Denver-based singer-songwriter Wolf van Elfmand infused his latest album, All Blue, with peace, quiet and a soft, bluesy sound. The songs in the collection, which drops on February 12, are products of the pandemic.
Going into 2020, van Elfmand had big plans to tour, but after COVID-19 hit, all of his concerts were canceled. In April, in an attempt to make the most of the shutdown, he decided to write one song a day, alongside musicians like Humbird and The Lowest Pair. He would set a timer and write as quickly as he could. After thirteen days, he was frustrated by the process.
By May, he'd moved to his partner's family's lake house, where he converted a quiet room into a studio and wrote the songs for the new album quickly. Songs poured out of him, many in just an hour or two.
"The album was kind of conceptualized through the course of creating the first few songs," Elfmand says. "The majority of the recording all happened in May."
Van Elfmand, who grew up in Edwards, started playing guitar and writing songs at thirteen. He joined the Americana band Von Stomper in college before pursuing a career in music therapy. But he says that songwriting has always been a passion, and the pandemic only strengthened that.
Most times when he's writing, van Elfmand unplugs — his phone, his computer, everything.
"Phones really fuck with people's ability to be creative," he says, pointing to his notebook full of handwritten lyrics. Writing by hand allows his creativity to flow.
"[Phones] are way more detrimental than inspiring," he adds, though he does make some exceptions. While writing "Way Down in Denver," he brainstormed the melody, humming it into his phone as he was driving from Laramie to Denver.
The song was inspired by Jack Kerouac's On the Road, particularly the line "Way down in Denver, all I did was die."
Van Elfmand says that sometimes "songs fall out of the sky and they work really well, and other times you have to dig for them." While songwriting can be an easy and natural process for him, sometimes it takes work to get the exact sound he's looking for.
On All Blue, most of the tracks are rooted in blues, hence the title. The dreariness of the pandemic contributed to the songs' melancholy sound.
Before COVID-19, van Elfmand was learning how to create drum-machine tracks, a skill that would allow him to go on tour without a drummer. Although there was no touring, making his own beats came in handy through the recording process.
He misses the road and has no idea when he'll be playing live shows again. Even so, All Blue was born from this bleak year, and without the cancellations, he concedes, the project would never have come to fruition.
"If not for that space and that solitude," he says, "this record would not have existed."
For more, go to Wolf van Elfmand's website.
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