By Ron Wynn

In honor of both the release of new album and this being CMA Fest week, here’s an interview we did with longtime country star and former Academy of Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year Sylvia. From 1979-1987 she was among the biggest stars in the genre. Sylvia had a dozen Top 10 hits aside from winning the ACM award. But then she took a break from performing. Sylvia even became a life coach in 2002. That led to her re-establishing her career and also doing a lot of re-evaluation regarding her past tunes.

Sylvia issued the LP “All In The Family” in 2016, her first in 14 years. It spoke directly to a host of subjects, among them the impact of fame and the decisions to both temporarily leave the music world, then return. Now her new CD’s being officially released Friday June 8. “Second Bloom – The Hits Re-Imagined” (Red Pony) features 10 fresh interpretations of songs that dominated the country charts in the ’80s.

Three songs from the disc make their debuts this week. “Tumbleweed” is featured on Billboard.com, while “Drifter” is on “The Boot,” and “You Can’t Go Back Home” will be on “Roughstock.” In addition, the new version of her former number one hit “Nobody” is now available to radio programmers via PLAY MPE. Sylvia’s also doing a host of appearances throughout CMA Fest, which runs June 7-10.

We spoke with her a couple of weeks ago regarding the new project and other topics.

What made you decide to do this new project now and why the decision to “reimagine” songs that had previously been such big hits?
“It was a combination of several things. I’ve always loved these songs, and have done them in concert for many years. But when thinking about how I’ve evolved as an artist, and how country music has changed, I realized that some of these songs were a reflection of an era that’s since passed. I wanted to redo them and bring them more into the present from standpoint of production and musical sensibility.”

What was the biggest challenge that you faced in doing this album?
“(Longtime co-producer) John and I listened to everything very closely in preparation for doing this. A couple of things that we immediately recognized needed to change was that disco was still very prominent when we did some of them, and also the use of kick drums and synthesizer. But also from a technical standpoint, I am a much more accomplished and experienced vocalist now. I know ways of expressing myself and of storytelling through inflection and enunciation that I didn’t have or know in doing those songs before. I think fans will really enjoy hearing these new versions. Lyrically I think they’ve held up very well and are still quite relevant to what’s happening today.”

You were once a top artist on one of the biggest labels in the country. Now you’ve been an independent artist for a good while. How do you assess the differences in terms of how the music business functions today as opposed to when you started?
“As an independent artist, I have full control now over my music. When I started at RCA, which was a great label, there was a whole apparatus in place that would make the contacts for you at radio stations and then you would wait to see how things would go. Now I pretty much do all of that myself, but I also have something that every artist wants, which is artistic control. The other huge change has been with the Internet, the ability to get your music directly into the hands of fans and also social media. I’m on all the platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. You get immediate reaction and response when you issue an album or a single. You can stay in contact with your fans on an almost daily basis if that’s what you desire. We’ve certainly had the fan clubs and country music has always had a very passionate and rabid fan base. Now it’s even better with social media in regards to fan interaction and response.”

What other changes or tweaks did you make in regards to doing the album?
“One thing that I had always wanted to do with the song “Fallin’ in Love” was change the tempo and pace. I thought it was too fast, and I had made that correction in concert. Now we’ve done that on this new album, even though it was a huge success the first time out. “Tumbleweed” has a different tempo as well.”

You will be making quite a few appearances over the next few days. How does it feel to be back in the CMA Fest mix?
“Wonderful. I absolutely love doing all that. There’s no better vehicle for meeting the fans than CMA Fest, and to have a new album on top of it is the greatest. I’m extremely excited and feel very blessed at this stage in my life to still be out here doing what I love, singing, and meeting and being with my fans.”

Column note: The disc also contains new versions of her first number one Billboard country hit “Drifter,” as well as other huge songs like “Cry Just A Little Bit,” “Sweet Yesterday,” “Snapshot,” “Like Nothing Ever Happened,” “I Love You By Heart” and “You Can’t Go Back Home.” It is available on iTunes and CDBaby.com as well as in select record stores.

Sylvia’s booth is number #104 at Music City Center. She will be appearing there June 8-10  from 2-4 p.m. She’ll also be at Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop Friday from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and Piranha’s Bar & Grille for a performance/Meet and Greet 7-8 p.m. and will be doing a “Country With Heart Benefit” for St. Jude’s Hospital June 9 from 5- 9 p.m.  Sylvia will also be at the Music City Center’s CMA Fan Experience Booth #101 Sunday June 10 from 12 noon – 1 p.m. For additional information about the CD, CMA Fest appearances and other details visit her website www.sylviamusic.com.