After working hard to get noticed in the musician-saturated Austin area for over four years, Emily Wolfe was finally able to quit her day job and go on an East Coast tour with rock band and fellow Austin residents Black Pistol Fire.
Before her show at Black Cat Backstage, Wolfe talked about how her increased commitment to music hasn’t been the only thing to change in the past year. The lineup of her band is different this year, returning to a strictly solo project with a touring band on the basics—bass and drums. The writing process for her new LP is also different than any other album she’s recorded.
“Every EP and LP that I put out prior to [the upcoming album], I struggled with addiction and so now that I’m sober, it’s like writing is a lot more emotional instead of just, you know, taking a couple of shots and then vomiting on a page with words that don’t really make sense,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe, whose music is a mix between rock ‘n’ roll, folk and blues, said she seems to care about the songs she writes sober more than her previous tracks. A Red Bull in hand and an assortment of Tex-Mex snacks on the table, she smiled while talking about her coincidental introduction to Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen from Black Pistol Fire by a mutual friend in her beloved hometown of Austin which led to the tour.
At the beginning of her Black Cat set Wolfe warmed up the crowd, playing whiny guitar, heavy drums, and matching vocals. Her dense sound is new, something the personal and instrumentally creative music she writes can handle without gravitating towards the calculated and predictable sound some rock musicians fall into.
The rhythm kept the songs interesting, leading an intense build up of emotion at times while laying back at other points. Before the shows with Black Pistol Fire, Wolfe’s touring drummer went to a hat store and bought one hometown baseball cap for each city that they were performing in. Thursday, he showed off a red Washington Nationals hat, while playing “Mechanical Hands,” the title track off a previous EP. Wolfe’s technical guitar skills shined through the riffs and solo parts on the track. The live version was heavier and cleaner than on the album, a theme that seemed to be present throughout the set.
The crowd was different than her typical Austin restaurant or bar show put together through contacts in the tight knit community of musicians. Back home, there are too many artists competing to try and make their way towards rock stardom. In D.C., Wolfe’s stripped down version of her hit “White Collar Whiskey” can be enjoyed as the powerful ballad it is on stage instead of in a corner of a bar with a much less attentive crowd than the one on Thursday night.
“I sit in my music room at home and write songs and play and practice and stuff. So when I have a show, I can finally get that out of my house and send it off into people’s ears and hopefully people like it,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe’s performance, with the full and layered instrumentals she incorporated in the live versions, supported her standing as a talented rock ‘n’ roll musician who can carry a room on her own. After years of trying to make it happen, Wolfe can now focus solely on music, continuing to develop her composition and expression.
“There’s a really cool thing that happens, it’s like an energy cycle. The audience gets into it then you give them more and they give you more and it’s just this really nice spiritual experience for me,” Wolfe said.
All Photos: Everly Jazi