Newcomer Chelsea Wolfe Counts Fleetwood Mac as a Major Influence
Chelsea Wolfe says the song “Iron Moon” on her new album, Abyss, is the the best song she has composed. “The guitar parts for that song were written by Karlos Rene Ayala and my bandmate Ben Chisholm, and those lyrics mean a lot to me,” says the 31-year-old singer-songwriter whose palette includes folk, neo-folk, electronic, and Gothic music.
The song was inspired by a story she read about a young man in China who worked at the Foxconn corporation — a large electronics manufacturer — and committed suicide.
“He left behind a collection of poetry that was so touching and heavy,” says Wolfe, who grew up in Sacramento, California, and has cited renowned novelists D.H. Lawrence and Ayn Rand as influences. “He really loved books and words but was from a rural area where he didn’t have access to them or money to buy them.
“So he sought work at the factory to be able to pursue them and maybe find love, but he instead found a new sort of desolation and was suffocated by the monotony. There was a line in his poetry, ‘I swallowed a moon made of iron.’ That palpable heaviness inspired the song.”
Wolfe says that her band on “Iron Moon” pushes for extremes “in its loud-quiet-loud strategy, alternating between hushed balladry and gargantuan doom.”
Playing on Abyss are multi-instrumentalist and co-writer Ben Chisholm, drummer Dylan Fujioka, violist Ezra Buchla, and Russian Circles guitarist Mike Sullivan. Wolfe was a guest vocalist on Russian Circles’ 2013 album Memorial and toured with the group that year.
With Abyss, she aims to bring listeners to an in-between world. It is “meant to have the feeling of when you’re dreaming, and you briefly wake up, but then fall back asleep into the same dream, diving quickly into your own subconscious,” Wolfe says.
She considers “Appalachia,” a song on her 2012 album Unknown Rooms: A Collection Of Acoustic Songs, also one of her best works.
The song “sort of captures my love for outsiders and fringe-dwellers — those who have homes and jobs distanced and separated from the rest of society.
“Musically, it’s pretty simple,” she adds, “but [it] was a nice one to play on the acoustic tour I did that was just acoustic guitar, synths, and violin. I guess in my mind, my best songs are the ones that feel complete lyrically to me.”
Wolfe says the best concerts she has attended as a spectator were performed by Queens of the Stone Age.
“Because it was a bit of a fun blur, I can’t remember dates or venues specifically, but when we toured with Queens of the Stone Age last year, watching them play each night was a real treat and learning experience.
“They’re one of the truly great rock bands of our time,” she adds. “It’s unreal how good they are live.”
The most influential concert she attended, though, was one by Fleetwood Mac. “When I was a kid,” she explains, “my sister took me to see Fleetwood Mac in a small town in northern California called Marysville. They played for around four hours, I believe.
“That band was introduced to me at a young age by my dad. His country band would often cover their songs, and I can also remember watching live footage of them on TV a lot. Their harmonies and the tension between them translated well live and really left an impression on me.”