Nashville-based British singer-songwriter Lucie Silvas recently chatted with longtime friend Dave Barnes on his podcast, Dave’s Five Hot Takes.
In this episode, Silvas and Barnes graze over topics such Silvas’ move to America all the way to her dynamic voice affecting her songwriting, her musical relationship with her husband and her surprising friendship with Jamiroquai. Beyond that, the two enthusiastically geek out over Silvas’ wide-spanning hot takes.
Silvas explains that she was able to attain such a broad range of musical interests through parental influences in her childhood. While her mother listened to “all the crooners,” like Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett, her father listened to The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Jackson 5, Ray Orbison, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and The Carpenters. All influences which Barnes notes can be identified subtly in Silvas’ music.
Though Silvas absorbed such a plethora of incredible music in her formative years, her dream of becoming a singer wasn’t always an obvious one, but she remembers a time in which the stage seemed to call to her.
“I used to watch Arethan Franklin and Whitney [Houston] and all those people on stage, and as singers, it felt so liberating. It’s funny to know why you look at something and feel like you want to be there,” she explains. “You know, I wasn’t the funny person or the extroverted person but the stage seemed to me like another world. Literally if you step on stage you’re in another universe.”
Even then, Silvas didn’t actually think singing could be her profession, yet it was. Her story, in this way, includes a mix of talent and a lot of fortunate timing, something she thinks all people pursuing a career in music should remember.
“And that’s why in this business you know that you’ve always got to have faith in what you love to do, and keep doing it. Because the only way you stop is if you quit. Because these things are timing, you know, even we know when people hear songs, it’s just the time it lands on their lap.”
And timing was definitely on Silvas’ side as she moved from across the pond all the way to Nashville, a place that she found spoke to her almost as much as the stage.
“When I came to Nashville for the first time, saw all these singer songwriters, the immense pool of talent, and such kindness and such openness and like, ‘Come in and have a look at what we’ve got here,’ and open arms. And I was blown away by it. And it felt like it felt simpler to me. And it was just I didn’t have any expectations from it, I didn’t have any goals or plans. I just was in love with it.”
Through her move to Nashville she recounts that she was able to meet incredible musicians and songwriters like her husband, John Osborne of The Brothers Osborne, and of course, Dave Barnes.
Throughout the podcast, the two banter and affirm each other’s prowess as musicians, giving them the authority to fully appreciate the hot takes which Silvas brings to the table. She talks key changes, one-chord songs, unprecedented tempo changes and most importantly, of the never ending fluidity the structure of a song can have.
Silvas notes that the most recent hit pop song in which people think of key changes is most likely “Love On Top” by Beyonce, but most impressively to her has always been Diana Ross’ song “Chain Reaction,” which she regards as the “motherlode of key changes” and “one of the greatest pop songs ever written.”
Though key changes make for a more complex song, Silvas notes in her second hot take that complexity doesn’t necessarily make for a better song. As an example, she uses Aretha Franklin’s song “Chain of Fools” which is practically made up of one chord.
“Even if it’s arguably two chords, it’s like, that keeps you interested. And it’s one of the staples of generations. And it’s like, we sit here trying to think of what clever thing can I do on the piano? How can I be something different? And then this song comes along, like a punch in the face, like, ‘Hey, we can do it like this, and we don’t need to do anything.’ And it’s so clever. And it’s like, the simplicity of it blows me away.”
In this way, and through the rest of her hot takes, Silvas is in awe of the musicality which others possess and celebrates it readily. Like with the unprecedented tempo change she recently encountered in Jack White’s “Take Me With You When You Go,” in which Silvas is left pondering the “why” behind the artist’s choices.
“I love the why of things. It’s like, ‘Why? Why did he do it?’ He’s like, ‘Why not? I’m not gonna play by your rules.’ And that’s what I love about it. He is another prime example of an artist who has his own set of rules. He’s in his own playground. He’s doing exactly what he wants. And I really, really, really admire that,” she says.
Another iconic rule breaker and testament to the unpredictability of hits is REM with their pop smash “Losing My Religion,” which Silvas explains has no chorus. For her, she can remember the song changing her perception on the rigid structure of songwriting which can become restrictive and uninspiring.
“When I heard that song, it affected the way I looked at songwriting, because I grew up listening to very traditional songwriting as a kid. And then I heard that and was like, well, maybe we don’t need a chorus.”
Another artist which Silvas praises in a side conversation is her unlikely friend, Jamiroquai, which Barnes inquires about with curiosity. Jamiroquai helped Silvas and urged her on in her music and Silvas was able to see his incredible artistry firsthand.
“Again, the artists that you follow that stick around have their own thing, and they don’t veer away from it, and he didn’t. He had a theme running through everything. He loved his kind of music. And he just kept doing that and the headdresses that he had, amazing costumes. So, I just had a lot of respect for him.”
Last of all hot takes is one which isn’t quite as mainstream but still remains in conjunction with Silvas’ appreciation for straying away from preconceived rules about music and songwriting. In this case, she cites Prefab Sprouts’ “The King of Rock ‘N’ Roll” in which the chorus is literally, “hotdog, jumping frog, Albuquerque.”
“It is so catchy and silly. And even they know it’s daft. Like even they’re like, this is a daft song. But I bet they had so much fun writing it and it was a huge hit for them,” she says.
Under the same realm, she notes, is Rihanna’s “Work” and the verses which are hard to understand throughout Bon Iver’s discography. Despite having a chorus which is seemingly too bizarre and wacky to be a hit, Prefab Sprouts were able to do it, along with other artists.
The bottom line throughout all her hot takes is in reminding herself to go with her gut when it comes to music and be playful throughout the process. Both Silvas and Barnes agree that the songs she picked are a great reminder to not get bogged down in the structure of things, but to use that structure solely as a loose template.
Check out the rest of their conversation here.