Chelsea Wolfe Discusses Rebirth, Authenticity and Cutting Ties on Her Latest Full Length

Chelsea Wolfe Discusses Rebirth, Authenticity and Cutting Ties on Her Latest Full Length

- By Jon Garcia

On her new album, Chelsea Wolfe conjures the past, present and future. She talks with Knotfest about “She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She,” and how it has become a guide that continues to teach her lessons about herself.

Photo by Ebru Yildiz 

Few artists weave authenticity and uniqueness into their work the way Chelsea Wolfe does.

Across seven albums, the California-based musician has poured her entire being into her art. To listen to Chelsea Wolfe is to know her; as a singer, a guitarist, a poet, a woman.

Yet for every intimate peek she allows the listener beyond the veil to her mind, there’s always a blanket of mystery draped around her music. You may hear – even feel – her pain, her yearning or her dreams, but Wolfe holds the meaning of her songs tight against her heart. They retain her original truth even when it morphs into the listener’s.

Perhaps that’s why her latest album, She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She, is so impactful. The follow up to the stripped-down folk stylings of 2019’s Birth of Violence, the record is an encapsulation of not only who she was and who she is, but who she’s yet to be. Before our ears Wolfe deconstructs and rebirths herself, showing us that positive change is not only as beautiful and necessary as it is ugly and painful, but that it’s also never-ending.

“I didn’t realize what a guide this album would be, and how much it would teach me,” Wolfe explained. “As I was making She Reaches Out, a lot was coming to the surface that I’d previously compartmentalized. The songs became prophetic and required me to live them out.”

Wolfe has never been one to plant roots in any one style of music. She is folk, industrial, doom, electronic and ambient. She is Townes Van Zandt, Black Sabbath, Joni Mitchel and Rudimentary Peni. She is all of those things and none of those things, finding a thread of her own design to tether her work to her soul, allowing it to thrive no matter the auditory vehicle.

Together with longtime collaborators Ben Chisolm, Jess Gowrie and Bryan Tualo, as well as producer David Sitek and mixer Shawn Everett, Wolfe has offered the world one of the year’s best albums. Futuristic soundscapes bend to spine-tingling whispers, showcasing the intricacies in Wolfe’s once-in-a-generation voice. As if conducting her own seance, her weightless and hypnotic crooning plucks the listener out of the present and into her dreamworld, urging them to step into their own empowerment.

“It’s a record about the past self reaching out to the present self reaching out to the future self to summon change, growth and guidance,” she said when the album was announced. “It’s a story of setting yourself free from situations and patterns that are holding you back, in order to become self-empowered.”

Knotfest caught up with Wolfe to discuss her new album, her journey of transformation, how the songs came out in the style they did, and why She Reaches Out is still teaching her about herself to this day.

You describe this album as “an invitation to step into your authenticity.” Rebirth, personal healing, self love and cutting ties are all themes throughout. Your previous album Birth of Violence was also a sort of healing journey in response to burnout. How do you think the growth that came from creating that record prepared you for what you’ve gone through since?

CHELSEA WOLFE: Birth of Violence felt like a kind of beginning for me, more openly embracing who I am and my spirituality, as well as my more acoustic-folk side. But at that time I didn’t realize that the exhaustion I was feeling wasn’t just from touring for many years – it was also from DIY-ing so much of my career for so long, where I should have had support.

I got sober from alcohol in January of 2021 and that brought a new clarity into my life, slowly, but surely. So as I was making She Reaches Out, a lot was coming to the surface that I’d previously compartmentalized. The songs became prophetic and required me to live them out. I sang about cutting ties from toxic habits, patterns, relationships, and then once the record was done I had to do exactly that. 

She Reaches Out is imbued with elements of every album you’ve recorded so far, essentially mirroring the lyrical theme. Did any of these songs begin life as something that didn’t fit the style of Birth of Violence or did you start completely fresh?

CW: Maybe little ideas were coming to life in that era, but I often tuck away ideas for later.  


I know you never intend to give an album a certain theme or musical style, but why do you think layered sonic textures and ASMR qualities spoke to you as the best vehicle to convey your message this time around?

CW: There was a theme of transformation on this album, which happened quite literally in the studio as well, as elements from the demos were run through producer Dave Sitek’s modular wall and transformed into something totally new-sounding.

The ASMR element was inspired by intimacy, and a sense of comfort in all the unknown, and wanting to add a raw vulnerability. 

That dreamy, psychedelic nature of the production adds so much to the album. Your voice sounds at times like it’s being paint-brushed across the headphones. Producer David Sitek and mixer Shawn Everett both played big roles in shaping the original song ideas into what we hear. What was it like working with them and how did they help you realize the vision you had for this record?

CW: After working on and sitting with the demos for a long time during the pandemic, I was really ready for some outside influence on these songs. When Sitek first heard the demos he was like “you guys are insane” in a good way, because some of the songs were so weird. And he matched our weird with his own. There was magic and there was tension in the studio, as it should be. Taking the songs to Shawn to mix was such a gift too, I think they needed that final hit of energy to really bring all the production work to life. I would love to work with both of them again on something. 

You’ve been working with your collaborators Jess Gowrie and Bryan Tulao for years now, and Ben Chisolm for even longer. How did that creative bond help guide you through a challenging writing process at a challenging time? Is there anything they still surprise you with despite how long you’ve known them?

CW: Jess is really great at writing and coming up with ideas beyond the drums. She wrote the guitar and drums for “House of Self-Undoing.” And Bryan’s guitar parts are so unconventional and intriguing. I love the almost siren sounding stuff he did on “Whispers in the Echo Chamber,” and that heavy ending that culminates into chaos. Ben does so much for this project musically and technically, and always has such great instincts. I love the stuff he played on the SOMA Lyra at the end of the “Tunnel Lights,” which was then sidechained to the bass to create this feeling of freedom in the song. 

The album itself is as varied as your discography: each song is its own monument offering individual secrets. It makes repeated listens not only more enjoyable but necessary. How many demos were initially in the running to make this album? Was the challenge of deciding on and sequencing the songs any different than it usually is?

CW: There were like 15-20 songs maybe that we were considering at the start.

As we initially went through them all with Sitek, there were a few that I was like, I don’t want to take these into the electronic realm, I want to save these as rock songs. We’ll record them at some point. I feel like the songs that made sense for this production style became pretty clear to me right away.

I wanted to keep things more concise for this album as well. It didn’t feel like the right moment to make a super long album or have the songs be excessively long. 

On that note, one could interpret each song as almost a specific step on the non-linear path of healing. One of my favorite moments is the stasis of “The Liminal.” It’s what I imagine drifting through outer space sounds like, which exactly reflects the lyrics. It also comes in the middle of the record, symbolizing being in-between. Was that intentional?

CW: It was unconsciously intentional! The Liminal is all about the stillness between two things, about being on the threshold, so it makes sense that it’s right in the middle of this journey. 

There are several references to flying, sleeping and dreaming (sometimes all at once) in the lyrics. In the past, you’ve talked about how changing your surroundings can unlock your creativity, lessen the severity of your sleep paralysis and can also affect your dreams. Has your healing journey since Birth of Violence and the sobriety that followed shifted the nature of your dreams?

CW: I have started doing dream work more intentionally, asking questions of my dreams, learning to lucid dream after doing it accidentally, finding creativity there even when it’s fucked up. Looking back, I can see how my surroundings have influenced my different records, as I was moving around every few years, but I’ve also always been such an inward person. The subconscious realm is my favorite place to create from. 

Place in the Sun” is such a powerful and emotional song. The line “I am safe in this body, safe in this heart / I have made it this far to live this life” really stood out. Can you tell us how this song came together and how you may not have actually believed that line when you wrote it?

CW: I spent so much of my life with a lot of self-loathing, self-deprecation, self-destruction. Once I got sober, essentially letting go of the numbing agent that was kind of keeping me in that state, it didn’t make sense to stay there any longer. I was suddenly open to new ways of being, and new experiences.

I was finding joy in simple things like breathing and singing. And I wanted to affirm that feeling, finding safety in my body for the first time because I’ve always been really hard on myself and quite frankly mean to myself, and there were people in my career-life making that worse by telling me I’d be more successful if I was smaller or presented “prettier.”

This song was about letting go of that and finding some self-acceptance; finding home in my body. I want the song to be that for other people too. 

Presumably, it’s been a year or so since these songs were finished. How have they grown on you since that time? What’s something the album says to you now that you didn’t realize at the time you were writing and recording it?

CW: I didn’t realize what a guide this album would be, and how much it would teach me. It’s still teaching me. I’m still in it. 

Finally: It’s now been 14 years since The Grime and the Glow. You’re a completely different Chelsea now, but 2010 Chelsea is still there somewhere. If you could say something to her at the beginning of her journey, what would it be? What do you think you are saying (or at least hope to say) to your future self?

CW: To my past self: I’m still halfsleeper, but it’s no longer a torment, it’s now a blessing. 

To my future self: Let’s get even more expansive. 


She Reaches Out to She Reaches Out to She is now available everywhere via Loma Vista.


See Chelsea Wolfe live on the She Reaches Out Tour  with special guest Divide and Dissolve. See the list of dates below. Get tickets - HERE
02-27 San Diego, CA - The Observatory North Park
02-28 Phoenix, AZ - Crescent Ballroom
03-01 Austin, TX - Scoot Inn
03-02 Dallas, TX - The Studio at the Factory
03-03 Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall
03-05 Nashville, TN - Basement East
03-06 Asheville, NC - The Orange Peel
03-08 Atlanta, GA - The Masquerade
03-09 Charlotte, NC - The Underground
03-10 Silver Spring, MD - The Fillmore Silver Spring
03-12 Brooklyn, NY - Warsaw
03-13 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
03-15 Boston, MA - Royale
03-16 Montreal, Quebec - Club Soda
03-17 Toronto, Ontario - The Danforth Music Hall
03-19 Chicago, IL - The Vic Theatre
03-20 Minneapolis, MN - The Varsity Theatre
03-22 Denver, CO - The Gothic Theatre
03-23 Salt Lake City, UT - The Depot
03-25 Seattle, WA - The Neptune Theater
03-26 Vancouver, British Columbia - The Vogue Theater
03-27 Portland, OR - The Roseland Ballroom
03-29 San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
03-30 Los Angeles, CA - The Novo
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