Sylvia lets her Imagination out to play in her new single and storybook video — premiering exclusively on Tinnitist.
The latest single from the Grammy-nominated country star and veteran singer-songwriter’s new concept album Nature Child – A Dreamer’s Journey, Imagination is a sweetly simple, gently breezy folk-pop gem that celebrates the magical freedom of dreams and creativity.
“The day Verlon Thompson and I wrote Imagination, we met at EMI Publishing down on Music Row in Nashville, where Verlon was writing at the time,” says Sylvia. “He had just gotten back from a trip to visit his family in Oklahoma. We discussed writing a song about using your imagination, and from that discussion emerged all of the music for Imagination. Next, we set out to write the lyrics. Verlon began talking about watching his nephew playing in the backyard in Oklahoma, marching around, stick waving in the air, with a blanket tied around his neck as a cape. We remembered what it felt like to be lost in our imaginations and began to describe his nephew: ‘Dancing a melody / He lives in a song / Wherever he wants to be / Is where he belongs / Painting rainbows in the sky / Doesn’t stay to watch them dry.’ ”
Sylvia continues: “Then, we got stuck for a little while. What was the next line? I read through the lyrics once again and realized — we had also just described a butterfly in flight. ‘He’s a butterfly’ was the line! We suddenly realized the verses would be riddles. The creative process flowed on with images, and we wrote about a waterfall and a shadow. The chorus and bridge came pretty easily, too. We used our imaginations big time, letting Imagination unfold as we went along. It was truly a magical experience to write this song.”
Nature Child represents an equally magic experience for Sylvia — and an important milestone. Having written more and more of her own material in recent years, she co-wrote all the songs on Nature Child with Thompson, John Mock, Thom Schuyler and Craig Bickhardt. The album was recorded in Nashville amid the pandemic with longtime friend, collaborator, and co-producer John Mock (Dolly Parton, Dixie Chicks, James Taylor). Every vocal note, including harmonies and choral passages, is a product of Sylvia’s extraordinary singing talents and her legendary ability to bring the listener to the heart of her music.
A project that she literally has spent her entire life making, Nature Child represents “a full-circle moment for me,” she shares. Playful as well as thought-provoking, this generation-spanning concept album whose dozen story-songs will inspire listeners of all ages to follow their dreams. Tracks like the richly atmospheric Avalon, the lilting Dancing Over An Emerald Isle and the joyous If I Only Had Wings convey three main album themes: “don’t be afraid to dream,” “imagination sets you free,” and “you are loved for who you are.” On stellar songs such as the title track and My Best Friend, Sylvia touches upon other themes that address the importance of remembering our innate connection with the earth and the qualities of being a true friend.
Nature Child’s songwriting and arrangements reveal Sylvia’s deepening as a vocalist and storyteller. She has long moved beyond the bubbly country pop of her signature hits to create a broader, more sophisticated music that still retains the relatability that helped to make her early songs so popular. A key reason why Nature Child is so easy on the ears is Sylvia’s gentle, gorgeous singing, not just on her lead vocals but also with her ethereal backing vocals that lend an otherworldly feel to many of the tracks. Sylvia blended rootsy country touches with elements of Celtic folk music (from traditional to modern artists like Enya), timeless lullabies, and soundtracks like The Lord of the Rings. American Songbook standards were another touchstone, with Harry Nilsson’s A Little Touch of Schmilsson In The Night being a particular influence. Sylvia loved how Nilsson’s performance was earnest yet playful, and how well arranged the songs were — all qualities that imbue Nature Child’s own smartly executed arrangements.
Although it has taken more than 30 years, Sylvia is thrilled to bring this dream project to life. But she still has more dreams for Nature Child, which she calls “the most important work I’ve ever done.” To make an album that is about helping other people, rather than promoting herself, was a liberating experience for Sylvia. “I hope it will connect with people in a heartfelt way,” she states. “If you’re open to it, this music can inspire you to dream and go for it. It can be a soundtrack for your own dreamer’s journey.”
Signed to RCA Records from 1979-87, Sylvia released five albums with a dozen No. 1 and Top Ten hits including Nobody, Tumbleweed and Drifter, sold over four million records, and won multiple awards including the ACM’s Female Vocalist of the Year and Billboard’s #1 Country Female Artist.