It’s a rare thing to be completely affected by the silky, pitch-perfect voice of a singer. It’s even rarer when you hear the artist live and realise that she is just as good — if not better — in person.
Italian/South African folk singer Silvi is just this. Her melodies soar and flutter, resting in a dreamlike place in your mind. Talent-wise she runs alongside contemporaries Laura Marling and Aldous Harding, yet there’s an old-world charm about Silvi’s music too.
“I’ve had a pretty interesting life for only 27 years so I hope to be able to write some equally interesting music,” she says. “I started out doing classical piano and carried on till I was 18-ish. When I started writing, properly at least, I was living on my mom’s couch in Lancaster in the north of England, we had limited space and I had no access to any instruments but bummed around and managed to borrow a keyboard from a mate. [Later] I moved away to Morocco, and though at the time I didn’t realise it, it pushed me immensely to find that something that made me the musician I am.”
For the most part, Silvi has been recording her work alongside an acoustic guitar, which she taught herself to play in order to make gigging life a little easier.
“It became apparent early on that [carting] the piano around for gigs wasn’t sustainable for me so I had no choice but to pick up the guitar and get going,” she explains. “I had a basic knowledge of some chords but I just took it from there, and I’ve actually surprised myself at how quickly I developed that in these last two years. I think that’s just from hanging out with other great musicians, observing and picking up little things they do and then translating them into something for myself.”
A humble sentiment, detracting from the skill it takes not only to learn an instrument but to become adept at it in such a short time.
The proof is in the pudding — and the magic is in the melody. When you listen to Silvi’s heart-achingly beautiful guitar chords mingle with that voice, you can’t help but be affected.
We are welcomed into her world and become privy to an undercurrent of intellect and storytelling that carves her own realm in the folk world.
“I didn’t purposefully decide: ‘I’m going to write some folk songs’,” she says. “I wrote loads and loads and some of it was a bit rubbish some of it was just different but I had the time [in Morocco] to experiment with my sound, and experiment without the influence of other musicians around me. I had to pull it out of myself as opposed to pick up something from something I heard around town.”
She goes on, describing the writing process: “People have different ways they communicate, or deal with things, for some writing a song is simply like keeping a diary. It’s a memory you can revisit time and time again. Sometimes I’ll write a song about an emotion that I felt for a few moments, a flash of anger or jealousy but it’s not a true representation about how I feel on the whole. I marvel at how we function and how complex we are.”
After a string of successful gigs recently around London, Silvi is excited about the buzz: “I did a gig in London last week and eventually just got up with some guys that were doing bluegrass and we did some old standards, which was great fun! My goals are to keep growing really, keep doing what makes me happy and just make the best music that I could make. I think there is an aim to the game, but you need to have fun playing it or it’s not worth it.”
Currently recording her first album in the UK, there are excited whispers about festival line-ups and even a tour “down under”.
“There is an album,” she says. “I’m still fine tuning it. I don’t just want to put something together quick to get myself out there, there’s a very specific vision for the whole thing and so I’m going to take my time. It’s a labour of love.”
Photo: Sam Stamper @lost_in_morocco