The latest of the North West's recent wealth of young female solo acts, Emma Hughes brings us up to speed on her debut single and the path her studies have helped pave
How did Sylvier come about?
Sylvier started during my first year at North West Regional College, where I am currently studying Music Production. Having access to the college’s studios, I began recording some material I had written prior to the course. During this time a tutor, Liam Craig, caught wind of one of the songs and offered to produce my EP.
I remember during our first conversation thinking how easy he was to talk to. We were totally on the same page in terms of production style, which also helped a lot. Liam eventually introduced me to [video director/photographer and manager] Paul Brown and we’ve been working together since. My first impression of Paul was "Wow, this guy is motivated" and "Wow this guy drinks way too much coffee!"
You recently released your debut single 'Hard To Find'. How does it feel to have your music out for everyone and anyone to hear?
Releasing 'Hard to Find' was surreal. I love music so much and it plays a massive role in my life. It is an outlet for me in so many ways. When I listen to James Vincent McMorrow or The National for example, I feel their music captures something really specific to me. I feel a real personal attachment to a piece of music created by someone I’ve never met. That is an incredible power that music has.
As a songwriter, I never quite felt what I had written was ready for anything major – which can be a good thing. It pushed me to improve and kept that strive to develop alive. However it can also kick you in the ass. It makes you wonder whether or not you’ll ever write anything decent.
'Hard to Find' was the first song I wrote that I felt really good about. What’s funny is that you could write a hundred songs and there might only be a couple that you feel are good enough to release. With those songs you are buzzing. It’s such a great feeling! Eventually you have to ask yourself "what is the next step?" and you begin a completely different journey. So yeah, actually getting to the point of release was definitely surreal.
With everything that’s happened so far; your launch, debut single et cetera, we imagine it's been pretty exciting so far?
It’s been pretty exciting and so much more. As I said, releasing the single was surreal, it was only when we launched it did everything become real. Before coming to NWRC I was always writing on my own, which can become quite restricting and frustrating. I was only able to imagine what my songs could sound like; production being a key aspect – I wanted them to be big productions. I now have a band of extremely talented musicians who really bring my songs to life like I imagined. I feel privileged to be on stage alongside them all.
How did you find that transition from writing and playing alone to having the support around you that you do now?
I was always singing and improvising melodies, even as a kid. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I started to take songwriting seriously, that’s when I decided to learn guitar. It was then that I started gigging in a cover band, playing in pubs and bars on the weekends. Having done this for so long, it provided me with opportunities to practice performing and work on my stage presence, so becoming Sylvier seemed like a natural progression.
About half way through my first year at NWRC I started working with another tutor called Dominic O’Callaghan who specializes in songwriting. It’s been a new experience working with another writer, especially one who is very much a part of the music for the forthcoming EP.
Having management is brilliant! Although Paul and I together discuss ideas for video content and photo shoots, having him taking care of the PR, A&R and gig bookings, allows me to focus fully on the music, which is fantastic.
Who would be your biggest influences?
I’d say my biggest influences to date would be Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams. The first time I heard Justified I fell head over heels. The fabric of that album, the decisions made in its production are all reasons why I became a songwriter.
Jack White is another, he is gritty and innovative, and his vocals are always really unique and so damn sexy! I remember when 'Seven Nation Army' came out, what really spoke to me was the attitude displayed from start to finish.
Sylvier is quite an interesting name. What made you decide to have a stage persona?
I wanted a stage name that fitted the style of music, which I felt my name didn’t do at all. A stage persona for me is having a platform to express a side of myself that can’t always be seen – although it’s always there. It’s the same side of me that writes the music.
I love being on stage so much but I also love finishing a set and meeting the people that come to the gig. It’s such great craic! You meet so many new people and learn so much about what they are listening to, what music is for them and how they felt about your set.
You've talked about studying at the North West Regional College. What you attracted you to its Music Production course and how has it impacted Sylvier?
I wanted to study Music Production as I felt this was the next step for me in developing my style. I strongly feel that the production of a song can be as significant as the song itself. It can enhance it’s impact when done right. I only ever write with the end product in mind so I always knew I was going down the pop/RnB road.
I chose to study at NWRC because I knew a few people who did previously and are now working in the industry, doing really well. The music courses there focus on popular music styles so it was an all rounder for me. Having nearly completed the course I can say without a doubt that it was the right move. I have learned so much and it’s been the most enjoyable experience. Working with Liam in particular is like the best of both worlds, I get to work with an incredible producer and learn so much in the process.
And what about the rest of your team?
Working with a team is a real first for me. I was quite timid in the beginning, I think. I have played in bands and worked with other musicians before, however I have never had a producer or a manager or another songwriter working with me, or even an original band.
I find it funny in the beginning, when you don’t really know what someone’s sense of humor is like or whether you can be blunt or not. I live for those moments when you just throw something out there and you wait with anticipation to see how it lands.
Liam, Paul and Dominic are so down to earth and extremely easy to work with. I can enjoy the experience the way I always wanted to. I can also say that the level of professionalism from the team means we take every stage of the process seriously and strive to do our best in every aspect. I believe you can only really relax and have fun when you know you’re working with people that you trust who are passionate and hard working.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to gig as much as possible; I definitely want to play a few festivals this year. We want to get a lot of video content up of various live recordings as well as to just keep writing and recording!
Sylvier's debut single 'Hard to Find' is available now to purchase on iTunes and stream on Spotify. See her perform live at Sandino's Bar, Derry~Londonderry on Friday, April 8. For more news and updates visit www.sylvier.com.