Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe
The Transcript — In her most recent album Pain Is Beauty LA-based musician Chelsea Wolfe takes the country music of her youth to dark and sultry new lands.

Chelsea Wolfe’s dark-orchestral ‘doom folk’ may conjure images of Scandinavian forests lit by Northern Lights, but it’s actually California that feeds her otherworldly sound. The daughter of a country singer, the LA-based, Sacramento-bred multi-instrumentalist has always been inspired by her country roots and “singers that had a lot of soul, pain and emotion in their voice”.

Her most recent album, Pain Is Beauty, is a deeply melodic, goth-tinged soundscape that marks an electronic turn in her droning-guitar/heavy-distortion trajectory, taking her distinctively post-apocalyptic vibe to a new ethereal place.

We caught up with the enigmatic frontwoman to find out more.

Is the new album a progression from the other albums?
We added some electronic elements to this album. Over the past three years, me and the band have been writing some more electronic songs and we originally thought we would do a side project, but over time we decided to incorporate the songs into the Chelsea Wolfe project. Yeah there are some electronic songs and some folk songs and piano songs, so it’s definitely not sticking to one genre. We’ve decided to put all the songs together that felt right no matter what sort of sound they had.

What excites you about working in this way?
I have always experimented with genre and I don’t like to limit myself to one sound or one style of music, so I am always experimenting with different types of music and different ways to use my voice. It is something that comes naturally to me.

How did you move to producing orchestral and classical sounding songs coming from a background like country music?
I have always been inspired by classical music, I have always been hoping to meet string players, but I approach music in an instinctive kind of way and I’ve been lucky over the past couple of years to meet some really great players – a violin player named Andrea Calderon and a viola player Ezra Buchlaand – and we worked together on this album and also on an acoustic album that came out last year. Sometimes I will pick a song that I want to add some string arrangements too and I’ll work with a player, maybe sing something and have them translate it in to violin or viola or let them play and see what happens naturally with them. It’s great to have these people along for the ride.

Is it a collaborative process in the studio? Do you work with the same band and set up as before?‬
I typically write alone to start, and then I work on songs with my bandmate/co-producer Ben Chisholm. He’s been with this project for about three years now. Then we’ll bring the songs to the rest of the band (Dylan Fujioka – drums / Kevin Dockter – lead guitar) and add layers and flesh out the songs and dynamic.‬
Music typically happens out of order/out of time for me. Songs aren’t always written in order or specifically for a certain album. It’s more of a gathering of songs that fit together thematically into one album-home.

What are your favourite types of shows to play?‬
Well for my US acoustic tour in January I had the pleasure of playing some special spaces like churches. But it’s not always easy to book venues like that. For our European tour I just hoped to find venues with a good vibe and decent sound system. I always enjoy playing the old bunker venues in Germany. We had a great show in what was I think a bunker basement this past year. Such strange but intense energy.

What were your musical tastes when you were growing up?
When I was younger the first music that I really loved was only country, like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette singers that had a lot of soul and pain and emotion in their voices. So that’s the first thing that I was inspired by and have definitely been still inspired by over the years.

What about about darker inspirations like black metal? That seems like quite a juxtaposition to your father’s country music?‬
Well I’ve always been attracted to honest music. I think that’s the country/folk influence.‬ But over the years many different types of music have inspired me, from 70s dark rock to black metal. And I think the darkness in my music comes from subject matter – approaching the reality side of things and trying to reveal the truth behind an idea or concept. Sometimes that turns out a bit dark.

Do you have to prepare yourself to write or does that come naturally to you?‬
Writing songs has always been something that comes naturally to me. My dad was in a band while I was growing up and the biggest influence that had on me was his home studio. From a young age I was interested in writing songs so I just started doing that and never really stopped.‬ And even at a young age I was interested in the truth and reality of things so I’d sit and watch world news for hours and my way of digesting all the horrible things that I saw going on in the world was to write about it.

You can find out more about Chelsea Wolfe tour dates and the new album on the website.

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