Emily Wolfe dropped me an email a few weeks back - "You don't know me but ..." - to say she has a new record that I might like to hear. It took just 10 seconds listening to the attached song Lion Heart to determine that indeed I might. That track promptly made it on to the latest Harris Radio podcast and I've been spinning the entire album on my iPod repeatedly ever since. It's just that good. Indie Sounds caught up with Emily - who just graduated St. Edwards University - to find out more about the album, how it got recorded, and where she's playing out around town. You'll wanna know that for sure.
Photo by Hannah Hagar
Indie Sounds: So you just released your debut album - called Director's Notes. What's in the name?
Emily Wolfe: The title of the record is derived from a monologue in the Shakespeare play As You Like It ...
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
When I started writing, I was going through a really painful relationship fall out that lasted for several months. I didn’t expect any of the songs I was writing to turn into a full album; I just wrote because it was cathartic. But during the time I kind of felt like I was playing the seven parts that Shakespeare mentions - the infant, the school boy, the lover, the soldier, justice, the judge, and the old man ... but in relation to the seven stages of grief. There were times when I felt like someone else was directing my life, or like I didn’t have any say in the way things were going to play out. So, to me, the songs on the record are just notes that I took about my life in between scenes. They’re notes about what happened, what I wanted to happen, and what I thought the ending would look like.
IS: Tell us some about making the album - where it was recorded and who was involved?
Emily: I had a blast making the album. My friend Tim Dittmar from the band Annabella recorded it at his studio in Georgetown, Texas. He’s an analog engineer so the whole process was very methodical. At first, I was skeptical about recording onto tape because it meant that if I made a mistake while playing, we couldn’t just go back, highlight the error, and delete it on a computer screen. But it actually made the recording process more fun because it took longer - if I could, I’d play music all day in a studio. I’m glad we went the analog route ... it definitely makes the album stand out in terms of sound quality.
I played all the instruments on the record except for bass and cello. Joshua Zarbo added some awesome bass lines and Diana Burgess really brought the songs she played on to another level. I had a lot of fun working with them.
Download Director's Notes from iTunes.
IS: Backtracking, what's the Emily Wolfe life and musical story?
Emily: I had a few guitar lessons when I was about seven years old where I grew up in North Carolina - my teacher had a studio about an hour away from my neighborhood where he recorded music and taught lessons. He started me off with sheet music on guitar, but I had no experience with reading music or any concept of music theory, so I was actually really terrible at guitar in the beginning – we would spend like half an hour on When the saints go marching in.
He got really frustrated trying to teach me guitar, so one day he said “do you just want to learn drums? You might be better at rhythm.” So I jumped on that offer. My older sister was taking piano lessons from him at the same time and of course I wanted to be just like her so I asked him if I could learn a little piano. That’s where I learned the basics of guitar, drums, and piano.
Then every once in a while my mom or dad would take me to Guitar Center to kind of mess around with different instruments, so I guess that’s where I picked mandolin, banjo, and bass. Then in high school I played French horn, so that was an interesting time period ...
IS: You've been playing around Austin a bit. Any fave gigs and venues so far? Who is in your live band? And what's coming up?
Emily: So far my favorite gig was at The Mohawk just the other week when we opened for Sucre and the TonTons. The crowd was awesome - I had a blast and met some cool people.
In my live band, Sam Pankey plays bass, Hannah Hagar plays keys and sings backing vocals, Jeffrey Olson is on drums, and Jacob Torres plays guitar. I’m really lucky to know them all. They’re brilliant musicians and just great people.
We’re playing a show at Skinny’s Ballroom on May 24th. Then hopefully we make it into the top four bands to play at Stubb’s on May 27th for The Recording Conservatory of Austin’s Unsigned Artist Competition. We’re in the top 30, and they pick four bands by whoever has the most public votes. People can vote for me here - it would be an amazing opportunity. Then we have a show lined up on May 29th at Beale Street Tavern.
IS: And what's next musically - what's the plan for the next few months?
Emily: Over the next few months I plan on writing a lot and trying out different sounds. Maybe using vintage effects pedals on different instruments. I was thinking about playing a lot of rhythm mandolin on my next record too. I just have to write the songs first, haha.