"A tiny woman with a huge presence."
Sylvia Rose Novak is a musician in a class all her own. Music has always been a facet of her life, so much so that her parents remember that she started to sing before she could talk. According to her mother, as a small child Novak not only could follow a tune but also could harmonize, hitting pitches perfectly.
Novak has worked a multitude of jobs through the years: horse training, amateur boxing, fitness instruction, turf grass research worker, and, as she puts it, she's “tended a hell of a lot of bar.” She took this variety of jobs as much out of curiosity as necessity, and when she first started performing music, she viewed it as just one job among many. The difference, however, was that Sylvia Rose Novak quickly came to realize that creating and performing music would become her lifelong passion.
Raised on a steady diet of folk staples including Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joan Baez curtesy of her mother and classic country like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Eddy Arnold from her father – and also a mix of show tunes, Irish Tenors, Bee Gees, and Moody Blues thrown in for good measure -- Novak grew up surrounded by music. Her mother played guitar and both her parents enjoyed singing.
Novak excelled at any instrument put in front of her, whether it was piano in her early years, trombone in middle school and high school bands or the cheap red Silvertone bass that her father bought her at age 12. Since then, Novak has mastered a multitude of instruments including banjo, pedal steel, mandolin, and violin.
Growing up in Opelika, Alabama, as a “first-generation” Southerner -- her mother being from Massachusetts and her father from South Dakota -- Novak frequently bucked against many of the conventions and mores of South during her formative years. When one of her high school teachers introduced her to Southern Gothic literature, Novak became transfixed on the duality of the region and, as a result, began to attempt to write Southern Gothic literature of her own. With one unpublished short story and a myriad of crumpled poems tucked away, Novak gave up her pursuit of writing for several years. Until, purely by happenstance, she wrote her first song in the winter of 2012.
She performed her first fiddling gig in August 2013 playing with Chris Posey, who encouraged her to release her first album, "Chasing Ghosts," in 2014 while she was working as a horse trainer and luthier’s apprentice. During that time, she repaired and setup the antique fiddle she currently plays live. "Chasing Ghosts" earned international critical acclaim. As one reviewer said, “With songs about murder, love, regret, and the kind of obsession that would impress the NASA diaper lady, Novak strikes all the right notes on her exciting debut.” "Chasing Ghosts" was called “the kind of country music album that needs to be listened to by people that complain real Country Music died sometime between 1979 and Garth Brooks’ Chris Gaines record.”
She continued to work with Posey for several years, as well as having the pleasure to play a few one-off shows with Kyle Wilson and Adam Hood and stand in with Levi Lowery. Novak has opened for The Mulligan Brothers, Chris Knight, Caleb Caudle, Belle Adair, American Aquarium, Mike and the Moonpies, Will Hoge, and Rod Picott.
In 2014, Novak joined Birmingham band Five Shot Jack as its female vocalist and bassist, where she became its primary songwriter. In 2017, she married her bandmate Kelen Rylee.
In Sylvia Rose Novak’s new album, “Someone Else’s War,” her Americana style and remarkable lyrics shine throughout. Novak navigates her way through commentary on human nature and the country’s current political climate while drawing inspiration from such sources as Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” creating a moving personal statement both lyrically and musically. "Someone Else’s War" rolls up and down like a highway, introducing itself with an airy lament in “Wildflowers”, and culminating with the closing track “Santa Ana,” a devastating and powerful composition that will leave listeners haunted.
“Novak is an emerging talent, delivering honest, emotionally ridden songs that have lasting power.” - Glide Magazine [Read the full review here]
“Obsession-Worthy” - Popdust
“Novak’s voice brings a sound of hope and optimism to an album that is very gritty and real in its subject matter.” - Morgan Bryce, The Opelika Observer [on Someone Else’s War]
“Someone Else’s War is Sylvia Rose Novak’s Call to Action” - Flagpole [Read the full feature here]
“Three parts Amanda Shires and one part Brandi Carlile; there are times on Sylvia Rose Novak’s third album, Someone Else’s War, that complement that vocal sound with the driving rock of The War on Drugs, but other gentler moments that feel more like a coffeehouse. All of those times, the record is a soundtrack; windows-down driving music into a western sunset.” - Blake Ells, Author Of "The Muscle Shoals Legacy of FAME"
California Wildfire Relief
Santa Ana was written as a fundraising effort for the Thomas Fire Fund in the wake of the 2017 Southern California wildfires and was released as the closing track on "Someone Else's War". Listen here first and please take a moment to donate to help with continuing relief efforts as California continues to rebuild while combating new fires.