Bred from a state of rage, Emily Wolfe’s new single “No Man” echoes angst as she moves into a new chapter of her artistry.
The song, she tells American Songwriter, “came from a time when there were a handful of men in my life who seemed to dismiss my abilities and hard work. Despite having much more to offer than what was acknowledged by them, I kept pushing for their approval but never got it.”
Consumed by this burdensome cycle, Wolfe recalls that the song finally just “popped out.” It began with the chorus line, I don’t need no man. The rest of the verses built around the centerpiece with “raw, simple, but important messaging.”
“Hearing opinion-after-opinion from these men sent me into a headspace of wanting to be totally independent from that oppression,” Wolfe adds.
The Raleigh, North Carolina native, now living in Austin, Texas, still remembers how she felt listening to Rogue Wave’s album, Lake Michigan. “Something about the record unlocked me artistically,” she says. “The way those vocals hit me, gives this feeling of comfort, which is a goal for my own music.”
She credits her father, who always played classic rock records throughout her childhood that influenced her guitar playing, for exposing her to “how visceral a guitar can be.”
That genre-fluidity is still apparent in her artistry. The concept of “No Man” began as a Blues song, but as anger reared its head, “No Man” evolved into a transcendent rock track, leaning into electronic influences to better tell her story.
“It starts out with this sort of Nine Inch Nails attitude and industrial groove, then kicks into a classic fuzzy riff that’s really intentional,” says Wolfe. “The riff as a whole is descending, but at every stopping point on the pentatonic scale, the riff goes up. It’s a nod to my feeling as a woman amongst the men I mentioned earlier. Going down this path of oppression, coming up for air every now and then, but ultimately descending into anger.”
She compares the songwriting process to putting together a puzzle. But while arranging it, you are also creating the pieces that make it a full picture.
“I enjoy that there’s so much freedom in that. After working with Michael Shuman on this upcoming record, I started to learn how he writes and realized that he does anything he can to get the pieces of the puzzle in a song to fit together, even if it means starting from scratch and creating entirely new pieces,” she explains. “I’ve started to really enjoy making sure every single word is killer, and helps tell a story completely and eloquently.”
“No Man,” follows her recent single “Something Better,” ahead of forthcoming full-length LP Outlier, due June 25. The video, directed by Taylor Swift collaborator Beth Garrabrant, follows the artist going through a ritualistic reel of day-to-day footage, waiting for “Something Better” to happen. The sentiment of paralyzing listlessness is all too familiar after 14 months of a pandemic.
The blending of influences on these two tracks is in tune with her hopes for Outlier — her sophomore full-length following her self-titled record in 2019, and 2014’s debut EP, Roulette.
“Outlier is my attempt at mixing genres I love,” says Wolfe, citing pop, classic rock, and ’90s grunge. The goal, she says, “was to create an album that stood the test of time.”