Gustavo Rodriguez‘s stage name, Silbin Sandovar, truly is a one-of-a-kind handle. Trust him, he’s checked.
“I just kept making up and typing ridiculous names into Google search until I found one that yielded zero results,” he said. “I wanted a stage name/pen name that had no one else could try to claim.”
His name is not the only unique thing about Sandovar. The Sunnyside guitarist/songwriter knows how to play guitar both forwards and backwards. He learned to play with his brother’s acoustic guitar, but since he was left-handed, he had to learn to play with the strings upside-down.
“I couldn’t go re-stringing it on him. So I just figured it out that way,” Sandovar said. “I had no idea it would freak out guitar players the way it does. It’s my little gimmick, I suppose.”
While that technique makes him stand out to a crowd, it is the songs that keep people coming back. With a voice that can be both fragile and powerful and a style that can range from folk to country and even a little blues, Sandovar is one of those musicians who brings something for nearly everyone.
Sandovar has also been around the block a few times. The 41-year-old did not dive into music seriously until he was in his mid-30s. Although he has always been creative, it is only recently that he has been able to dedicate himself fully to his craft.
“For many years, I did what I loved on the side but for the last four years or so, I’ve been making my living doing only what I love,” he said. “It’s not an extravagant living by any means, but my rent is paid on time every month and no credit cards are maxed out.”
That living has steadily been getting better and better for Sandovar. In the few years he has been on the scene, he has written songs for Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, toured in Europe and opened for Gordon Gano of The Violent Femmes. He even sings the theme song for the IFC show, “Maron.”
“I believe I’m still getting better at what I’m doing. I hope I always feel that way,” he said. “I just hope they keep inviting me to the party. Hell, I’ll throw my own party if I have to!”
Besides his own work, Sandovar also plays with guitarist Brian Meece, who he met at a Long Island City bar called Dominie’s Hoek. The two of them got on personally and musically, and created Brian and Silbin and Friends. Rachel Swaner, Neil Nunziato, Dan Kendall, Anthony Rizzo and Aram Bajakian are some of their fellow musicians that perform with them.
“We’re pretty different in a lot of ways but good things always seem to happen when we get on a stage or spend time in a recording studio,” Sandovar said. “The crew we play with are all wonderful people we all picked up along the way. It only could have happened in Queens.”
For the future, Sandovar just wants to keep writing, recording and creating, both in music and other creative mediums. If he can get a story going, then that is where you will find him.
“I already have my hands in a lot of things at the moment. I just need to keep stirring the pot,” he said.