Name: Emily Wolfe
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Current release: Emily Wolfe's new album Outlier is out 25.06.21 on Crows Feet.
If you enjoyed this interview with Emily Wolfe, visit her website for a deeper look into her world. She is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
My impulse to create comes from a deeply intense feeling. It can be excitement, rage, pain; really any emotion. Then there’s a discomfort I feel that usually leads to me picking up a guitar or opening up a new session in my recording software.
I definitely get into a special headspace. I wish there was a word for it but it’s kind of like this dimension where the only thing that matters is getting my feelings out in a song. I guess some people have similar feelings when they need to go running, or hit a punching bag, or go on a long drive.
Either way it’s something I have to do in total isolation.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I always keep in mind what the finished piece will sound like. The goal with writing for me is to completely and creatively express a feeling, so writing toward that goal is where my process begins.
A lot of times a word or phrase will pop into my brain and I’ll try and write around that. Most times a guitar part is what generates the rest of the song though. I do like to visualize what impact the song could have in a live performance setting. That’s the most exciting part about writing to me – knowing that I’ll eventually get to perform the song live.
When writing my song "No Man" I really visualized how the audience in a live setting might react to it and that spurred some parts and led me to choose the guitar tones I chose. I wanted it to really hit people hard and become this anthem-like part of my show.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
The first line of a song is always the easiest for me. I often like to write a first line that sets the mood of a song completely, then move on to the chorus.
The most difficult part of writing a song for me is the second verse. It’s always been really hard to know which was to go in a second verse. Do I go further down a rabbit hole of the same feeling? Do I pivot to a different message or look at the song from another perspective? I always end up figuring it out, but it takes me a really long time to write a second verse.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Lyrics enter the picture for me after the musical hooks have fully formed. I like to choose words based on how they sound, so the phonetics always sound right.
Lyrics have to create a story that makes sense because that’s what will draw listeners to the song. There are plenty of artists who write lyrics first before the music, but I always write lyrics second.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
Good lyrics create a story, where each line seamlessly runs into the next. The goal for me is to write lyrics that truly express my feelings but attract people in such a way that they feel a story of their own forming when they listen to the song. I want people to immediately relate their own lives to my songs.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
It's a spiritual process. A lot of times I wonder if songs already exist and the song picks the person. Like writers are just vessels for a song that already exists. That's my perspective on the spiritual side.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
I know something is done musically when I think, "if I add anything else, the song will be ruined." It really depends on the feeling I'm trying to get across.
In terms of lyrics, I know a song is done when I get super excited about every line. Every line has to be special.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Yes, it's almost like an empty nest syndrome. Like I've released something into the world, and now anyone can hear it or feel it the way they want to.
That's not a bad feeling for me though, it's actually the opposite. I get excited to release music because it makes me feel closer to the world.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I get joy out of certain mundane tasks, but those tasks don't give me the opportunity for connectedness like songwriting does. After I finish writing a piece of music, there's a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of vulnerability in a good way. I feel relieved that the song is written and excited for people to eventually hear it.
I really enjoy creating something in total isolation and emerging from that isolation with a piece of music that could potentially affect someone's life in a good way, or make them feel more connected to the world around them.