"Once upon a time very long ago in a far far away land...
..there lived an impertinant and skinny little boy with his sister and grandparents in a big big apartment in Malmö, Sweden. His name was Christopher and he used to drive everyone insane with his cheeky witts.
His parents had parted ways, so he was left there to redeem himself with his very firm but very loving kin. To console himself when he had been very naughty, he would sit by the piano and make up little melodies. This happened everyday. He discovered cross hand technique and at the age of eight he decided he should record his music and send it off to Jimi Hendrix. His grandfather Erik bought him a microphone and with a little help from a classmate who was technically minded, the old tube radio became a capable amplifier with a moderately cracked speaker.
The year was 1968, and Christopher was now the singer in his first band called "The Hooks" - which consisted of four eight-year-olds in second grade. They did shamelessly intrusions in the municipal library, where politely but firmly they were rejected back to the school where they instead were allowed to perform during the class´s "funny hour" (last class before weekend). Christopher hammered away the best he could on the class room´s harmonium and belted out improvised rock n´roll in furious pretended English."
I could go on and on...but that´s how it started for me. Ever since I can remember I have been involved with music. There was just a two year gap when I moved from my grandparents to go and live with my mother in Stockholm when there was no piano around. That´s when I discovered horses (at eleven) and have been riding ever since. At 13 I was writing pop tunes and entered several artist competitions until I won the final in October 1974. I was 15.
But, I suppose a proper bio would probably start something like this:
I was born Hugh Erik Stewart (am I confusing you?)
June 4th 1959 in West Covina, California, USA. My father, Hugh Wright Stewart, was a 31 year old professional world champion tennis player and my mother, Agnete Sylvan, a beautiful 19 year old society girl from Gothenburg, Sweden. In November the same year, they decided to move from sunny California back to Sweden (where they had met), because "Europe was the thing" back then. Eventually, my father couldn´t stand the wet, the cold and the dark and so he left. After the divorce my mother said "I am going to rename you "Christopher". No one can pronounce "Hugh" here and so it was done.
I was OK with it, but the name "Christopher Stewart" never really worked for me. I have been jinxed all my life with that name. In Sweden in the 60´s; "Who do you think you are?" was the general attitude back then. In 1970 I became "Christopher Gräbner" when mother remarried. That didn´t work either!! Neither did it last very long as my mother got divorced a second time in 1976. I was simply "Chris Stewart"
(didn´t Genesis once have a drummer with that name?). But...
I was always a Sylvan.
Sylvan means forest, or things that have to do with the forest, and I live in one too. Besides... I was raised by Erik and Astrid Sylvan - the most loving and considerate people I have ever known, albeit a bit "stone age". The Beatles and the Stones was IT, and I wanted to grow my hair long. No way...as soon as my hair would even touch my ears, Erik had his ways and took me to the barber. I was devastated. Now my hair is indeed long, and maybe that is thanks to Erik. The obstinate little rascal still lives inside of me, and I can now do as I please! But I digress...
In 1974 I was the lead singer of "White Lightning" - a horrible band with a drummer that simply couldn´t keep time and when the band broke up in 1975 the guitarist stole my amp and speaker.
That year I fronted "Envoys" and toured around Sweden during the weekends. Generally a cover band as I belted out songs like "July Morning" and "Easy Livin´" (Uriah Heep). Oh and how I loved Alice Cooper back then. What an intriguing character. So dark and wonderfully horrible. Actually, we are getting closer to the chapter where I took on my current name. See, it would not have been without the influence of Alice.
Prog rock suddenly became my realm. 1976-1979 I played keyboards (organ, Mini Moog, Elka string synthesizer, Fender Rhodes and Mellotron. I was heavily in debt!), as well as singing lead with three microphones placed around me! Madness.
The band was "Avenue" and we were infatuated with bands like Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant and Camel. Right when punk rock came along - perfect timing! Damn! Eventually I got fed up and in 1980 I formed the "Chris Stewart Band". Guitarist Reima Hassell stayed with me and for two years I wrote music more in the style closer to Gino Vannelli and Al Jarreau than that of Tony Banks. It was a completely new way of expression for me, thus I discovered new chords, new harmonies and skipped the big arsenal of keyboards. A Yamaha electric grand piano (CP 80) and a Roland Jupiter 4 polyphonic synthesizer did the trick.
1983 came around and I got signed to Planet Records and cut a single called "Midnatt" (Midnight). Disco. Didn´t work. Hated it.
The record companies back then would no way have me singing in English, so Swedish it was until I met a couple of guys backing up teeny bopper pop star (the late) Hasse Carlsson from the band "Noice".
They recruited me and for a year I toured Sweden with them as Hasse Carlsson & The Tectives (clever name). It was hysterical. When touring was over, Hasse left and we formed "One By One". Again I was the lead singer in a band, and THIS band was unimaginably good. Everything was right, the look, the music and the attitude. These guys could play, you know. We cut two singles - "Dancing Mono" (written by me - very Prince influenced à la "Let´s Go Crazy") and "Say You Never", penned by the others.
We had been working on an album but the record company had put us on hold and we were frustrated. But..
Lionel Ritchie came to town in the spring of 1987. We couldn´t believe we got the offer to do two shows as his supporting act in Stockholm and Gothenburg. We hadn´t played together in a long while and during rehearsals I got a throat infection. I asked the promoter for some Whiskey in order to relax the vocal cords. Think I had too much of it. During our set, in front of 12.000 people I was "pissed out of my skull"! Two nights in a row!! Disaster!!! We simply weren´t ready for it. I mean I wasn´t ready for it. The band split up after that. Such a shame. 3/5 of us DID meet again though in 1988 to do a TV special with Robbie Nevil ("C´est La Vie") as he guested the TV show "Jacob´s Ladder". I had short hair and a leather jacket placed behind a Fender Rhodes I remember. Not so Nadish is it!
I was on my own.
From 1989 to 1996 I was basically isolated in my studio just trying and trying to get it right. But something was missing. I was so focused on the song writing that I had totally forgotten about presentation. "Chris Stewart". How utterly boring. Sounds like a golf player. One of my best friends kept on telling me I should use all my assets. "Be outrageous!" You have it in you and you know it! Sing outrageous songs!
My last attempt to be just a "serious" composer and singer came in 1995 with my first album - "The Home Recordings" . If any of you guys out there have it - let me tell you it is a rarity! I made 320 copies of it and then I changed course! (In 1999 I renamed that album "Blue Waters" and re-released it online as an mp3 album).
Remember I mentioned Alice Cooper? Then you have the next generation... the eerie Marilyn Manson. And then?..
Hm. A man with a female name. Gotta try that. Let´s see - I always liked the name "Nadine". It has got class, very frail and elegant. "Nadine Sylvan"? Not sinister enough. Between 1996-1999 I did plenty of singback shows as just "Sylvan". I sometimes wore a three piece suite and painted my face like a woman. It ALMOST worked. I had a bunch of new songs dealing with repressed sexuality and alternative gender roles - but I felt I was just putting that on, it wasn´t really honest and I wanted to present a male image that was totally my own. I was getting desperate to tell you the truth.
And I was soon pushing 40.
It was January of 1997, I got a phone call. I was told one of my friends from the crazy years had committed suicide by jumping in front of the tube. He was known as "Husmor" (The Housewife). He´d go out dressed up like an old lady or Pippi Longstocking, I mean the guy was hilarious.
That night made me think, and realise how short life can be.
He was only 36. A guy like that, so courageous - why not make a mini pop opera and honour him? "The Life Of A Housewife".
Seemed like a good idea. I threw myself back into my studio and four months later, out came 15 songs, all fresh. "Strangers" was the only one from my past that I had done with One By One. Such a good song, it had to go in there.
I contacted my publishing company. I went around Stockholm and paid visits to countless numbers of record companies. Went to London. As the music has Jade and Jeanette’s voices all over it, apart from my own - it wasn´t clear to them who or what the act was.
" - And who is fronting this", asked the very blasé A&R guy behind his desk that had demo cassettes piled up to the ceiling. " - I am", I replied. " - Sylvan"?, he said. " -What´s your first name?" At the tip of my tongue, I was going to say "Nadine". I did´nt. " - It´s Nad.
I am Nad Sylvan".
I f I would have said "Nadine", I thought it might have confused him because of the girls´ voices. So my decision came out of nowhere and in just a split second. That´s how "Nad" came about. And I like it. It is me. Screw Christopher!
Of course I didn´t get signed, even with a new identity.
But I was on the go. Got in contact with Michael B. Tretow, the man behind the ABBA sound. He loved my voice and tried to establish contact with some A&R people in my regards. We worked together on some stuff that ended up as a commercial for corporate Ericsson. Not so cool maybe, but here I had a sound demon who believed in me!
I continued writing songs, tried to pitch for other artists - but in spite of Michael´s interest in me - nothing happened. He had produced two fantastic albums with "Big Money", a Swedish prog rock duo which unfortunately didn´t make any "big money" at all - so the record companies were a bit indifferent it seemed, regardless of his musical genius and his past with ABBA.
Really a shame, because I adore the man and would have loved to make an album with him behind the wheel. (Michael, if you read this - I miss you and I love you man.)
1999 came along, and I had been on the internet for a while. Discovered a site called mp3.com. I uploaded "Housewife" there.
The Internet - interesting vehicle for a guy who slowly started to abandon the idea of getting signed to a record label. 40 years old? Forget about it! A friend of mine, "Pärtan" - was rocking out every Sunday at this place called "Nalen" in Stockholm. Onstage with him stood Conny Bloom from Electric Boys. What a rocker! What a star! I was asked to come up and join them for one song, "Keep On Running".
When I entered the stage the whole audience stood up - like they´d met Messias. It was crazy. It worked, and I became their steady "guest" on almost every Sunday night for a year. Conny doesn´t know it, but he inspired me to come up with some heavy music. I wanted to rock! I found myself working on my next album "Sylvanite". It was 2001 and it surfaced in 2003. again - on mp3.com.
my favorite band of all time since 1975.
Saw them once in Stockholm on my 18:th birthday on the Wind & Wuthering tour (1977) - the last one Steve did with them. I went to their website - joined the forums and learned there was this Canadian Genesis tribute band called "The Musical Box". Obviously they were on tour with "Selling England By The Pound", and I booked a ticket to go and see them at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2003. Jaw-dropping adventure!
As a true fan, I was captivated by the bands accuracy to reproduce a 30 year old show with such aplomb. Everything, the stage props, costumes, lights - an exact replica. I was intrigued. Got home and the following day I logged on to the forums to read and comment about it. Discovered another Swedish guy in there. "Tribute to Genesis" his thread stated. Must check it out. He´d done an instrumental song that had that genuine Genesis vibe to it. Enter Bonamici. We started bouncing ideas as we wanted to start working together with something. "Let´s do the songs Genesis never made" one of us said. Under the name "Sylvan 6 Bonamici", we started to produce songs in that spirit and uploaded them online to Soundclick.com. My song "Yellow Sky" (from Sylvanite) had become another door opener for me as their star reviewer Steve Gilmore praised it so highly I became his "Artist of the year". As I had come in very late in December of 2003, I obviously snatched that title from someone else in the very last minute! Steve also had praised Bonamici’s work - and when he found out we were working together he really helped us to spread the word.
The project evolved into something very serious as it took a painstakingly long time to finish off. Four years. But we were adamant to get it right. And I still believe we did just that as we were signed to Progress Records and released it as "Unifaun" in June 2008. It is now considered a "cult album", and in 2013 it was rehashed with brand new art work by Claude Martin.
The Unifaun album had been out for two months when I heard from another Swede, the prog guru Roine Stolt from The Flower Kings. We accidentally formed Agents Of Mercy (a band never meant to be) as he was on a hiatus from TFK. In the midst of recording our debut album my mother passed away in February 2009. The greatest sorrow I have ever experienced. I finally finished the song that had been in my head for more than 10 years. Little did I know back then that it all along had a very special purpose. So I played "Long Way From Home" on her funeral.
I hadn´t really been touring since the 80´s. Agents Of Mercy went on the road in September/October 2009 to promote the album. "The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight". We played around Europe and the US.
I was slowly but surely starting to get a little recognition. " - Hey, there´s Nad Sylvan!"...I wasn´t used to that at all! So much has happened in the last four years I cannot really fathom it. As you know, I spent the previous four years creating the Unifaun album. It became my springboard to where I am today. After that, I have recorded three studio albums with Agents Of Mercy, toured Europe and the US a few times, plus another trip over the big waters to headline "RoSfest" in Gettysburgh in 2012.
And then...(you guessed it!)
As if that wasn´t enough - I was contacted by another prog guru - the master himself. 11 o´clock before noon on the 16th of April 2012 the telephone rang. " - Hi Nad, this is Steve. Steve Hackett. Fancy coming over to London?". We talked for maybe 30 minutes and decided I should fly over and see him one month later. I had been recommended through a mutual aquaintance who hosts one of the bigger prog festivals in Europe (Night Of The Prog), where actually Steve and I met for the very first time in 2009.
(For those of you who don´t know who Steve is; he was the guitarist and songwriter for the band Genesis (UK) between 1970-1977. Other members were Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks.
Apart from a vast catalogue of solo albums after he left the band, he has recorded two "Genesis Revisited" albums, one in 1996 and another in 2012. The latter I tracked my vocals on three songs, and on the live album from Hammersmith I did nine. In a way they are a new take on Genesis´s music with a fresher sound, well worth checking out).
We started the rehearsals in London March, 2013 then went on a two month tour covering the US and quite a few countries in Europe as well as a short visit to Japan where we played Club Citta for three nights in Kawasaki, Tokyo.
Did some festivals in the summer in Germany, France and Italy before continuing another long tour (19 shows) covering the east coast of the US and then back to England for another 12 shows including the Royal Albert Hall on October 24th. That night was magical. My whole family (including my 85 year old father and brother from California) from both sides of the Atlantic was there. Also a few friends who flown in from Scandinavia. I will never forget that night as long as I live! All in all, we did 67 shows in 2013!....and there is more to come...
As I am typing I am in the midst of writing/recording my first solo album in 11 years. Thought it was about time! We will continue the Hackett tour in March when we go back to the US a third time. All these years and all these setbacks finally paid off.
Indeed, I am now living my dream...and please know this;
It is never too late.
(to be continued I hope..)