Chelsea Wolfe Is Haunted by Figures From Her Dreams

Chelsea Wolfe's music draws on her own disturbing experiences.
Chelsea Wolfe's music draws on her own disturbing experiences. Bill Crisafi

Chelsea Wolfe's music is subtle yet abrasive, equally haunting and beautiful. Sometimes it's heavy, other times it's soft. Known for her layered, detailed compositions and her melancholy tone, Wolfe draws influence from all corners of the music world, something she has done since she was a child, growing up the daughter of a country musician with a recording studio in his home.

"Being around musicians and guitars and gear inevitably had an effect on me as a young kid," she explains. "I was already writing poetry from a young age, and at some point asked my dad to teach me how to record and set the words to music, which became my earliest songs. I was always writing and recording from there, eventually learning to play guitar in my senior year of high school to accompany myself, but it still took me many years after that to find the courage to start playing shows and putting my music out there. Both of my parents introduced me to great music at a young age as well: Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Fleetwood Mac, Black Sabbath and lots of old country."

Her music, the product of writing and recording alone, is poetic and inspired by folk and country while laced with darker elements.

"I'm definitely influenced by old country, metal, folk and lots of trip-hop and rock and roll from the late ’90s and early 2000s. I was listening to that music a lot again while writing [new album] Hiss Spun," she says. "My drummer, Jess, first introduced me to a lot of the best rock and industrial bands of that era, and we reunited to make this album, so we ended up at dive bars late at night playing Soundgarden, Tricky, QOTSA and Deftones on the jukebox."

In addition to those influences, Wolfe has been listening to an eclectic mix of music lately that includes doom and metal.

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Chelsea Wolfe
Nick Fancher
"[I've been listening to] Warduna, always," she says. "True Widow, Neurosis, Ash Koosha. I actually collaborated with Ash on some songs for his upcoming release."

Wolfe pens lyrics about sorrow, pain and isolation. She has long suffered from intense stage fright and sleep paralysis, which she wrote about on her previous record, Abyss.

"For me, I wake up, but the figures from my dreams are still in the room with me, usually appearing as human-shaped shadows moving toward me," she explains. "It takes a minute for me to wake up and for them to disappear. I was studying the mind at night a lot while writing Abyss, digging deep into my own mind, conducting dream experiments."

While Hiss Spun is still introspective, it's more uptempo, inspired by industrial, doom and other stripes of heavy rock. It's less dreamy than Abyss, in part because she reunited with her drummer for the album.

"The reunion with Jess was very much the catalyst for making a rock album and wanting to keep things heavy," she explains. "I wanted to feature her and also have some escapist songs that were fun to play live."

Wolfe has no plans to stop making music anytime soon.

"I'm just following my instincts, and many of these songs are like exorcisms — something I needed to get out of me," Wolfe says. "That's how I keep going, and I already have my next album in mind."

Chelsea Wolfe, 7 p.m. Friday, October 27, Gothic Theatre,  3263 South Broadway, Englewood, $20-$22.
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Addison is a Denver-based writer specializing in metal, dubstep, cannabis and LGBTQ issues. She also contributes to OUT FRONT, CULTURE and New Noise magazines. Addison is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the1960s to Now.