Sylvia Rose Novak | The official blog for Things&Ink

28-year-old Sylvia Rose Novak is a folk/Americana songwriter, a multi-instrumentalist and activist based in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. We talked to Sylvia about the inspirations behind her songwriting, her growing collection of tattoos, and background in horse-training…


When did you realise that music and songwriting was what you wanted to do?It hit me kind of like a train in the summer of 2013. I wrote a couple of songs in the six months leading up to that revelation without any real purpose or desire to make it “a thing”. But, honestly, it feels like lightning hit me at some point that June and I’ve never looked back.

What inspires your songwriting? Is there anyone you admire? Ryan Adams. I want to grow up to be Ryan Adams, pinball machines and black Cadillac and all. He fascinated me. He’s also one of my favorite writers and musicians. I also greatly admire Jason Isbell. As far as what inspires me, that’s a grab bag. It could be a minor character in a book I’m reading or maybe just the state of the world. I’ve written songs about people I’ve never met just because their story struck me. I tend to prefer writing about things and people that are not me or my life, but I do that on occasion too.

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How does music fit with your other interests, such as yoga and horse training? One of my friends and, for lack of a better word, “mentors” in the yoga community (Ruby Chandler. She owns Shakti Power Yoga Athens. She is beyond amazing.) played one of my songs in a class I was attending once and, to my surprise, it actually worked! I always kind of wondered if it would. Outside of that, I think my live performances are more directly influence by my yoga practice than my writing is. I try to stay totally present for and connected to the audience – that is yoga.

I was a horse trainer for a long long time. I actually still do one-off training work sometimes. It’s in my blood. People will bring me a horse and say “This horse isn’t safe. It’s explosive. It’s impossible.” and 99% of the time, they’re just not listening. The horse is scared or anxious. Some of the best horses I’ve ever worked with were “impossible”. Now, I mostly just hack around on my horse of 11 years, Milo (who was also “impossible”.) I got him in 2007 and love him more than almost anything. He’s a big fat thoroughbred and he’s ridiculous. Like a giant dog.

With so many projects going on what do you do to relax? I’m actually currently sitting on my couch rereading “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” for the fourth time. This is one of my very rare quiet mornings, so I’m enjoying it immensely (as I wait for the internet installer). I find ways to decompress when I can, but it’s rare. Hitting my yoga mat and working with my horse both help even though they’re active things. I also like to run when I can. I’m also a big fan of wine. Specifically Pinot Noir and Shiraz.

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Can you tell us about your tattoos, you’re an incredibly creative person, are your tattoos a reflection of this? I think they’re more a reflection of the tattoo artists. Most of the time I walk in and say “this is kind of what I want and where I want it”. And let them do the rest. I am by no means a visual artist. I once did an acrylic painting of Warren Zevon that looks a lot like Jim Henson. [My husband hangs it up in the house, anyway.] I have the album artwork from Jason Isbell’s “Here We Rest” on my back. It’s a piece of artwork by Browan Lollar. I love that record but, moreso, love that piece of artwork. My favorite tattoo is the big Ryan Adams tribute that I have on my forearm. Radar at Walk The Line in Athens, GA knocked it out of the park. I think my tattoos are more a tribute to the things that inspire me than of my actual creativity. – except for the compass earth between my shoulder blades. That one’s a reflection of being 18 and making a poor life choice.

Photos by Wade Allen

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