Sonic Introspection With Sylo

In the realm of alternative R&B, where soulful melodies meet deeply personal narratives, Sylo emerges as a luminary voice, captivating listeners with his introspective soundscapes and vulnerable lyricism. Hailing from Toronto and rooted in his Korean-Canadian heritage, Sylo’s music transcends boundaries, offering a refuge of cozy moments where listeners can immerse themselves in self-reflection and intimate storytelling. 

With his latest single ‘So Familiar‘ released on April 18th, Sylo continues to redefine the genre, weaving together lush arrangements with poignant themes of love and loss. His music, described as a fusion of soulful warmth and jazzy sophistication, invites listeners into a world of introspection and emotional resonance. 

Ahead of his forthcoming full-length project, Sylo had a chat with us to delve deeper into his creative process, cultural influences, and the significance of vulnerability in his music. Join us as we explore the journey of an artist whose artistry transcends borders and resonates with audiences worldwide. 

Congratulations on the release of your single ‘So Familiar’! Can you share with us the inspiration behind the track and what message you hope listeners take away from it? 

Thanks so much! When writing this song, I felt a pull towards the feeling of heartbreak. To chase the feeling of bittersweet-ness. It makes me feel the most sometimes. That feeling of death and rebirth with yourself always really gets me. 

The takeaway from it I guess is to revel in that. Learning how to let go when you’re not really ready yet, but realizing how beautiful those feelings can be when you just surrender to them. 

Your music has been described as a refuge of cosy moments, perfect for self-reflective listening sessions. How do you cultivate this intimate atmosphere in your songs, and what do you hope listeners feel when they engage with your music? 

I would say I’m pretty introverted in general, so that naturally comes out as “reflective” I guess. My relationship with myself has grown to be very intimate over the years especially. Mostly because of deeper dedication to meditation and self inquiry (investigation of an apparent “self”). 

It’s allowed me to experience life with this growing sense of “okay-ness”. Being at peace with the highs, lows. Sitting more in the backseat of life. Letting things come and go as they do and I like to embody that in my songs. I want listeners to feel that naturalness. Ease, but still challenging. 

‘So Familiar’ explores the paradox of deeply caring for someone while knowing you can no longer be with them. How do you approach infusing personal experiences into your songwriting, and how important is vulnerability in your creative process? 

Vulnerability is the first step. Cold, hard honesty comes next. Letting go of the “what if’s” and “have nots” will allow pragmatism to trickle into your psyche. 

More than ever, I like listening. Over-hearing conversations, sensing the hidden intentions behind someone’s words. Nuances like these are where I like to find stories. Then writing from a perspective that relates to my own. 

Your music often incorporates elements of alternative R&B with a unique twist, blending soulful melodies with influences from your Korean-Canadian heritage. How do you see your cultural background shaping your artistic identity and sound? 

I grew up in a household where it was either traditional Korean songs and classical music from my parents, or 90s R&B/hiphop from my older sister. Then also being exposed to gospel music in church. I think all these attitudes and sounds made up the earliest part of my music sensibility. But with my independence later in life came my own sort of liberation through discovering rock. 

I love that about the melting pot of cultures in Toronto especially. I think I can just about try my hand in so many genres. Hopefully I’ll be able to get to all of them. But my bread and butter will always be R&B- that’s my day 1. 

‘Fall Into Me’, your previous single, garnered significant attention and support from various platforms. How do you navigate the balance between staying true to your artistic vision and adapting to the demands of the music industry? 

That’s a great question. I’m constantly trying to figure this out. Having a strong vision from the start and staying true to it, while having the malleability to let it evolve naturally is key. 

There is so much noise out there, and I’ve had to let myself be lost in it and find my voice again over and over. As many times as it was necessary in order for me to be where I am today. And so it shall continue. But each time I go through that confusion and doubt, the more I’m okay with it. The noise can only get so loud before it just becomes part of the background. 

Then the less I care about what others think. Truly. Of course I want to make good art and something many people will connect with. But it needs to come from an intuitive place. And that often gets drowned out when you’re too worried about everyone else.

Your recent growth has been remarkable, with your SXSW debut and a COLORSxSTUDIOS session. How do you approach performance opportunities like these, and what do you hope to convey to your audience through your live performances? 

Honestly it’s always a mix of excitement and anticipation. On one hand, I can’t wait to get out on that stage and connect with the audience. But on the other hand, I don’t want to mess it up. I’m a sucker for forgetting lyrics so I always psych myself out haha. 

But at the end of it all, I just hope to put my whole being into it and that there is a connection. That people walk away from it feeling elevated, inspired and hopeful. 

Collaboration seems to be a recurring theme in your career, from working with other artists to collaborating with platforms like COLORS. How do these collaborations contribute to your artistic growth, and what do you look for in potential collaborators? 

I want every collaborative session to feel like just one big hang. I love to joke and poke fun all the time, so if it’s just all work and no play, then I’m throwing in the towel! The flow has to feel natural, the tastes need to be impeccable, then we got a slapper. I’m always looking to collab. But first and foremost the natural ease with others needs to be present. Can you kick it?! 

Your track ‘Ginny’ received acclaim globally and even caught the attention of K-Pop icons like NCT and BTS’s Jungkook. How does it feel to have your music recognized by such influential figures, and how does it influence your approach to creating music? 

It’s crazy that that all happened, but it hasn’t really influenced much on my process. I’m always grateful when other musicians recognize my art, and that’s something to be proud of. I’m also always open to potentially working with them too, if the cards fall where they may. 

Your upcoming full-length project is highly anticipated. Can you provide any insights or teasers about what fans can expect in terms of themes, sonic direction, or collaborations? 

It’s definitely a lot livelier than my last one. I was ready to step into more colorful and adventurous territory after doing lots of inner, quiet healing with the last. Like aforementioned, I enjoy intertwining other people’s stories with my own. 

Finally, as someone who values self-care themes in your music, what advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to prioritise their mental and emotional well-being while navigating the music industry? 

Another great question. Also thank you so much for having me! I thoroughly enjoyed putting time and care into answering these. 

Be soft with yourself. Letting life breathe through you is just as important as you breathing life and art back into it. Speak and give with an open heart. Like quite literally keep your attention there and you’ll feel love and peace emanating from it. If this is true for you, then don’t ever stop. This will quiet the noise in your mind. The highs are addictive and the lows really suck. But no matter what, try to feel it all… in all its totality. Be courageous enough to let it all be completely felt. Fail until it becomes second nature, and then some. Being in the music industry unfortunately comes with lots and lots of struggling and suffering. But inner growth comes in hand with that. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Words: Tara Choudhary
Photography: Lian Benoit