A pair of veterans from Whistler’s live music scene, folk singer Susan Holden and guitarist Sean Rose, have joined forces to form a blues and country-inspired outfit that they hope will grow to include some of the resort’s best musicians.
“We’re called Poor Dirty Sylvia and we’re planning on bringing others into the fold,” said Holden. “It started off as a song writing project, and because we both perform so much, it’s not surprising that that’s what it’s turned into.”
After nearly 12 years of playing in local venues, which often ask musicians to play hours of familiar cover songs, Holden said she “was bored” and started looking for new ways to challenge herself musically.
“A lot of the venues in Whistler are looking for three hours of covers, and for me that got kind of stale,” she said. “Then this old country thing started coming out of me — Patsy Cline, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash — and I was gravitating towards that. But then I started really being intrigued by more complicated vocal styles in jazz and blues.” After penning some new blues-inspired lyrics, Holden started thinking about who she wanted to back her. It didn’t take long before she came up with Sean Rose.
“I revere him as the best guitarist in Whistler,” she said. “I went to Sean with a blues song that I had written. I didn’t have any guitar for it, I had written the melody and lyrics. I sang it and he put together this incredible slide guitar instrumental. It was magic.”
That magic led to Poor Dirty Sylvia’s first song, The Devil Himself, which Holden thinks is the best song the pair have crafted together.
“In 15 minutes (Rose) had come up with something that sounded like old school blues, but it’s not something that’s been written before, it’s not regurgitated. There’s something very original about what he’s done,” said Holden. “It was music love at first listen.”
Since then the song writing has come easily for the pair, said Holden, with plans to round out their live show with a few covers that stray away from the classic rock requests at most Whistler venues.
“Something like Patsy Cline has so many more layers than what it seems like at first in that kind of country music,” said Holden. “We’re exploring those (covers) as an education and an expression of something different than what we’ve done. I don’t hear a lot of people doing Patsy Cline, so we believe it’s a performance that’s quite original.”
Eventually, Holden and Rose hope to get on the radar of the Canada Council for the Arts in order to acquire funding to record in-studio and organize events locally showcasing Whistler’s wide array of musical talent.
“I’d like to fill Millennium Place and show people what’s going on with my music in collaboration with a lot of other local musicians,” Holden said. “It would be nice if we could be encouraged through our community to do things that are different, something that’s unique.”
Until then, Holden has a few local performers in mind that she hopes to invite into Poor Dirty Sylvia’s lineup, but she’s keeping her lips sealed for the time being.
“I won’t announce what our dream team is because we haven’t approached them yet, but we do have in mind a bass player, a drummer and a backing vocalist that we think will be great,” she said.
Check out Holden and Rose performing as Poor Dirty Sylvia for the first time Friday (March 8) at Dusty’s Bar as part of the bi-weekly arts showcase Creative 5 Eclectic. Doors are at 8 p.m. The show starts at 9 p.m. and admission is by donation.