She was a stunner right out of the gate with a dreamy voice and a natural and heavy blues rock guitar mastery, giving her all to a packed house that sang along to her opening song on their own accord. Emily Wolfe and her adoring army took over the Stubb’s inside stage Thursday night and it was quite the sight. We were lucky enough to sit down with her, one of Austin’s faces to watch in 2016, before the show and get to know her a little better. With ease and openness, she discussed her style, influences, and how much hard work it takes to get her sound out to be heard.
Her new style is quite a departure from her beginning days of a mellow singer-songwriter. Her voice is still just as ethereal, but bolder within the beautiful melodies. The more somber songs provide a very intimate window to what’s stirring in her heart, soaked in memories and desires. Her voice is smooth and gentle, giving them a soft finish. She floats through her lines until she opens up and let’s the pipes break loose, with a power that surprises everyone and no one at the same time.
Her music has grown into a very suiting rock power trio with Evan Nicholson on bass and Michael Gonzales on drums, and of course, her passionate and modern take on classic blues guitar. Her new tracks bring out a whole different side that’s both a little grungy and a little sultry. With some hard licks and killer solos, she completely flips her sound around and goes hard. Citing her musical influences as timeless Motown groups (Smokey Robinson, Temptations, David Ruffin) and classic blues and rock guitar idols (Jimmy Page, Jack White, and Austin’s own Eric Johnson), it’s no wonder she decided to amp up and rock out.
Her new single, “Atta Blues” was set to drop the next day, and this show, Wolfe’s first headlining show, was where the video would be filmed. When asked about how this song came to her, Wolfe said she set out to get back to her roots as a guitar player (she’s been playing for twenty years!) and really begin to showcase those skills that had previously taken a back seat to her lyrics. Roulette, her last EP, was the starting point of her new rock direction. “Atta Blues” is about passion, both for a love interest and for the music itself. The intensity of the song translates through both the lyrics and her riffing talent.
Wolfe has always worked as an independent artist, self-funding and self-releasing her first LP, and reaching out to booking agents and fans and building relationships in the industry. She focused on each small step that would get her further to her goal. She stressed to us the importance of treating people well, and not as a means to an end. Her advice to new artists is to work up your playing to get a solid live performance down, reach out and be persistent, and maintain relationships. At any given show, her audience is full of people she has built friendships with. It was obvious her methods are working because at the end of her show, after a soulful improv jam session, she busted out her song “White Collar Whiskey” to which the Stubb’s audience responded by filling in her backing tracks for her, and even taking on a couple of her outro lines without Emily’s help. A hallmark sign that her music is truly reaching people.
Our interview was light-hearted enough to ask her a fun, off the cuff question. As the set up for this question she was asked to name three bands off the top of her head. “Young the Giant, Jack White, and The Dead Weather.” And then we dropped the scenario: These bands are in an 80s style back-alley gang fight. Who wins and why? She had a confident and immediate answer. “The Dead Weather. Hands down. Because they have Jack White, who has anger issues; Alison Mosshart, who could kill anybody with her beauty; and these killer guitar riffs that can break people’s brains open.”
Keep an eye out for this noodling queen to do big things in the upcoming years. In 2016 you can expect to see a new LP, featuring “Atta Blues” and about a dozen more currently unrecorded songs, and hopefully a few festival spots.
-Gemmi Galactic and Matt Jain, TipCow