Taking Direction from Austin Singer-Songwriter
By Sean Claes
Photos Courtesy http://emilywolfemusic.com
In a very short time, Austin singer-songwriter Emily Wolfe has netted herself some pretty high-profile gigs. She was a novice at playing live when she released her Directors Notes in February. In under a year she’s played The Mohawk opening for Sucré, with Wild Child at Stubbs, The Parish with Les Rav, and Saturday, July 21 she plays Flipnotics with Erin Ivey.
Wolfe has the kind of voice that creeps up on you and It’s been said that her voice sounds like Colbie Caillat and Sarah Bareilles. I think her brand of acoustic-driven indie folk-rock songs remind me of a Lisa Loeb or Kris Delmhorst as she’s got that understated, almost whisper-like, innocence to her voice.
I had a chance to ask her a few questions about her musical past, Directors Notes, and live shows.
Sean Claes: How long have you been playing in and around Austin?
Emily Wolfe: I started playing freshmen year in college while I was in a band – I played guitar and sang back-up vocals. We only played a few shows though. I didn't start playing by myself until about a week before I released Director's Notes.
Claes: Tell me about that first time you stepped on stage at a club/bar. Where was it, and how did it go?
Wolfe: The first time I played a show was really when I figured out that music is what I want to do. I was more nervous off stage than on. I feel like most people think, "O.K. now that I'm off stage I can breathe again." but for me it’s pretty much the opposite.
Claes: You’re a self-taught musician. What instruments do you play and how did you come about choosing to learn them?
Wolfe: I play guitar, drums, bass, banjo, mandolin, and piano. I took a few guitar lessons when I was younger, but since I wasn't the best at reading sheet music, my teacher got a little frustrated with me and asked if I just wanted to learn drums instead. I asked him for a couple of piano lessons too just for fun. He taught me the basics of the drums....the other instruments I kind of picked up at music stores.
I've always been drawn to instruments of all kinds.... It’s amazing to me that something as complex looking as a guitar can make such a beautiful noise. And how different the same instrument can sound depending on who's playing it.
Claes: I imagine a live show from you is like being invited into your living room to hear you play. What is the feeling you try to bring to the room when you play?
Wolfe: I want people to feel very comfortable during my sets. I like telling jokes and interacting with the audience in between songs - it just seems like more of a shared experience that way. Something people will remember...each individual crowd is different so I want each show to be different.
I want to put on great shows for people so they walk away feeling something...a big reason why I love playing live is because it allows me to connect with people - there is an energy cycle that happens at shows where the audience gives you as much energy as your giving them. It's a really amazing experience that rarely happens anywhere else.
Claes: Do you ever pull out cover songs? If so, which ones?
Wolfe: I have covered the Bee Gees "To Love Somebody", a couple Amy Milan songs, and the Black Keys with the full band.
Claes: Where are your favorite places to play live?
Wolfe: So far I've really enjoyed playing at the parish, the Mohawk, and Stubb's.
Claes: Directors Notes, released in February, is your debut record. Where did you record and with whom?
Wolfe: With my audio engineering professor, Tim Dittmar. He's an analog engineer so we recorded to tape. His studio is in Georgetown
Do you have a favorite cut on the album? Why?
Wolfe: My favorite track is “Lion Heart” because its the most fun to play live
Claes: I heard you went through the end of a relationship while writing this record. Tell me about the haunting and beautiful track “Oh Hey Love.”
Wolfe: “Oh Hey Love” was written right after the actual breakup, which ended with both of us driving away in separate directions. I knew things would work out eventually, and they have, so that song is very special to me.
Claes: “Dance on the Record Grooves” is the first cut off the album. Tell me about it.
Wolfe: I wrote “Dance on the Record Grooves” about feeling content in love but also being surprised that I met the person I'd been looking for. A song that explains how unexpectedly easy real love is. It takes some people a lifetime to find their person, so I feel incredibly lucky to have found mine at such a young age.
Claes: Tell me a little about “Metal Roses”
Wolfe: “Metal Roses” is a song about my family. The first verse is about my dad and how I feel so much like him sometimes. The second verse is about my sister and a marriage engagement that fell through. The third verse references a dream I had about my grandfather. By the end, each verse ties in to the fact that we've all taken risks, ones which we've been afraid of taking at one point or another. But most of the time the risks you're afraid to take are the ones you need to take the most.
You’ve got a show this Saturday at Flipnotics with Erin Ivey. What can you tell me about this show?
Wolfe: I'm planning on playing an acoustic set, so it will be very stripped down. I'm a big fan of Erin's stuff too so I'm excited for her set. It's very exciting to be opening for her.
Find out more about Emily Wolfe at http://emilywolfemusic.com. She plays Flipnotics (1601 Barton Springs, ATX)) on July 21, then The Parish on August 31 opening for David Ramirez.