Melbourne artist Brad Wolfe is gearing up to release his latest album “The Rise” While Alaisdair is busy reviewing the album, he sat down with Brad to ask some questions about the album and find out more about this singer from Melbourne.So who is he? Brad Wolfe is a NZ-born singer, poet and songwriter who landed in Melbourne in 2007, with a guitar and a few hundred bucks and not much else.
Following a career since childhood in TV and theatre in NZ, Brad used his experience and determination to find performance gigs and work around the city, and with hundreds of original songs in his catalogue, he was signed to a local independent label in 2011.
In 2012, Brad successfully released his first EP of original music, ‘WALKING OUT’, followed over the next two years by digital singles ‘TOUGH LOVE’, ‘BLACK SHEEP’ and ‘OIL AND WATER’, with three high-quality music videos to date. Receiving great play on community radio and massive exposure on Channel 7, Brad has completed a 14-track original album for release in May 2015, ‘THE RISE’ and is currently working on a sophomore album for 2016.
It really depends on the day! I am proud of them all, but I definitely have my favourites. For deeply personal reasons, ‘Little Lady Hepburn’. From a technical point of view, I think I’d say ‘Madre Mio, Padre Pio’. But the one I keep coming back to is ‘Grow Old With Me’. I think it’s me at my most romantic – I’d like to sing it at my own wedding one day, if that ever happens! There’s a remix of it in the works at the moment, too.
How long has this process taken?
We started recording in late 2011 – the first EP, ‘Walking Out’, followed in 2012, then last year, 2014, we wrapped up on the album itself. Its release was delayed by a 6-month work placement I had in Sydney – but finally, it’s ready to go! In the meantime we’ve so far recorded 10 new tracks for the next album, ‘Dark Star’, so now we start mixing and playing with those.
The music scene in Australia has changed so much in the last 5 years, what has changed for you?
I think the ability to self-produce is massively positive, long-term. I also like that the digital revolution, for all its faults, has forced a lot of major artists to tour more widely, including Down Under and New Zealand, particularly – both countries that have missed out a lot over the decades. However, I don’t think the influence of reality TV has been especially positive to the music industry. It’s a huge shame these TV talent shows have been so overwhelming – I don’t think they nurture much that’s positive for artists or industry alike, in terms of long-term career sustainability, and they make for an uneven playing field in terms of support from and access to the corporate juggernauts. The digitalization of the industry is also still an uneven playing field – it’s incredibly difficult to make a living out of music, however easy it is to release now. There is so little income to be made from streaming services, and so little financial support from the get-go. Like education, music should never be the sole domain of the wealthy. So being an independent musician or songwriter has become very much a passion-driven pursuit, which is great for artistic integrity; but it’s also disheartening to have little-to-no financial reward for so much effort and investment, and to have your opportunities thwarted by lack of money. It’s a shame – any decent society should nurture its artists, rich and poor. It says a lot about a society that doesn’t. So I think the industry is still in quite a toxic state, but longer term, I think there’s hope.
A big theme on the album is relationships, in particularly “Settle” it sounds like its coming from a desire to settle down with that special someone and start a life together. Do you have anyone special right now? IS that song going out to anyone in particular?
I never kiss and tell. Well, unless you buy me a drink first! Half the album was about an intense and failed relationship – lessons learned. The other half is – hopefully – optimism for a future one (not failed!). Someone special right now…? Show me the cocktail list…! No – not yet.
Being based in Melbourne – the “scene” there is quite large compared to other parts of the country, how do you find it?
Contrary to my lyrics, I consider myself quite a private person – or at least, I try to be. I think a lot of my work leads me to strike out alone anyway. I find myself saying things people often won’t, for better or worse, which isn’t always popular. I’m not a ‘yes’ man – my producer and I get on famously but we fought like cats and dogs sometimes, and that was only a positive thing in the end, because both of us was always prepared to accept the other was right. I’d say I’m more likely to engage with social causes rather than communities or scenes; and creatively, I tend to write well on my own, in private reflection, then collaborate from there. That’s not to say I don’t co-write. A few songs on ‘The Rise’ are collaborations from scratch with my current producer.
Do you think it is harder for pop acts like yourself over traditional rock to get gigs and get out there?
Yes and no. I guess it depends on what your target audience is, and the creative phase you might be in. I like to think there’s two Brad Wolves – indie and pop. Before I recorded this album, from about 2005 when I started writing, and during the time I’ve been working on it, I’ve completed nine self-produced acoustic/demo albums that are a lot more indie than straight pop. I hope to make these available to hear one day. I could get up and do a 2-hour guitar solo show, absolutely, but I could equally get up and dance and sing to these tracks from ‘The Rise’. I enjoy both – and I enjoy mixing both types of performance into a show. I think the hardest thing, to be honest, is finding time to perform when you have to work full-time while writing and recording, which leads into your next question…
How did funding yourself work? How much did you have to sacrifice to do this?
I sacrifice so much, I wish people knew! I truly don’t think people realise or understand what this takes. I choose to do it, though, so I can’t complain. This album cost me $45,000+, which I’ve had to raise by working full-time, all while paying rent and bills and so on. That includes studio time, mastering, radio servicing, photography, videos, cover design, travel et cetera. I don’t have any family support in this country, so the money has come from my own pocket. It could have been a really nice apartment deposit! This also means many nights and weekends where I’ve had to turn down going out and having a social life in order to save and fund my music. As I said – it’s a passion-driven task, now, the rewards are few and far-between (for now!).
I believe you have written a book as well, at the same time as doing this. How did you do it all and work full time?
To be honest, I exercise a lot. I thoroughly recommend it. That’s not to say I don’t like to indulge in vices, but activity begets activity, and I try to stay healthy and active so I have the energy to get things done. I squeeze as much as I can out of every minute, usually. It’s not easy – there’s a B-side from ‘The Rise’ about it called ‘Discipline’, actually, which I hope sees the light of day one day – and I wish I didn’t have to sleep, because I have so much more I want to do. The book itself is being shopped around at the moment, but if all else fails, I’ll self-publish. The sequel is half-written! I’ve got about four more planned, but I’ll get there when I get there. Deadlines are great, but letting projects grow and change organically is also important.
Where does the majority of the money go when you’re paying your own way?
Generally just production costs. I believe everybody deserves to be paid for their work and I don’t begrudge it. There’s too much work-for-free going on, especially in the creative industries. It’s great to see people I commissioned for videos and photography back when I started going on to do the most amazing things (and are now out of my price range!) Radio servicing is very expensive also, so without a major label behind you, you’re starting the race a hundred laps back from the reality TV show winners, for example. Community radio needs to be as supportive as it can be of local independent artists, because major label artists already have a massive advantage.
Where was the studio?
Greville St, Prahran. My “hood”. Have lived in the area for eight years now and counting. I like the area a lot – “have I found the place I’ll settle?”
Did your listening habits change with this album? Do you change what you listen to, and does it affect what you write?
I listen to as much as I can, all different artists and genres. I don’t linger if something doesn’t grab me, but I’ll give it a chance. Some of my favourite songs are as disparate from each other as Marilyn Manson is from Dolly Parton. One of my favourite things when I’m having downtime-wine-time is hitting random on my iTunes and discovering new songs and genres and yes, then later that pops up into my writing and production ideas. My next album is effectively Kate Bush meets NIN meets Eurythmics.
Which artist’s career path do you most admire?
Madonna. I arrived in Melbourne about eight years ago with $400, a one-way ticket, no job and no contacts. I don’t know how I did it, to be honest. The thought of doing it again terrifies me! It was an absolutely terrible time in my life, and I hit the ground running – I had no choice. There’s a similar story about how Madonna arrived in New York with only $50 and took it from there. If ever I get any riches, they’ll definitely have come from rags.
If you could hope that your album inspired someone to do something, what would that thing be?
Firstly, to have the courage to leave a life that isn’t right for them – to rise above and beyond. Secondly, to start writing their own material – be it songs, prose, poems. It all starts somewhere. It doesn’t even have to be made public. I think we live in an emotionally stunted age, for all our interconnectedness and lack of privacy. I think genuine passion and emotion terrifies most people, and that’s not a healthy state for any society. We need to start caring about each other, not just ourselves. This is a new world, and we all make mistakes as we write new rules. We need to start forgiving each other – and ourselves.
Are you planning to tour?
I’d love to, but my other commitments make it difficult for the moment. I’m definitely planning select gigs, including the album launch. Watch this space!
Brad Wolfe’s album The Rise is out on Itunes on Monday 25th of May. You can follow Brad via his Facebook page here. Look out for Alaisdair’s review closer to the release date.