I am a singer/songwriter and an actor, just feeling my way through the world. I am moved by music, words, love, laughter, family, friends, fresh air, mountains, rivers, bittersweet stories, melancholic memories, good food, and canines of all kinds. If I could create the perfect job title for myself, it would be Emotional Ambassador.

A good headshot is very important for an actor.  Often the first impression you make on a casting director, you want your headshot to truly reflect who you are, to represent you.  You want it to be vivid, to have energy, so that it can continue to speak for you after you’ve left the audition room.  It’s a lot to ask of a two-dimensional image.  I’ve been using my original headshots for six years now.  They have served me well, but when I thought about moving to Nashville – about being new to another small but thriving theatre scene – I decided it was time for a fresh face.  So I called upon my talented friend, Darrah Parker.  Darrah is an incredible Seattle-based photographer with a talent for capturing real, vivid, beautiful images.  She works out of doors, which I love, and I was lucky to get to spend a morning in the Seattle fog with her.  Not only did she take some great headshots, she may have captured a few album covers as well!  The results aren’t all in yet, but Darrah has posted a few previews on her blog:

Serenaded by Sylvie | Seattle Portrait Photographer

While you’re there, explore her website and her other blog posts.  Not only is Darrah a wonderful photographer, she writes beautifully about creativity, the everyday, and how to combine the two.  I often read her posts when I’m in need of inspiration, and she never lets me down.  Enjoy!

– Sylvie

Hello friends.  It’s been a while . . .

Trevor and I are hard at work prepping for our move to Nashville.  We’ve set a departure date of October 1st, the day after my 30th birthday, which strikes me as a good day to start a big, new chapter.  We’re planning to road-trip our way to music city, stopping to visit friends and family in Montana, Colorado, Missouri, and Illinois. (If you know anyone along that route who might like to host a house concert and/or let a couple of musicians sleep on their couch, please let us know!) Until then, we’re shedding our possessions, saving money, spending quality time with our family and friends, and playing music.  Here’s a photo of us singing at a wedding this past weekend, looking ready for Tennessee!

SawdustWedding

P.S.  We’re playing Sylvie’s newest song, “Stolen Flowers,” here.  Head over to our “Listen” page to check it out!

In an appearance on “Moyers and Company,” Peter Yarrow spoke of the power of music to connect people, build love, and create change.  I was reminded of this song by Bill Staines, which I’ve known since I was a kid.  It’s never meant more to me than it does now.

Trevor and Sylvie in costume for Act II.  Photo by J. Tanner.
Trevor and Sylvie in costume for Act II. Photo by J. Tanner.
“My life flows on in endless song
above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
that hails the new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing.
It sounds an echo in my soul
how can I keep from singing?
Sylvie and Trevor in costume for Act I.  Photo by J. Tanner.
Sylvie and Trevor in costume for Act I. Photo by J. Tanner.

Greetings from Ventura, CA!  Last Saturday night marked the opening of the third run of Lonesome Traveler, the play that first brought Trevor and I together back in 2011.  “A journey down the rivers and streams of American folk music,” Lonesome Traveler is a night of rich and storied music performed live by a group of actor/singer/songwriter/musicians.  This is the music I grew up with, thanks to my parents’ record collection; this music made me want to pick up a guitar and sing.

“And in the songs from long ago
we hear our own hearts beating
in every word and every note
their message still repeating.
So to the chorus of the past
we add our voices ringing
and write the yet unwritten songs
how can we keep from singing?

Every person in this cast has a personal relationship to this music, and to music in general.  It drives us all in various ways, and it has created deep bonds among us. Strangers when we met, two years in to this project the cast of Lonesome Traveler is a true family.  It is pure joy to step out on to stage with people whom I love and trust so deeply, and I know that these relationships will last long into the future.

“And when we gather all as one
we know the ties that bind us.
Our numbers strong, we carry on
and leave no one behind us.
And stronger still in harmony
a new hope we’ll be bringing
until the world turns to song
and everyone is singing.
Until the world turns to song
how can we keep from singing?”
Cast and (partial) crew photo.  The picture might be blurry, but the love is clear.
Cast and (partial) crew photo. The picture might be blurry, but the love is clear.

P.S.  Those of you who are familiar with the hymn “How Can I Keep from Singing” may have noted the unfamiliar second and third verses I’ve quoted above.  In a truly “folk-like” collaboration, those were written by the cast of Lonesome Traveler and are sung proudly each night at the end of the show.

Welcome to Sawdust Hill’s digital home base, and to our very first post!

“Firsts” are hard for me.  I don’t like to leap without knowing exactly what waits below.  This is good practice if you’re cliff diving, but caution has a way of squashing faith when you allow it to take over.  Not to say that a healthy dose of caution isn’t a good thing; it’s just that my caution grows quickly into fear and my fear does an excellent job of distracting me from my goals.  I think of all the possible things that might go wrong and I try to fix them before they’ve even happened.  I attempt to map every twist and turn of the maze before setting foot in it, making it seem daunting and impossible.  My fear gives me a million reasons not to take those first steps, because it knows that once I do my momentum will carry me beyond its reach.  Once I’ve begun I always remember that the journey is nothing to be scared of.

Starting a website was a big “first” for me, and so – predictably – I thought about it and planned it and researched it and avoided it and worried about it for nearly a year before waking up one morning and just doing it.  The idea of creating a website for Trevor’s and my musical endeavors excited, but at the same time repelled me.  It seemed so official; it was such a loud proclamation of the fact that I considered myself a songwriter and a musician, and my fear told me I wasn’t ready, wasn’t good enough, didn’t know what I was doing.  But I wasn’t really scared of the website.  My worry was over a much bigger goal that Trevor and I had made: to move to Nashville to pursue careers in songwriting.  We had discussed it a great deal, but I remained unsure of myself.  I believed in Trevor’s ability, but not in my own, and I could hardly bring myself to tell people about it.  I kept expecting them to laugh.

So far, no one has laughed.  On the contrary, when we finally gritted our teeth and took those first steps toward actually pursuing our goal, I was overwhelmed by the flood of support that came from every corner.  When I went to my credit union to open our Nashville savings account – the very FIRST first step – the teller cheered me on.  When I played on the ferry with a sign in my case that read “Saving for Nashville,” strangers went out of their way to offer words of encouragement.  And when my parents hosted a house concert where Trevor and I shared our original music, close to fifty friends and neighbors responded with overwhelming support and generosity.

On the way home from that house concert Trevor said, “We should start a blog about our journey.”  He wanted to be able to share our progress with the people who had shown such kindness in starting us off.  So the next morning I woke up and began the website I’d been circling for so long.  Emboldened by the knowledge that there are people out there – family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers – who want to see us succeed, I was inspired not only to create the website but to own the proclamation that it implied:

“I am a songwriter, and I’m going to make my art my career.”

And just like that, our momentum builds.  We know this journey won’t be easy, but the first steps have been taken.  And for me, that’s always the scariest part.

– Sylvie