Hi Sami, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hey there! Thanks for your interest in me and my music! I’ve been great! Getting a lot of positive feedback on my new album which feels very good considering what an undertaking it was and how much work was put into it.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single See You On The Moon?
So, See You On The Moon is the title of the entire album. The single that’s getting a lot of attention so far is Driving 90. I wrote this song two years ago and when I did, I knew that it was going to be a game-changing song for me. It was probably the first song that expressed what my style has ultimately evolved into. It’s a song I always play at shows because it represents my graduation from traditional songwriting to the “Sami Wolf” brand that is uniquely me.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
In short, a breakup inspired this song. Really though, it was a series of breakups with the same woman- yes, one of those relationships. I found out she was cheating on me with a man which was definitely an insult-to-injury situation. I was really upset, angry, and heartbroken. Writing music is how I journal.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
Plans, no. Hopes, yes! Unfortunately my bartender income covers only a little more than rent and bills.
How was the recording and writing process?
My producer and I worked very closely to ensure I got exactly the sound I wanted. I sat with him and watched him engineer my music, not knowing how he was doing it, but seeing on his screen every alteration he made and as he patiently listened to me make noises with my mouth when I didn’t know what a high hat was on the drum kit or when I told him I needed this song to “sound like winter”. Between our weekly sessions, we’d email back and forth based on the rough cut he pieced together from the song’s first session. Driving 90 was without question the song that underwent the most changes. I’d been playing this song the same way for two years so it was hard for me to know what I wanted it to sound like- I couldn’t hear it any other way. But working with a very talented musician and engineer, my producer put his own twist on it and that helped narrow things down for me. I learned it’s just as important to know what I didn’t want it to sound like because that made clearer what I actually did want it to sound like. This helped me learn how to flesh out music from the bare bones composition I write in to a fully balanced song. Driving 90 is a song I play at every show. I wrote this song when I was actually in the car and every line of the chorus is exactly what was happening while I wrote it. I was driving home from work and I had stepped in a giant puddle on my way to the car so I was “driving illegally bare feet in the rain/sheets slamming against the window panes.” I was really upset because I found out my girlfriend at the time was cheating on me with a man: “pain wrapped around me like a blanket/made of tear stains cascading the same way down my face/if I stepped outside the droplets would disguise it and could blame it/on the weather to explain it away.” I was furious so I was “driving 90 in the middle lane/I’m going too fast/trying not to hydroplane.” You get the idea. I don’t write flowery. I write honestly about what is going on inside of me. I also would venture to say I write a solid 95% of my songs while I’m driving. I don’t mean that I record my voice or type on my phone- I mean that I physically balance a notebook, or more often than not whatever scrap of paper is nearest to me and write it down. I keep my right hand on the wheel while my left hand scribbles between red lights and rush hour traffic, pausing only to look up occasionally. I think the motion and inherent rhythm that comes with driving stimulates inspiration.
How has your upbringing have influence you as an artist?
My childhood was filled with a lot of turmoil. I was stifled in just about every conceivable way. I suffered from severe depression and anxiety, experienced a lot of psychological torment at the hands of my father, I realized I was gay at the age of twelve. Maybe one could argue that now I’m overcompensating but I always think to myself “If I make it, it will all have been worth it.” What really made me feel marginalized by mainstream music is that it’s so heteronormative and it was especially so thirteen years ago when I was twelve and realized I was gay. As an adult, I started writing songs I wish I could have heard when I was a teenager. Songs that would have made me feel less like a minority and more of just a kid in love for the first time. As for the recovery side of my music, this in my opinion has penetrated a lot of music in the last twenty-five years. I know a lot of artists write about addiction and recovery but I don’t think women speak as openly about it. Going through everything I did helped shape me as an artist because at the risk of sounding dramatic, for me, pain was always where I found the greatest inspiration. I needed to purge myself of the things that tormented me and I did that by putting them on paper.
What role does Chicago plays in your music?
Chicago has a substantial influence on my music because places are where memories live and this is where I grew up. I moved back to Chicago when I was 21, after going to school in Boston for three years and it was that same summer I met the girl who inspired this album. For four years, we experienced love all over the city of Chicago. Certain street names will always make me think of her and I can remember exactly where I was when I wrote each song. “Driving 90” is the clearest example where the listener can hear specific references to Chicago and the meaning I attach to them from the very first line “staring out the window at Wells and North/watching the rain fall down/going 90 miles on 94”. Wells and North is where Second City is located and I was enrolled in the improv conservatory there at the time. I was writing this song inside the Starbucks connected to it sitting at the window facing the street. 94 is the Edens expressway that took me from the city to the north suburbs where I was still living. You get the idea.
Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?
Funny enough, I just was back in the studio today for the first time since finishing this album. The single is titled the same as the album, See You On The Moon. I was working on this song at the time I was recording the album and it was my plan to include it but I didn’t complete it in time. So my plan is to record it now and release it as a delayed single that hopefully brings more attention to the album as well. You can expect new material though because there’s a few things in the works right now.
Any tentative release date or title in mind?
As soon as it’s done! I hope to release it in the beginning of March, if not the end of February.
Any plans to hit the road?
Once again, no plans in motion but it is my strong hope to. All I need is a band, a van, equipment and booked venues. Then I’ll be all set.
What else is happening next in Sami Wolf’s world?
I’m not sure what’s next which is both the exciting and scary part of this career path. For the immediate time being, I’m always working on music. I do happen to have some new love in my life. Well, new-old love. I dated this girl a couple years ago but stupidly left her for the one who caused all the pain that inspired this album. You can tell I love this woman if I’m writing a song about her. That does not happen with just anyone. So she, and everyone else, will hear that next.
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