Stevie Wolf wants to make you feel things. Rather, he wants you to know that you’re not alone in your feelings.
“I want to write about human moments,” says the bespectacled Wolf in a coffee shop in Brooklyn, not far from where he’ll play a show this Thursday at Baby’s All Right. He’s explaining how he wants his music, and the emotional response it evinces, to have staying power. “I don’t want these things to expire.”
Wolf started out writing and performing more heavily produced pop songs under the name Stevie B. Wolf but felt a lack of authenticity in what he was doing. “It didn’t fit with this vision,” he says.
He ended up scrubbing the internet of all releases under that name, the only remnant being a cover of blink-182’s “Dammit.” Wolf was inspired by listening to the original track while driving around Los Angeles — a place he says always feels lonely — after a breakup. It was the only one of his early songs that Wolf had arranged and produced completely on his own, something he takes pride in.
At the end of last year, Wolf began recording music again, this time as Stevie Wolf. “Who” was released in December, followed by “Low” in January. Each song landed on Spotify’s curated New Music Friday playlist in the week it was released. The melodic tracks give a peek into Wolf’s “inner life,” which he says “feels tortured and somber, but my outer life is as a goofball.”
The self-managed artist’s goofiness shines through on his website, which is actually an 11-page, DIY-style PowerPoint presentation describing who he is, an almost tongue-in-cheek version of an artist statement. It is serious, elaborating slightly on Wolf’s experiences with Tourette’s, color-blindness, anxiety and depression, but remains lighthearted and keeps the focus on his work and not on himself. (Among other details left out, Wolf chooses not to reveal his age but claims to be “younger than Ed Sheeran, older than Khalid.”)
His easygoing demeanor gives way to a thoughtful artist who’s able to construct a chorus such as the one on “Low,” which captures the internal struggles of anxiety and depression, both of which Wolf prefers not to expand on. His soulful voice sings: “Oh, they chalk it up/ Imaginary sadness, chemical imbalance/ Call it what you want/ I suffer it in silence, this is me inside of/ All I’m feeling tonight.”
Wolf’s goal is to create something listeners can connect with in a personal way, when people are less and less inclined to express real emotion.
“How else do we talk about real shit?” Wolf asks. “If I’ve gone through something, I’m sure other people have too.” Whether it’s losing a job, going through a breakup or dealing with the death of a loved one, he points out we’ve become so conditioned to express how “fine” we are in some of our darkest times. “It would be great if we lived in a society where we didn’t have to put on so many faces,” says Wolf.
That drive and desire for honesty comes, at least partially, from Wolf’s distaste for the persona-driven world of social media. “I’m tired of trying to feel special. The internet destroyed individuality,” he says. “Everyone’s making themselves into a character.”
In the same vein, Wolf wanted to avoid the common practice of being an emerging artist who “gets big because of some crazy, cool story — we don’t know how much of those are real,” he says.
“There are people telling their stories like they were destined to be legends from the start, and I looked at my life and said, ‘I don’t know if I have a story like that, and if I do, I don’t want to try to tell it like that.’” He resolved to tell his vision — a phrase he continually uses to describe his emotionally driven music project, as if to personify it as something more — in a way he knew how: being quirky and having fun with it, using memes, Word Art and some serious cut-and-paste skills to compile the extended bio that makes up his website.
If you reach the end of the PowerPoint (and you should, it’s inspired), you’ll find an unreleased song, “Yves Klein Blue,” set to be Wolf’s next single, out March 30, after a show at Brooklyn’s C’mon Everybody on the 23rd. The track is “all about connection,” Wolf says. “It’s a formatted contemplation on ‘How close can you really be to somebody?’” The song takes its name from a brilliant shade of paint, developed by the artist Yves Klein (Wolf points out that it’s also the color that Blue Man Group uses).
While he explains his wariness of 21st century romance as a concept, Wolf knows there is an undeniable pull some people have to others. “Sometimes you see somebody and they’re the most vibrant human ever, and I feel like I know [you]” just by looking at you, he says. “Yves Klein Blue” is the sonic interpretation of that feeling. “I see you like Yves Klein Blue/ When everything else is black and white/ Draw me near, I know you hear/ The symphony underneath my quiet,” he sings.
Despite his skepticism, Wolf isn’t ruling out writing about love and other emotions on the more positive side of the spectrum in the future. “I’m nothing special. All I have is that I feel other people’s feelings a lot,” Wolf says. “What I’m writing about right now is a lot of anxiety and not feeling on top of your shit. Maybe that’ll change. Maybe in a few years, I’ll write a complete love album, and a few years later, maybe I’ll write a concept story. Whatever makes people feel things and feel connected.”