Emily Wolfe Strives for Super-Legend Status

by Jake Navarro July 31, 2015

Musicians on the Austin scene want to make it. Emily Wolfe, however, wants to become a super-legend. When you talk to, listen and experience the Wolfe live, you end up thinking it's not a far-fetched idea. 

The badass rocker-chick agreed to sit down with MyCityATX this past week. With a quirky and funny persona on stage, Emily ended up giving the most honest and vulnerable artist interview to date. 

Jack White being her dream collaboration, The "Swoon" songwriter starts by sharing some of her musical influences that one wouldn't readily expect. 

"It's not that prevelant in what I play. I think it's the passion in Motown music that I really want to emulate. It's the simple words with so much feeling. Groups like The Temptations, they can sing one word, and it's like, "Oh, my God. There's so much emotion in that."" 

With almost no time to even consider other artists, she continues. 

"I would also say Linda Ronstadt. My mom had all of her vinyls, and she gave them to me. There are bands these days I really like too, like On and On. They just put out a record that's really great." 

Emily laughs because she uses "these days" and jokes that she feels like an old woman.

While she is light-hearted and funny, she possesses the ability to leave you feeling like you have something big going for yourself

Photo by Stevan Alcala

Photo by Stevan Alcala

"This is exactly where I wanted to be, you know? Talking to people like you, playing gigs, making music. This is what I wanted to be doing with my days," the rocker admits. 

Although she's able to rock out and inspire others with her insightful thoughts, things weren't always that way.

Emily thinks back to working her day job as a receptionist at a construction company when I ask her about particular set of lyrics in her 2013 song, "White Collar Whiskey."  

"I don't think anyone would notice [those changes in the lyrics]. That's so great," she starts, "In 2013, I had this 8-to-5 day job. It was hell, because it wasn't music. I dreaded it so much. I answered their phones which rang once a day. I'm the kind of person that needs to be busy. I have to work with my hands. During college, I worked in the main office which was this super white-collar office. They had whiskey in the meeting rooms. When the company started changing, they put me out in the field with the construction workers--like "let's fucking build this--"

Emily stops herself and apologizes for dropping the f-bomb. I reassure her it's fine and encourage her to continue. 

"I saw the white and blue collar part of the industry. I felt really caught in the middle of it, because I didn't want to do any of it, but I had to make money somehow. I was sitting in the back, answering their phone calls and getting them coffee. All I wanted to be doing was making music." 

We take a quick journey back to her childhood to find out what inspired her to pick up the guitar and start creating.     

"I took a couple lessons when I was six. I was pretty bad at it," she begins. 

The local musician chuckles when I let her know I struggled to learn how to play the guitar when I was in middle school trying to learn Oasis' "Wonderwall."

"I'm a by-ear learner. I was really bad at reading sheet music. We moved to Corpus Christi, and I didn't have any friends. I just messed around with my instruments in my room all the time and I taught myself. Ever since then, it's just been fun, you know? I've never really taken lessons, because, for me, it takes the passion out of it. Lessons are great if you want to learn more about [guitar], but, for me, they way I learn is by doing." 

"My relationship with the guitar: I can't even explain it. It feels like it's just an extension of myself. A lot of times, it's hard for me to grasp my own emotions. When I sit down with a guitar, it all comes out in the strings. It's hard to explain.

Although Emily shreds the electric and can put on a fantastic full-band show, she enlightens me as to why she thinks keeping an acoustic sound also is so important. 

"I feel like doing both is where I'm suppose to be. When I'm really sad, it can be so deep that I need to get it out in a more of an acoustic song. When I'm super excited, it's like, "I want to fucking shred right now!""

The creative process definitely had some drawbacks for the hungry artist. She fills me in on some issues with previous management. 

"I've had people tell me I had to choose, because they needed to pin-point my sound. They told me they needed to know what my genre was so they can write about it on blogs. My thoughts are: "If they want to write about it, they can write about it. It doesn't need a genre." I'm not going to pigeon-hole myself into one thing," she reaffirms. 

Wolfe goes on to say that it's just easier for managers and promoters to label an artist to be able to book shows, but explains that she'd much rather play to the audience depending on the venue and mood. 

With the ability to play so differently, Emily tells MyCityATX that she recently experienced some writer's block. 

"I wrote a full song a couple of weeks ago that I'm really proud of. Reed Turner told me that I can get out of writer's block if I can get one song out that I'm proud of. Hopefully, my writer's block is done, but it seems like it's harder to write now because I'm sober. I've struggled with addiction for a couple of years. When I was drinking heavily, things would just spill out of me," Wolfe says as she takes a sip of her Red Bull. 

She recalls the times when the words and melodies came so freely. 

"It's liquid courage. I thought whatever I said was art, but now it's a little harder to craft the sentence that I want. It's harder for me to not care as much as I do compared to when I was drinking," Emily finishes. 

I ask if the lyrics, "I don't feel alive unless I have someone to chase" were words she put together during this stage of her life. 

She collects her thoughts and opens up, 

"Yeah, totally. I wrote that song about how I was falling into my addiction. I was almost chasing anything good out of my life, because I wanted something to pull me out of where I was. That was a really powerful line, as well. I definitely don't feel that way anymore, though, because of the treatment and self-help I've been through. I feel a lot better. Life is way better than it was." 

With thoughts of playing festivals like Lollapalooza and headlining her own tour, Wolfe has moments when she gets discouraged, but not after I share what her music has done for me personally.

"That's really nice to hear. A lot of days, I don't really know if all of the work is paying off, then I hear that, and I think: "OK! I can do this." 

"How are you different that everyone else on the Austin music scene?" I finally ask. 

"I don't know if a lot of other artists have the drive to be a super-legend the way I have it deep in my soul. I want to be--not rich and famous--but this unique thing in the industry. I have super intense ambition. Not that other people don't have it, but I feel like I'm going to explode if I don't have any shows coming up." 

Emily Wolfe is a powerhouse that has the motivation, will and talent to truly shine in the music industry. Now, it's just a waiting game as she shreds the electric on stages around Austin and plays her favorite originals to audiences excited to experience the live show.  

You can follow Emily at www.emilywolfemusic.com, Soundcloud and Twitter: @EmilyWolfeMusic

Gift Gets Innovative on the Austin Rap Scene

by Jake Navarro

When you think about the Austin music scene, you typically think of indie-rock, folk or bluegrass, not necessarily hip-hop or rap. Gift is starting to change that. The rapper has taken the 512 rap-scene by storm by collaborating with jazz students and rock groups like Canvas Theory and Austin's own Fouled Out. 

After informing me I can just call him “Gift” and helping him unload some equipment into Downtown's Red 7, we were able to sit back in the green room to talk a bit more freely about how he's making a name for himself on the Austin scene. 

Combining Rap with other genres isn't anything new by any means, but what Gift is doing here on the Austin scene is nothing short of unique. By partnering with local bands and musiciansGift creates these innovative tactics in the form of using the band's instrumentals for his own lyrics. 

"I showed [my music] to [Fouled Out], who I've been friends with for a long time, even before they were a band. They took it, converted it to their own style and reimagined it. I play my [music] with them, but theres this rock twist to it," Gift informs me. 

Gift praises the talented jazz students of Canvas Theory and his friends of Fouled Out. He is able to send over his music to these guys with 100% confidence knowing that they're able to "make it tight because they are better musicians than [he] is." 

While the first effort of a two-part EP entitled The Trip is produced with some sick tracks and beats that are something you would expect on a talented rapper's repertoire of music, the live shows are what Gift is focusing on.  

"Learning the live sound has been an experience in-and-of-itself. Learning how to perform, catch the keys, pitches and things a lot of things that rappers don't think about when they're learning the craft. You just think about those bars, you know? Hard bars." 

A huge motivating factor for Gift to put on a stellar live show is the fear that the audience won't like it. 

"Have you ever heard of when someone talks about how they went to go see a live performance and they say it wasn't very good? That was terrifying to have someone say that about me." 

The self-proclaimed "hired-gun" rapper notes that you can appreciate a rapper taking the stage and doing his thing, but when they are able to get up there and deliver a good show, it's a whole different feeling. 

"When you listen to a good rapper on a cd or some audio file, you identify them as good. You can vibe to it and listen to it. It's cool, but then when you go see a live show, there's this thing that happens where the rapper comes out on stage. They pace back and forth, rapping their music and yelling a lot of the time, because they're not used to live sound. They're yelling their bars out and lyrics to people, and it's interesting."

Gift goes on to explain that fans that are at the show for those artists are already, in fact, just that: fans. The dilemma he feels he has struggled with was the issue of making new fans out of show-goers that weren't necessarily fond of rap to begin with. 

One can analyze this from the EP's titled track when Gift voices that "these days [he] can't tell if [he's getting] dissed or just misunderstood." 

"I don't want people to look at me and think, "Oh, this guy is just a rapper" and walk away.  I want them to say, "Wow. Look at this guy performing!" That's why it's important for me to have a band. I want people to like not only what they hear, but what they see."

The reason why Gift loves collaborating with others becomes clear. 

"The sound is going to be different," the "3Live" rapper explains, "Even with the jazz students--after playing with multiple guys--it was always something unique and new." 

Gift urges he is always game to partner with new artists and bands that would be up for the live-show collaboration. The process of working with a band rather than a "beat-maker", he claims, helps him become a better songwriter. 

"I hope it doesn't come off as a "whorish" thing," Gift starts, "I really enjoy collaborating with people because it makes everything so interesting." 

Knowing that he had to explain how collaborating with rock bands began, Gift left nothing unsaid. As the hip-hop scene in Austin was just expanding, Gift realized it was hard to find places to perform. With strong motivation to succeed, he decided to sneak into venues playing rock shows around the city. 

"When I realized I could just sneak on a rock stage and put some rap in there, I kept doing it, because everyone liked it," he confesses. 

Creating as much music and art as possible and even heading a production team are a few goals the Austin-native has set for himself. As for others? Gift wants to help everyone view their passion as a career and strive to keep going, even when it gets monotonous. 

"Right now I'm getting in the habit of constantly creating. I like meeting and connecting as many people as possible. I try to talk people into collaborating. A net is a lot stronger than a string." 

Gift is definitely in-tune with what he does. He is a passionate artist that thrives on creation and positivity. At the end of the EP's title track, Gift gives some helpful insight that lets you know what he's all about. 

"If people only think about the appetizer and dessert, what's the point of the main course?" 

You're able to keep up with Gift on Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter: @thenameisgift! 

Q&A: Canvas People urges Happy If I'm Wrong is not about Former Governor Rick Perry

by Jake Navarro

There are plenty of bands on the Austin music scene. This city is not short of finding talent or bands that can pull through on a live set to get you rocking out. Canvas People, though, is one of those bands that is able to get you from discovering new music to finding out where they are playing their next show. As a collective of four dudes: Kyle, Wes, Luke and Pat, they make you stop and truly appreciate what this city has to offer. The chemistry that lead-man, Kyle, and guitarist, Wes, have is so apparent you can almost physically see the energy be exchanged on stage. 

After listening to the live version of "Happy If I'm Wrong" the first time, I was instantly hooked to these guys. The track takes the listener on a five-minute journey of making greivences to "the governor" with a guitar riff that makes you effortlessly jam out with them.  Although the band resides in Texas, they reaffirm that the song isn't about the former governor, Rick Perry. 

With a new album in the works and projected for a 2016 release, MyCityATX was able to catch the band on one of their days off to sit down and chat a bit more about who Canvas People are. 

"One of the songs that caught my attention was "Happy If I'm Wrong." Can you tell me a bit more about the context behind it?"

Kyle: "That was my attempt to crack the political song. Just about my frustration with the political process. I created this governor character to take out some of my anger. People think I wrote this song about Rick Perry--that is not true!" 

"What does the writing process look like for you guys?"

Kyle: "Typically, I'll write a chord progression or sometimes full songs, just a verse or chorus. I'll present it to the guys and they'll put their two cents in. They start to craft their parts and slowly the song starts to take its shape." 

Luke: "Some songs we work our asses off and nothing comes of it!" 

Pat: "Out of every four songs--we'll get one that we spend a long time on. It might be something we're just not happy with and move on." 

"I've been sharing your music with my friends and some have said that your style on some of your music could be on Sons of Anarchy. I thought that was interesting. Have you been told that before?" 

Luke: "You're not the first person to say that! I actually had a guy that thought "Happy If I'm Wrong" was a theme song for some sheriff show [laughs].

"What did the beginning stages of Canvas People recording Sirens look like?"

Luke: "When we started, we were an acoustic trio that happened to have a dude come play drums with us. We were like, "let's make an album, dude!" We just wanted to release an album. We didn't have a band or a purpose. We had no "Motives". [laughs] We learned a lot from releasing our first record and we've changed our style quite a bit since then as well. We know who we are now."

"Wes, your and Kyle's energy on stage is so apparent. You can see the exchange of energy between you both. Where does something like that come from?"

Wes: "We have been playing with each other since we were twelve years old, so we've had a lot of time to build up that chemistry. Kyle's dad taught us both how to play guitar at the same time. We got to see what each other was exploring musically and really grew together as musicians. Over time, playing with each other on stage and feeding off each other just came naturally."

"With your SoFar Sounds acoustic showcase, how were you able to alter the set to still have some drumming in there, Pat?"

Pat: "It's kind of difficult to be honest. I took a torn-down approach. I thought of the songs in a bit more simpler way. I decided to play certain sounds with a shaker or tambourine, since I didn't have a kick drum. I had to be very aware of the vocals. I didn't want to walk all over them, so I had to be careful. If I didn't need to play it to make the song, I didn't."

"What is something that makes you guys different than other bands on the Austin music scene?"

Kyle: "What separates us from other Austin bands is no shorts! We allow no shorts on stage!"

Luke: "What Kyle writes is very different. When you're in a band with someone that is that great of a writer, it helps your creativity blossom. It makes you want to play things you haven't played before."

Wes: "Three part harmonies help us stand out. We put three-part harmonies on weird indie-rock songs that most bands don't do" 

You definitely feel the closeness these guys have outside of the band. They let me in on "a bad response" when asked that last question on live radio. Apparently, having a drummer that was born in the 80s makes you different on the scene. 

The guys continue joke about blaming Kyle for the downfall of Canvas People if the "writing isn't good enough." Canvas People is one to definitely keep your eye out for. Catch them before you're going to be pushed up against a barricade to see them up close. 

You're able to keep up with the dudes at www.canvaspeoplemusic.com and their twitter: @Canvas_People!

Posted on July 10, 2015 .

Q&A:The Gents on new music, expanding fanbase and Jon's innovative drumming

by Jake Navarro

The Gents' lead vocalist, Matty Blissard, did whatever a young dude without a job does: work. He made a promise to himself when he came onto the Austin scene. He vowed to write one new song a week until he found a day job. Matty found himself not being able to go on to write a Week 5 having found work within the month. 

Without a doubt, Week 1 is my personal favorite. The single-worthy first week's track is fast, makes you feel good and want to dance along to lyrics about a rocky relationship that is on the verge of ending. The production of the song is beautifully mastered, but allows you to love and appreciate the live version that much more. 

When I got to Mohawk, The Gents, Matty, Kevin, Tyler and Jon,grabbed their beer and led me back to a room upstairs to chat. As we made our way through the venue, we introduced ourselves and what we were doing on this journey. Like true gents, the fellas made me feel welcomed and immediately let me in on some inside jokes. 

"I really like learning where bands get their name from. How did "The Gents" come to be?"

Kevin: "Originally, it was suppose to be "High Church and The Gents." I had this hat that I found in the back of my car that said High Church and the ideas started to snowball. We thought it would be ironic to be called that and to have three distinct lead singers. We agreed the name didn't sound too good and we needed something to start booking shows, so we just went with "The Gents" and just stuck with it! 

Tyler: "The good thing is that the other "The Gents" are all in Europe or an a cappella group!" 

"Having three song-writers in the band, what does your writing process look like?"

Matty: "We all have pretty distinct styles. Each of us will write a song and the rest of the band is there to back up that person's song, and add to it. Songs evolve as you play them together."

Kevin: "With the material that we've been plating for the past year-and-a-half, I feel it's been a bit more of a collaboration. A lot of the songs started with an idea and we all just went with it until we would get the arrangement." 

"What are some of your musical inspirations and favorite artists?"

Tyler: "I really like David Bowie and Paul Westerburg. 70s Punk Rock and 60s Garage Rock. We're all over the place on influences. Matty listens to a lot of Bluegrass, Weezer, Shaky Graves and more Bluegrass. Kevin listens to Elton John and 90s metal bands."

Kevin: "I am a project of my father's mix tapes. [laughs]" 

Jon: "I grew up playing drums to AC/DC. Classic rock." 

"What is the typical day look like for The Gents?"

Matty: "It really just depends what we're working on at the moment and shows that are lined up." 

Kevin: "We want to have a new EP out this fall. We're working towards that this summer. Recording the songs we've been playing and writing new ones." 

"Where do you see yourselves in five years?" 

Jon: "I feel like I have to start making real decisions!"

Tyler: "Angry and very jaded. Being unreasonable mean to everyone. [laughs]"

Kevin: "Do some touring. Expanding our fan base beyond Austin." 

Matty: "We're working towards that and promoting new music. I'm excited to tour. I love touring. It's fun and terrible at the same time." 

"Since you are putting new stuff out, what does the timeline look for more shows or a tour?" 

Matty: "We're shooting for shows in fall/winter." 

What makes The Gents different that others on the Austin music scene? 

Tyler: "We're four white dudes in a band...[laughs]. The vocal harmonies that we have sets us apart."

Kevin: "Attention to songwriting detail." 

Jon: "Innovative drumming!"

[band laughs]

The guys continue on to fill me in on that inside joke about how Jon's drumming came to be innovative, and let me know that the show I attended was Tyler's last show with The Gents as he's working on his own music in city. The group as a collective has vibes that are a perfect fit for Austin and anyone wanting to check out a fun live show. 

The Gents are ones to keep an eye out for. Their laid-back attitude and vision for what they want for their music is concise and admirable. If you're ever in Austin when The Gents are playing, it's definitely worth stopping by, grabbing a beer and chatting with these guys after a fun show. You can find The Gents on their website, Sound Cloud and their twitter: @TheGentsATX. 

Q&A: The Cover Letter sheds light on their continuously changing style

by Jake Navarro

Folk-inspired music in Austin is something I’ve learned is not in danger of going away anytime soon. With that in mind and the urge to find great talent, I went to Mohawk to see what The Cover Letter was all about. Knowing that Chelsea Barbo was on guitar, keys and vocals, I had a feeling The Cover Letter was a band that was able to produce something special live.  

I attended their show with an open mind and heart. I didn’t know what to expect when Chelsea told me their five-member band was essentially a seven or eight piece group. Weaving through chords and juking around stage to change out instruments between songs, The Cover Letter puts on a show that isn’t only pleasing to the ears and soul, but fun to watch as well.

With a true "we-met-at-a-house-party" welcoming spirit, Jacob, Jarrod, Chelsea, Johnni and Trevor took me backstage before the show to tell me a little more about who they are and what they plan to accomplish while on the Austin scene.

 

"You're name is pretty interesting. How did it come to be?"

Chelsea:  "At the time of us getting together, we were all transitioning jobs. We talked about resumes and all that kind of stuff. Jarrod came up with The Resumes. We were all thinking it just wasn't flowing well enough, so we brainstormed a bit more and that eventually turned into The Cover Letter."

"Playing multiple instruments is something that you guys do live. How hectic does it get on stage trying to switch them out? What inspired that?"

Jarrod: "It's fun. It wasn't overly intended. We play multiple instruments and would want to play that instrument live because we wrote that song on it. The logistics of it is a nightmare!"

Chelsea: "Writing the setlist is probably the bane of our existence at this point because we have to know how much change is happening between songs and keep time short."

"I bet it can be pretty hectic! I was reading that some of your influences range from Fleetwood Mac to Arcade Fire. Where would you say you hear that in the music?"

Jarrod: "You'll get five different answers!"

Chelsea: "That's the thing about us, all five of us come from completely different musical backgrounds. I was raised on Sarah McLachlan, Jewel and Aerosmith, so that's why I think I go towards the more lighter stuff."

Trevor: "I was in band in highschool. I get some of my influences from my classical and jazz pieces, more than anything else. One of my biggest band influences is City and Colour. He's a great songwriter."

Jacob: "I've been all over the place! When I started getting into songwriting, I was into Modest Mouse. I really liked how they arranged the music. I don't think we can say as individuals that we would be supreme solo musicians. It's all about how we make the song and arrange things. I think that's what a lot of people like about us. We're always wanting to change things and push it a little bit."

Johnni: "It's nice to see people of all ages like our music--young and old. It's nice because it lets us communicate to such a bigger spectrum of people.

"With all of these sounds and influences, how does it all come together to create a unique The Cover Letter sound?"

 Chelsea: "I think that's where the switching of all the instruments comes in, for me, at least. Our writing process is really fun. It depends on who brings the song to the table. We each bring our own influences in." 

Jarrod: "We handle things very democratically."

Jacob: "Short answer--be open to change and comfortable getting outside of your comfort zone." 

Where do you think The Cover Letter sound won't go? 

Trevor: "Death Metal!"

Jarrod: "Chopped and screwed!"

Chelsea: "I don't think we'll ever go anymore country than we are at the moment. We're heading to more of the alternative, rock-pop scene. It'll still have a homey, folk-feel behind it all, but we're stepping it up and pushing our boundaries."

Since there is a bit more of a folk feel to your music, how is The Cover Letter different than any other band on the Austin scene?

Chelsea: "I've heard we give off a very family-vibe on stage. We're very inviting and welcoming. We want to be a part of our fans' lives as much as they want to be a part of ours. It's a mutual relationship. I think that's very special with us." 

Jacob: "It's doesn't matter what happens in front of the stage for us. What matters is that we're having a good time because we're loving what we're doing." 

 

It definitely pays off. The connection the group has with the audience is fun, energetic and makes you want to get involved. Being able to have their music reach as many fans as possible is the goal. Whether is on the "side of the river" or at Mohawk, these guys plan on making a mark on the Austin music scene through their forever changing style. 

In between laughs and some quirky inside jokes, the band continues on to explain how they played five shows in four days during South by Southwest and hopeful plans to be an official artist for festival next year. Their plan is to hopefully be on the festival circuit and play as many shows as they can next year to connect with as many new fans as possible. When asked about music streaming services that will affect their business, they simply replied, "TAKE IT! If you want the music, take it!" 

You can keep up with The Cover Letter on their website, Soundcloud account and twitter handle: @CoverletterATX. 

Be sure to catch the next show here in Austin at the Colorado River Ramble on June 28th!