Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Dark Nights Of The Soul: Chelsea Wolfe’s Baker’s Dozen

From a teenage love of Fleetwood Mac and Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet soundtrack, to real life encounters with Sunn O))) and Smashing Pumpkins, Chelsea Wolfe talks to Greg Hyde about the 13 records that most impacted her life

Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Chelsea Wolfe’s music has always been admirably vulnerable and honest, qualities that are in even greater abundance on her new album than they have been on her previous releases. The metaphysically themed She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She is dominated by loud guitars and feels incredibly abrasive, not least because it follows an album of acoustic folk songs. It deals with how personal change can be achieved by our present selves communicating with our past and future ones. As Wolfe explains, some of the ideas she explored took on a great personal significance for her during its writing and recording.

“I felt like as I wrote the songs for this album, they were demanding to be lived. I wrote a song about what it would be like to leave a toxic relationship, learn to feel comfortable on your own again, and find your own path. Pretty soon after I finished writing that song, I realised that was something I needed to do in my own life. This wasn’t just conjecture or a story about someone else. It was something that I needed to do. I think, because I had written the song, I knew I could do it. The songs became self-fulfilling prophecies. They became guides. In a way, that felt like a future version of me reaching into this writing process and saying, ‘Here’s the path forward.’ It felt like the future was calling to me with the promise of a more expansive and joyful way of being, if I’d just step beyond what was known to me for a long time and step into the unknown.”

As difficult an undertaking as that may sound, Wolfe says “I find change easy. I’m a water sign, I’m a scorpio, so I think I like the flow and the change of things.” She adds that she attributes much of this aptitude for change “to getting sober from alcohol and realising how much of my life I had just been washing over with numbness and not fully looking everything in the face.

“I got sober in a way where I was doing it mindfully. I was intentionally doing the work on my own and with a therapist, to figure out why I was drinking. It wasn’t just about not drinking anymore, it was about figuring out why I was drinking in the first place. That helped me the most, I think – realising what it was that this alcohol was covering up in my life, because I wasn’t drinking in a healthy way. I think some people can, but I definitely wasn’t.”

Wolfe explains that she eventually realised she was drinking for “many reasons, but I think one of the main ones that I needed to move past was my tendency to prioritise other people over myself. If I was going into a social situation, I needed alcohol to give me the energy to over-give. I was exhausting myself, because I wasn’t filling the well back up of myself. Instead of putting in actual rest or doing things that nourished me, I was just drinking through it all.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a giving person, but I was giving to people who weren’t giving to themselves either, so it was a toxic thing where I was trying to make other people happy who weren’t trying to make themselves happy. I also realised I wasn’t really trying to make myself happy either, so I just tried to stop the whole cycle and fill up my well in a real way where I could give in a real way as well.”

After years of making music remotely, she says reconvening with her band “in the studio, together” was “wonderful. Also, the studio time was often fraught. There can be a lot of tension when your bandmates and you have sat with these demos for a long time, and then you finally get to a studio with the producer. Not everyone is going to be on the same page about how excited they are to hear the songs transformed; I was very excited. I was hoping for the songs to be transformed from rock songs into something that was a little bit more electronic and experimental. Not everyone was always very happy about that. That’s a natural part of being in the studio and having different personalities and beliefs about music and things like that. It was great. It was also tense, and I think that’s just how the studio is.”

Chelsea Wolfe’s new album She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She is released on 9 February via Loma Vista. To begin reading her Baker’s Dozen, click the image of her below.

First Record

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