had written a live set, which I was gigging with other musicians in London. I’d also recorded a demo in my final year at LIPA which was getting the attention of A&R at several major labels. I also snuck into a seminar iD Magazine were doing for students at Brighton University because I heard Turin Brakes manager was part of the Q&A panel. I approached him after the talk to give him my demo, luckily for me he liked my CD and called me back - from out of a combination of these things I was introduced to producer Jimmy Hogarth. Jimmy's studio and approach was different to all the other producers I also met in and around that time. We’ve kept in touch over the years and now we’re writing and recording my second album together at his new studio in West London.

3. Your website tells us that photography and art were early passions. How do you manage to maintain these alongside your music? The metallic wrapper for the EP is quite unique and eye-catching, how did you come up with that idea?

Having art skills as an independent artist comes in handy. It’s quite easy to maintain because it’s something i’ve always been drawn to, but it is also a necessity. I did the cover art and packaging design for the ‘Heart of Stone EP’ as well as collaborated with another artist Matt Hunt from Spillage Fete Records on the cover and inlay art for Undercut, my first record. I guess it acts as a silent partner beneath the music, and chips in when I’m writing lyrics. I’m very grateful to have it. I do flyers and posters too. 

I wanted to have something that looked strong like metal, iron, rock, earth - to balance my feelings of vulnerability. The environment I perform in most days has had quite an impact on my life. Busking is really hard work. Everyone expects you to be shit so I’ve tried to turn this negativity that I feel people have towards it, and that I sometimes have towards it, into a strength. I could just put a CD in plastic sleeve bought from W H Smiths and print it out on my printer at home, but then that’s what everyone expects. I would rather try and let it reflect my story and make use of my current situation. ‘Yes I work outside, yes I get rained on, yes I’m climbing a mountain everyday. Here’s the work that’s about that in every way’. It makes it good and makes it work for me. It turns what could be seen as a weakness into a strength.

4. How has your solo music developed through your experience playing in bands in the past?

When the songs you write and the mark you make is a collective one, the challenges are very different. The challenge is how be most effective in your small way. How to communicate your ideas and not give in to the impulses to chuck in the towel every week. But I learnt more than I can say. The process taught me everything I’ve needed to now work solo. It’s revealed what’s possible. Working solo after working with a band becomes an exciting opportunity, rather than a daunting, lonely one.

5. Who is your audience and how do you connect with your fans?

With magnets and promises.

6. We see that you busk a lot… where do you enjoy playing particularly and how do people usually respond to it? How does the experience differ from playing a gig?

Somewhere works for a bit. Then one day you go back and it’s changed and it no longer works. So It’s not really specific places I enjoy, but finding somewhere and if it’s good, just enjoying it while it lasts. I like playing small towns. Places where there isn’t too much noise but in truth people tend to respond better when the music acts in contrast to the surroundings. I can handle the cities and have lived in the busiest out there but to me music is an escape. It’s another place in itself and it takes concentration to open up the channels. So anywhere that lets me do that is a good place to me. 

Yeah, the gig is all about efficiency. Meeting expectation and hitting the ground running. If you land well at the beginning, the gig can ripple on and out for days afterwards. Whereas the busking sets feel like they often get lost to the buildings and the air a great many more times. But one needs the other. I get lots of my ideas from playing on the street and lose a lot of my fear and inhibitions because of it.

7. How do you prepare for a show? Any warm-ups you can’t play a show without? How will you be preparing for the upcoming tour with Felix M-B?

A bit like going to bed. Eat. Do everything slowly and methodically to keep myself relaxed. Then brush my teeth. 

For the Felix M-B tour, press ups - slowly.

8. What does your dream gig look like?

I don’t know. I’m not sure I can say, or that I’ve decided. I’m still making my mind up about where I want to be artistically in the future. It could go many different ways at this point. All I would hope for right now is that the show has some swag as well as depth.

Sylva supports Felix M-B on his upcoming Tigmus tour in Bristol, Oxford, London, Brighton, Winchester and Stroud, alongside Lorkin O'Reilly. Info and tickets through our site here.

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