Sylvia On Her Inspiration, Her Dream Duet, and Her Twelfth Album

This ACM award-winning country artist's career has spanned over three decades

Abigail Wilt
Sylvia Patton

Singer-songwriter Sylvia has been around the Nashville music scene for decades. The Grammy-nominated past ACM Female Vocalist of the Year is most well known for her 1982 #1 crossover hit "Nobody," but she still remains a mainstay in the Nashville music industry. This year, she put out her twelfth album called It's All In The Family. We sat down with the singer to talk about her roots, her inspiration, and her achievements.

Although you're originally from Indiana, you've been in Nashville awhile. What do you love most?
S: I’ve lived in Nashville all of my adult life. There are so many things I love about Nashville, but what I love most is that people are so friendly and down-to-earth. I see friends or acquaintances almost everywhere I go around town. I love how strangers will strike up a conversation with me in a grocery line or at the bank. People smile and greet me as they pass by and hold doors open for me. I feel so at home here.

Tell us about being a transplanted Southerner.
S: My father’s side of the family is from Macon County, Tennessee near Lafayette. So, though I grew up in Kokomo, Indiana, I spent a lot of my childhood visiting family in Tennessee. In this way, I don’t consider myself a transplant Southerner at all. I guess you could say I’m a hybrid Midwesterner and Southerner. I love the green lushness of the South and have a deep and abiding love for the hills and mountains of Tennessee. I’ve spent a great deal of time in the Smoky Mountains over the last 25 years and find peace and comfort out walking the trails and sitting by the rivers. Nature is church for me.

Where do you pull inspiration for your songwriting?
S: The inspiration to write songs comes from my own life experience—what I’m curious about; what I’m trying to better understand. I’m compelled to explore what makes us who we are. On my new album, I’m exploring relationships, especially family and my ancestry. I’m curious to know more about my ancestors, who they were, how they lived and how their lives have shaped my own life in invisible ways that I’ll never completely know or understand.

Who has been your favorite artist to work with in the country music scene, and why?
S: I'd say my co-producer and friend John Mock. He is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer, session musician, composer, and an incredible cook, to boot! We have worked together for 25 years performing in concert and have recorded four albums together including my new project, It’s All in the Family. I have worked with many amazing artists and musicians through the years, but I’ve never experienced the depth of musical kinship with anyone like I have with John. His musical sensibilities and mine are complementary and yet different enough to keep things interesting and very alive. His melodic sense enchants me. John wrote six of the melodies on the new album.

You've been nominated for some pretty notable awards. What's been your most memorable achievement?
S: This is a very interesting question at this time in my life. The achievement that means the most to me isn’t the awards, but the relationships that have been created through the music—with the musicians, the songwriters, and other industry professionals, and with the fans who come to the shows and allow the music to become a part of their lives. A high-point for me during the 1980s was appearing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. It wasn’t an award, but it was a dream of mine to be on that show.

If you could perform a duet with any artist, who would you choose?
S: The first person who comes to mind is Eddy Arnold. I loved his voice and he was such a dear man. I can hear “Make the World Go Away” playing in my head right now. I think our voices would have blended well together.