L.A. DIY Up-and-Comer Wolfy Hops From Blues to Alt-Country on Ultra-Promising Debut EP: Premiere

Maddie Ross
Wolfy

Earlier this year, we profiled Maddie Ross, a massively promising DIY pop-rock musician out of the same USC music program that gave us the 2017 breakout festival stars MUNA. The producer of Ross’ tantalizing handful of songs is her partner Madison Scheckel -- aka Wolfy for all things music-related -- who’s also a formidable songwriter in her own right. 

She’s gathered a bunch of friends from USC’s popular music program to present her debut solo EP, a slickly-produced, electric-to-acoustic adventure that hops from heavy, groove-driven Third Man-style blues to gut-wrenching alt-country balladry. There’s just something so satisfying about her songwriting; each song's buildups and hooks and punchlines snap together so well, just as the five tracks do into this cohesive unit.

Equally compelling is how Wolfy presents it all. She wrote the music and lyrics, yet cedes the microphone to guest vocalists on all but one track, the one that was just so confessional, no one else could really sing it (more on that later). So the Wolfy EP is kind of like a mixtape from a dance or hip-hop producer, a little cluster of posse cuts from a group of very promising young musicians. For more on those notes, here’s our Q&A with Wolfy to go along with the new release. 

How did your musician name Wolfy come about? 

Caitlin Notey, who's featured on the EP and has her own amazing project Huxlee, is a whiz with the names. We were sitting on campus and I was like, "Caitlin, I need a name". She suggested Lady Church and Mayonnaise Chick which have a lot of personality but are heinous. And her band name is derived from the last name of Aldous Huxley, the author, so she started thinking of more authors and mentioned Virginia Woolf. (I read a lot because I’m really smart).

It was just a hop, skip, and a jump from Woolf to Wolfy which I loved for three reasons: One, My dog growing up was a big german shepherd/husky mix named Wolfgang whom we called Wolfy. Two, I loved wolves as a kid to the point where I had a wolf puppet I carried around with me most places. It is as weird as it sounds. Three, It's a great name, duh.

Could you explain how the EP came about? When did you start it?

The idea for the EP came during the spring of 2014 as I was about to graduate college and was faced with three equally miserable prospects as a young and hungry songwriter:

One, try to get a publishing deal and jump into a business that is essentially competitive musical speed dating so I can write songs I don't like that no one will ever hear with people I don't like that no one has ever heard of. Two, completely forget the reason why I picked up a guitar at age 11 and start making licensing music -- which would feel about as painful as watching any of the shows in which my music would be placed. Three, be a singer/songwriter.

But because I was two months away from graduating, I went to Palm Springs with some friends, blasted RAC's album Strangers, and remembered that I can do anything I want and that what I wanted was to write and produce originals that featured my super rad friends. 

Of all these, why was it “Apology Song” you chose to sing yourself?

"Apology Song" was one of the rare songs I wrote from a place of personal unrest. Most of the time I can't be bothered with "feelings" and "emotions" but college was a rough time and "The Apology Song" pretty easily sums up how I was feeling senior year.

The reason I sang it myself despite swearing off all singing, both recreational and professional, was because I don't think it describes anyone but me. Which isn't to say that people can't relate -- someone else out there probably feels bad -- but it felt exponentially less honest to have one of my amazing friends sing, "I want to stick a knife in my rib cage.” 

I think it’s pretty neat how you wrote a whole EP as Wolfy and invited guests to perform on a bunch of the tracks. That’s kind of how a dance producer would operate, and we don’t see as much of that in the rock and guitar world. What made you want to use this kind of model on the EP? 

The use of vocal features in EDM ended up being an important point of reference when conceptualizing the EP. It was just the easiest way to explain what was going on. But it's crazy how stark the difference the reception to features is in different genres. I'm sure it's got something to do with authenticity -- like a band dressed in free clothes performing their original song on a late-night show during a slot paid for by the record label is any more authentic!

But that was so far from what I imagined when I started this EP. I was just so inspired by some of the musicians I went to school with that I felt like, "Damn, I would love to write the perfect song for them but how would that work and who would release it?". But I had been listening to so much RAC and all my peers were doing crowdfunding campaigns and self-releasing their own stuff. Eventually it just came to the point where I was like, "Who says I can't do this?"

What are your future musical plans?

There are two more Wolfy EPs coming down the pipeline that will finish this first trilogy, and I've got enough songs for a fourth one that I'm super excited about. If I think any further than that, I'll be in 2019. But there's a lot of fun stuff I'd like to try and a lot of cool places the format could go.

I'm also producing a bunch of really amazing people at the moment whose music I'm super stoked on, a lot of rad songwriters that are better than every person you've heard on a Spotify playlist. I'm also releasing everything Wolfy and Maddie Ross on my label Sentimental Records, but we're getting prepped to sign more artists and put out more cool, stuff definitely in the next year. I feel a very Sam Phillips-ian obsession with documenting the musicians I meet whose songs make me cry like a ten-year-old boy watching his farm dog die. 

Do you have new music with Maddie Ross in the works?

We're in the middle of recording a split with another friend and local band, but we're prepping a new single and a new EP that'll be out early next year. After that I've got a concept for something closer to a full length, that I'm more stoked on than the Rocket Power kids were on extreme sports.