One of my favorite singer-songwriters, the beguiling Chelsea Wolfe tours this winter in support of her Sargent House release Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs. I play this repeatedly. I can’t get enough of her dramatic, haunting vocals and lush arrangements. Honest, heartbreaking, gorgeous, dark, lovely. And live, Chelsea Wolfe mesmerized the crowd with her aura and talent. Now living in Los Angeles, Wolfe grew up in Northern California.
Amy Steele: Your father played country music. How did that influence you?
Chelsea Wolfe: He had a home studio that I’d sneak into and record songs I’d written. Being around music and seeing him go to shows was of course what introduced me to the world of music, even though I wasn’t very involved back then.
Amy Steele: When did you start singing?
Chelsea Wolfe: When I was seven or eight years old.
Amy Steele: What type of musical training have you had?
Chelsea Wolfe: I’ve taken classes here and there but usually dropped out before they finished. I love learning but I’m not very good with institutions.
Amy Steele: Have you been in bands before?
Chelsea Wolfe: I’ve messed around with some rock bands but always ended up doing my own thing.
Amy Steele: What do you like about being a solo artist?
Chelsea Wolfe: I like it because there is a freedom to play alone or play with a group of musicians. And I’m really lucky to play and write with some brilliant people.
Amy Steele: Your music is beautifully dark and mysterious. Are you a dark person?
Chelsea Wolfe: Thank you. I can be. Sometimes I get on autopilot and just focus on the work, but then there will be a lull and I sort of stop and breathe and look around and sometimes it can get dark.
Amy Steele: What inspires your songs?
Chelsea Wolfe: The world around me and the world at large.. news stories, films, literature. A mix of reality and mystical or mythical elements. Love, life and death.
Amy Steele: When I saw you perform this past year at the Middle East in Cambridge, Mass. you captivated the audience and truly engulfed everyone in your music. What do you like about performing? How do you transform your music into a live performance?
Chelsea Wolfe: Performing is a challenge for me; writing and recording is a much more natural state for me. But I like the challenge of performing the songs live and I’ve come to enjoy the energies of the audience and meeting the people who come to my shows.
Amy Steele: What’s the greatest challenge about being a woman in the music business?
Chelsea Wolfe: I think because I present my music in an androgynous way I don’t have like, problems or challenges because I’m a woman. The one thing I’d say is that I get compared to other female artists that I have nothing to do with because critics love to group us all together, but my influences are mostly male artists actually. Not a big deal though.
Amy Steele: Why did you want to do this acoustic album?
Chelsea Wolfe: I started working with Sargent House earlier this year and they suggested I release an album of all my orphaned acoustic songs that I would play live or demo but had never actually released on an album. I was excited about the idea and as I gathered the old recordings I decided to re-approach most of them with new instrumentation and also wrote and recorded some new acoustic/folk songs for the record.
Amy Steele: What can fans expect on this winter tour?
Chelsea Wolfe: A much more intimate experience.. It’s going to be pretty stripped down, to guitar, vocals, synth and violin. Sometimes I get a little nervous about how personal it will be, but I’m also looking forward to experiencing it myself and pushing myself to do something I’m not completely comfortable with.
Friday, January 11
Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, Calif
Sunday, January 13
Doug Fir Lounge
Monday, January 14
The Triple Door
Tuesday, January 15
The Media Club
Friday, January 18
Triple Rock Social Club
Crofoot Pike Room
The Drake Hotel
Wednesday, January 23
Friday, January 25
First Unitarian Church
Saturday, January 26
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Sunday, January 27
Rock and Roll Hotel
Tuesday, January 29
Chapel Hill, NC
Wednesday, January 30
Thursday, January 31
Baton Rouge, LA
Friday, February 1
Saturday, February 2
Central Presbytarian Church
Sunday, February 3
House of Blues – Cambridge Room
Tuesday, February 5
Wednesday, February 6
The Loft @ UCSD
Friday, February 8
First Unitarian Church