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Photo by Chris Casella
Photo by Chris Casella

Class of 2016: Sylvie Mix

Call Sylvie Mix “The Columbus Kid that Could.”

Last Independents’ Day Fest, 16-year-old Mix, garbed in a weathered cardigan and old man mask, sang backup vocals for the local group Hugs & Kisses alongside her mother, artist Maika Carter, and alt-rap local, Envelope.

In many ways, this particular performance epitomized the young artist—her age concealed by a mask, an old soul trapped in adolescent form, a prodigal starlet performing alongside resident legends just for kicks.

And that is Sylvie Mix: the girl who first joined her mom’s band while her peers were still trying to crack the alphabet. Half-raised by a surplus of Columbus creatives who served as half-uncles and makeshift babysitters, Mix is a homegrown product of artistic conditioning.

Now 17, she’s broken the threshold of accompaniment and is working on her solo career, just months before she’s whisked off to the Art Institute of Chicago. Mix and I met at Upper Cup Coffee a few weeks back to talk about her new music, her 3-foot-tall baby brother Angus in tow—lugging his skateboard, dressed in tie-dye, with locks down to his butt. Angus sized me up, frowned, and refused to reciprocate my high-five. That is how cool this family is.

The heartbeats of Mix’s songs are simple acoustic guitar riffs, looking to Fiona Apple, Jeff Buckley, and Amy Winehouse for encouragement. From there, percussionist Chuck Palmer fills in the gaps alongside standup bassist and Relay recording intern, Richard Wexner. Hugs & Kisses frontman Donny Monaco is on uncle duty for this one, singing backup and a contributing songwriter for her upcoming release. When paired with Mix’s raspy murmur, the duo makes for an emotionally charged harmony.

“It is kind of funny, my tonsils have been really swollen for seven months or so. I think that has changed the sound and resonance of my voice. I think that something that I have always been good at is being able to transform my voice—depending on the style of my performance.”

Mix’s songs are expressive, melancholic, wistful, and almost haunting; the kind of music you would expect to be recorded in an abandoned cabin in the woods. The initial motivation to start writing her own songs echoes the thousands of artists and musicians before her, even if many have come way before her.

“I went through a period of pretty deep depression for a few months, and I was just kind of wallowing in that,” she said. “It was just hard for me to motivate myself to do anything. It was really crazy, because I am a very passionate person about the things that I love, and to not feel that just sucked. This was just a way for me to express my feelings to myself, and process them. That really brought me out of the place that I was at. Ever since then, I have always felt that art and music was just this sort of saving grace for me.”

I asked Mix if she feared that her age served as a roadblock, that in some ways her youth might categorize her music into the realm of novelty. She opened her eyes wide, and gave me a concerning nod.

“I don’t really make a point of mentioning my age. I don’t want to be a novelty. I want people to appreciate my music for what it is.”

Considering her songs are mature and well articulated—and that she has just as much experience as any seasoned musician—it is fair to assume that her age only adds to the marvel of her craft. That, and an honest touch of teenage brood.

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Danny Hamen

Insatiable bibliophile. Intrepid journalist. Born to run. Here for the cake.