Sylvia Tosun isn't your typical Winter Music Conference performer. The Juilliard-educated singer has a voice big enough for opera at the Met, but she chose the endorphin-tingling field of dance music instead, scoring a No. 1 hit on the Billboard dance charts with "Push n Pull." Those of you lucky enough to attend the Sea to Sun party at the Miami Beach home of producer Tom Lord-Alge will get to see her perform, along with rapper Freedom Williams of C&C Music Factory, Alex M.O.R.P.H. from Paul van Dyk's Vandit label, trance legend Christopher Lawrence and singer Crystal Waters ("[Gypsy Woman] She's Homeless").
What's going on for you at WMC?
Well, we're doing a label party at the home of four-time Grammy-winning mixer/producer Tom Lord-Alge. I don't know if you know him, but he has mixed the biggest records that you know. He started out by doing "Back in the High Life" by Steve Winwood, and since has gone on to mix people like Peter Gabriel and U2 and Coldplay, Pink, Annie Lennox, Avril Lavigne. You name it, he's done it. And it's kind of cool because being in the dance world now - I've always been in the music world in one way or another - we're doing a lot of remixes, so it's kind of funny because there's an ongoing joke between him and me where he's like "Well, if it's mixed right the first time, why do you need to repeat it again?" but as you know, the dance world is all about the different styles and genres.
You went to Juilliard - what drew you to dance music?
I studied classical music for a long time, and I think it was my mom's dream that I become an opera singer at the Met, and I was part of the Grand Opera Company for a couple of years. And now I have more of a rock 'n' roll edge to my artistry, and I ended up doing rock operas and Broadway things and whatever. But when I hit the dance floor on a Saturday night at the Roxy during an Allegria party, I realized the power of dance music and how it makes you feel so great to dance for hours and hours and shake off the stress. It's very transcendent when it's a proper genre that fits with you. So I just started noodling around, writing some things for the dance floor, and I developed a knack for it, and it brings me a lot of joy. There's not someone breathing over my neck when I do it, saying, "It must be written this way!" It's free.
What kind of sound or feeling do you try to evoke with your songs?
I don't just write about my everyday - I usually come from a poetic nature, with a lot of metaphor. And I try to bring a sense of fantasy to the song - I guess think of a Tim Burton movie. That's where my head goes when I start to write for the dance floor.
Who are some of the singers who have really inspired you?
Singers of the world - Beverly Sills, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kathleen Battle - we're talking about the classics, and their voices are incredible. More in the pop realm, there's Ella Fitzgerald, Barbra Streisand, of course. As far as my genre, I love the way Jes sings - it depends. I love people like Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant, and Peter Gabriel is my all-time favorite male voice. He speaks volumes with his voice - it's not just a sound. It's coming with emotion and visual effects and everything the moment he opens his mouth. I could go on, I mean, I love the voice.
Do you play any instruments?
I play piano. I'm not the best player that I know, so I kind of don't brag about that too much, because I know some pretty amazing players. But I do play - that's how I write, mostly.
Will this be your first time at WMC?
No, actually, my record label did a party last year, coincidentally on the 24th of March, although that was on a Tuesday and this year it's on a Wednesday. We had an outdoor pool party at a hotel, and it was really good - it was fun.