Singer / songwriter Emily Wolfe has a new EP titled Roulette and a new sonic direction. Inspired by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Jack White, Wolfe gravitated toward a guitar-heavy sound on the new record. She also found herself trying new things like “writing a really sexy song”, the result of which can be heard on the lead single “Swoon”. With a slot at this year’s ACL Festival and her poster on display at Waterloo, Wolfe’s profile continues to rise in Austin and beyond, and she’s ready for the ride.
Emily spoke to Citygram about the recording process, some of her favorite things in Austin and overcoming personal challenges with the help of her musical icons and songwriting.
Does the name Roulette symbolize you taking new risks on the EP?
I think so. My first album was really acoustic and I actually did most of the instrumentation myself, but since then I’ve met some great musicians who’ve contributed their expertise. Roulette is more of a full-band kind-of-thing and more rocky.
“When things are more driven with electric guitar you can lose it and put everything out there.”
One of those artists was Spoon’s Mark McCarthy, you recorded the album with him.
Yeah, he’s a producer and he’s done a lot of really amazing records. A lot of records I admire as a musician. He’s an eccentric guy, which I like, and it was a lot of fun to work with him because I never knew what he was going to say, or pull out from his closet. He always knew which mics to use, which swivels to use, or which amps to use. It was pretty cool to watch him work that way.
You’re single “Swoon” was inspired by your desire to “write a really sexy song”, what are some other things that inspired the EP?
Well actually this record [Led Zeppelin II] inspired it a lot. I wanted to write more guitar-heavy songs and more electric songs, because it’s just way more fun to me than performing acoustic. It’s fun in the way that you can just let loose. With acoustic it’s more like you have to be more somber and get into the song with your personality, and soak into an acoustic guitar. When things are more driven by electric guitar you can lose it and put everything out there, at least for me that’s how it is.
You’re a native Ausinite, how do you feel the music scene has changed over the years?
I don’t know how its changed as a whole but I do know for me, it was definitely like this bubble that I couldn’t break into for a couple years. I started going to shows a lot and meeting a bunch of different musicians and seeing them out and it became this network that also became a really close group of friends.
“It seemed so intimidating at first – the music capitol of the world – but then you go and meet people… it’s like oh, now I can break into this.”
It’s changed that way for me because it seemed so intimidating at first – the music capitol of the world – like you have to be a certain way to be an Austin musician, but then once you go and meet people out at shows and you get to know them, it’s like oh, ok, now I can break into this… it’s more of a collaborative thing.
Was there one moment where you realized you were no longer outside the bubble but in the spider web of the Austin music scene?
One moment – I think that actually happened a few days ago when our Waterloo poster went up. That was a major goal of mine.
I feel the only thing that pushed that forward was not being afraid of anything. You have to go up to a DJ and say “hey, here’s a CD.” And if they want it they want it and if they don’t, they don’t need it anyway. We did everything we could and then we met our manager, Lauren. She’s this amazing person whose worked so hard and two years later we have it up there now. That’s just the journey I feel, kind of a hard journey at times but it was worth it.
Who are some of your favorite Austin bands?
I really like this band called Foe Destroyer. Sam who plays bass in my band showed them to me and they’re awesome. I think they’re in New York now. I like Lex Land a lot too, she’s one of my close friends.
What is your idea of the perfect day in Austin?
Wake up, go to Austin Java, get two breakfast tacos: bacon, egg and cheese, and potato, egg and cheese; cappuccino. Then I’ll go to Waterloo and check out the vinyl there, maybe go to Zilker Park, take my dog Otis on a walk there. Then I would go to 24 Diner and have a nice meal there with a friend or two. Then I would come home and I’d watch a movie and I’d go to bed.
You had a health scare recently over the summer, how did you cope with that and what did you do during your recovery time?
“I had brain surgery, which was scary.”
I stayed in my house because I feel comfortable here, and I hung out with my friends. I feel like that’s the best way to cope with those things, just to live the way that you were living before everything happened. I had brain surgery, which was scary, but my friends and my family just acting normal made that normal for me, being positive about it and putting it behind me, made everything normal. That’s how I coped. I listened to a lot of records as well, I played a lot of PlayStation, a lot of Nintendo, took Otis on a lot of walks.
What were some artists you listened to while you were home recovering from your surgery?
I listened to a lot of Ryan Adams, a band called Vacationer, and Robert Plant’s project with Alison Krauss. I tried to listen to as much music as possible because I really wanted to use that time to write more songs and it’s inspiring to me to listen to other artists who really know what they’re doing.
Is there a song you wrote during that time while listening to those artists?
I’ve written a lot of songs during the recovery phase. There’s one song on the EP called “Marionette” and a lot of influence came from things like Patti Griffin and there’s a band called the Generationals that I really like. It was kind of like fusing those two together. I thought a lot about that song, I’m not sure why. I didn’t record anything during that time, but that song kind of reflects that whole scenario for me.
What’s the first album that really got you into music?
Oh my god, it’s an album by Rouge Wave called Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. I honestly don’t know why but I had this super connection to it. I actually have the vinyl in [my collection] somewhere. It’s one of the best records that I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s got this rock side to it but also this really beautiful, angelic, acoustic kind of thing on the other disc. It’s a double vinyl disc. It’s great. I had to order the vinyl from Germany because they don’t print it anymore. It was an experience. The sad thing is I’ve never seen Rouge Wave live. I think they all had kids and dispersed as a band unfortunately but I’m not sure, they’re kind of vague, but they’re definitely my favorite band. Hopefully one day I’ll get to see them live.
Last question, do you have any hidden talents?
I do. I did comedy, stand-up comedy for about a year and a half when I was 18 and I placed pretty high in this one competition called Funniest Person In Austin in 2009. That was once something that I wanted to do but I realized later on that it’s just because I wanted to get comfortable onstage so that I could be a performer.
Thanks so much, Emily Wolfe!
Click here to get the Roulette EP Free
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