A Conversation with Sylvia Sylvia
by Rachel Funderburk
Sylvia Sylvia is a poet and musician from baltimore who is just as beautiful as the work she creates. Our team member, Rachel Funderburk got to speak with her about who she is, where she came from, and where she is going.
When did you start creating, and how do you feel your music has grown or changed through the years? Who have been some of your influences?
When I was 5 and living in New Orleans, I wanted to be just like LeeAnn Rimes. I have such a vivid memory of that song “How Can I Breathe” playing on the radio and me in my room singing my heart out. I was a very shy little girl; I hardly even spoke, but I knew then I had the ability to sing. Sade was also someone I looked up to. I just found her voice so captivating—it really made me feel some heavy emotion that I know now was just pure love. She seemed so powerful yet subtle, and my grandmother would always tell me I looked like her when I was a little girl, so I wanted to be her for that reason too. I also loved old soul music and jazz; the sounds just convey so much emotion that I could actually feel.
I really started creating some time in high school. I would keep a journal and write little emo love stories about zombies that I never told anyone about. Then, maybe when I was 17 or 18, I started to write down all my dreams—my mom encouraged me to do so. “You need to write this stuff down!” “That’s what the lady who wrote Twilight did!” I don’t know if she remembers she told me that or if she knows that it stuck with me, but it did. I started paying more attention to what I dreamt about; even though I couldn’t always describe the dreams in words, I always tried. That was a real breakthrough for me, but I still kept it to myself because I was so shy.
Writers like Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, Sylvia Plath and Margaret Atwood were definitely an influence to my style of writing—I was really attracted to old, dark literature from a young age; they each had a way of speaking of sadness and making it beautiful, and I’m super emo in a way lol.
All the writing gradually evolved into music, and the voice you hear now is one that I kept inside of me for really long time.
How has your passion for poetry shaped your music? Are you a writer first, or a poet?
Poetry just naturally came along as I would write my dreams. I was definitely a writer before I was a musician, but now I write more songs/poetry. I listened to a lot of indie rock bands when I was younger, and the lyrics were always very deep and poetic; those genres definitely inspired my poetry and songwriting.
When I decided to move to LA, I broke out of my shyness. I told myself I could be whatever I wanted to be, because no one here knew me, so when they did find out who I was, I was already this poet-singer-weird-girl. I started performing at open mics. I would go in by myself, read a poem, and leave. After maybe a year in LA, the ukulele found me. I picked it up very quickly! I started reading my poems and playing uke at the same time, which eventually led me to finding my voice.
How did Sylvia Sylvia come to be, and what caused the push to bring her to light?
I decided to name my voice Sylvia Sylvia.
Sylvia Sylvia was originally a silent film by a friend of mine in SF. The film starts with a girl looking in the mirror, then a series of random things start happening, as it seems she's taking a trip inside of herself. There are different shots that seem to be symbolic of loneliness. A shot of the girl measuring herself and unwrapping herself from bandages stood out to me the most; it was strange, but I related to it.
After seeing the film, the name stayed with me. I worked in a fabric store at the time where the name “Sylvia” had been carved into one of the cutting tables—I'd see the name just about every day. I’m a person who notices signs, and this was a clear sign to me that the voice inside of me, which I had just recently started to let out into the real world, was Sylvia—that was her name. It wasn't Audrey(Me). When I found Sylvia, I started to analyze myself/her and how I was writing. I saw my voice as being in a whole other world, and a lot of the things I write about take place in that world. Although I am singing about what I've gone through—falling in and out of love, heart breaks, and all that real world stuff—I feel like I'd never speak of these things if I didn't have Sylvia, so I put her in a place separate from myself. It sounds kinda crazy, but looking at it this way helped me free myself.
How do the topics of love and self-love influence your music and what makes them so crucial for you?
Love to me is the most powerful force in the world. It's so important for mankind to understand exactly what it is. There's a wholeness to Love—a oneness that is the same of that as a God. It’s not this fantasy flowers and butterflies that we are made to believe at first. Unconditional love actually sucks as much as it is beautiful. It comes with joy and pain; we will at some point all know what it feels like to gain love and will all at some point know what it is to lose it, and that's just what it is, a whole. The true meaning of love is pretty elusive. For most folks, it's hard to explain, and I like to explore the topic of love because it's so confusing—the idea is limitless. I can find love in literally everything, because I've found it in myself and now understand it in a different way to where I don't need the validation that most seek by being loved by another person. I know it's always there no mater what. My music tells these different types of love stories, and I can only express myself the way I do because of Love ❤
Can you tell us a little about your backstory and how you've come to be who you are today? What are some lessons learned or growth you've seen in yourself?
It has definitely been a journey for me. Nothing has been easy at all; more downs than ups so far. I worked 3 jobs to save and move from Baltimore to LA, and then worked hella jobs just to be able to stay here. I can't even count how many random places I've worked from the time I've been here. The experience has definitely helped me grow as an artist. I just continue to believe in my artistry so much to the point where I know I have to go through shit to see some light. I know I have to put in work and that nothing will be handed to me.
Just this May, I was in a pretty bad accident where I was hit by a truck, breaking my pelvis in four places as well as my eye socket. The whole situation has been pretty shitty, and I'm still recovering to this day. I could have just quit and given up right then, but the whole thing makes me feel that I'm here for a reason and makes me want to go even harder. I feel super human right now, and I've done more organized writing this summer on bed rest than any year prior to this.
You’re also an entrepreneur! Could you talk a little about your candle collection and the struggles of pursuing a business?
I'm a real crafty lady. I like to stay busy, and I've been doing a collection of candles every few months. I call them The Sylver Collection. It hasn't gotten too hard just yet—it's manageable and making the candles has actually been therapeutic for me. I really like doing it!
Tell us something dreamy! When you think future, ideally where would you like to be?
I really see myself traveling steadily and sharing my different personal experiences through music, becoming a master of my own expression. As long as I can share and spread the messages of love, I'm happy.
Advice for other ladies--on life, on music, or on anything really!
I'm still trying to master myself, but there is a God inside us all. Be your own religion...
photos by Marissa Montanez, @mynameismarissa
Check out her Spotify + Soundcloud here:
Author, Rachel Funderburk
Rachel is a part of the Gold Hand Journalism team
Heyo! I'm Rachel Funderburk, and I'm from Edmond, Oklahoma soon to be in New York City studying business and film at NYU. I'm all about girl power, creative vibes, and world travels, and I spend most of my time obsessing over my dogs, filling my home with plants, rewatching 80s movies, and listening to a ridiculous amount of political podcasts.