Emily Wolfe Goes Track by Track on Politically-Charged New Album ‘The Blowback’

Sitting somewhere in between more vulnerable and nostalgic storytelling, Emily Wolfe‘s 2021 album Outlier crossed over memories, love, and rifts, a complete about-face from her new release The Blowback. Scrutinizing more political concerns, the 10-track album is more persona and politically-driven than previous releases, plunging right into women’s rights, injustices, addiction, and weightier subjects.

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America the great / Where men decide your fate Break out of the cage / You’re in the devil’s parade sings Wolfe in “Walk In My Shoes,” a song incited following the 2022 overturning of Roe V. Wade. Through “Silencer,” Wolfe recounts the aftermath of a sexual assault, and what can often lead someone toward sobriety on “Road to Ruin.”

Written entirely by Wolfe and ignited by more personal indie-rock vignettes, The Blowback erupts around her boundless guitar riffs, a constant throughout the Austin singer and songwriter’s musical run since 2012 debut Director’s Notes.

“This album is aggressive, pushes the boundaries on things I want to say,” said Wolfe in a statement. “I needed to produce this collection of songs because I knew that I was the only one who was gonna get it right,” she added. “It was like a calling to honor the songs—make them mine and get it done in the exact way I envisioned it.” 

She continued, “The experiences that I went through last year, the political stuff, and the personal traumatic events, no one else went through that but me, my bass player Evan, and my wife. I couldn’t give these songs to anyone else.”

The Blowback, which features bassist Evan Nicholson, drummer Johnny Radelat, and backing vocalists Damian Joseph Quinn and Jen Parkhill, also marks Wolfe’s first time as producer. “Producing ‘The Blowback’ is one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’d learned so much from past producers like Michael Shuman [bassist, Queens of the Stone Age], and I was ready. For me, this whole chapter is about owning your spirit.”

[RELATED: 2021 Interview with Emily Wolfe – Still an ‘Outlier’]

Touring throughout 2023 with upcoming dates in Europe supporting Gaslight Anthem in 2024, Wolfe was also recently chosen by TOOL frontman Maynard James Keenan to open up for the band during a show in October 2023.

Wolfe recently ran through all the politically and love-charged tracks of The Blowback for American Songwriter.

“Silencer

I wrote “Silencer” during the anger phase of grief after going through a traumatic experience last year. This song is an anthem for survivors of assault and I hope it offers some form of healing to anyone who identifies with its theme. This was an extremely heavy song to write and record, but an important message I felt needed to be heard. It’s a revenge track and I hope it allows people to step into their power. Writing and recording it definitely helped me on that journey. 

Dead End Luck

I worked at a music shop for a long time, and though I loved the job, I had my share of bad days there. On one particular day, nothing went right. I was working long hours, but I was somehow still broke, and I felt stuck not knowing when touring would come back due to the pandemic. I’m not built for the 9 to 5 workday. I wrote “Dead End Luck” when I got home from my shift. This was a fun one to record. Before the guitar solo, you’ll hear a guitar feedback swell, which is the sound of an SM57 microphone I taped to a remote control car. I drove the car around the tracking room to capture feedback from different angles of the room, and it added a lot of tension and release to the guitar solo. 

Walk in My Shoes

I wrote this song after Roe v. Wade was overturned. My wife and I went to a protest in downtown Austin and as we marched alongside a massive crowd of women, I sampled the chant of the crowd on my phone. The tempo of the track essentially wrote the song, because it was so rhythmic and moving. The chant was “my body, my choice” at 115 BPM. If you listen closely enough, there are some sounds in the world that have full songs buried in them intrinsically. This chant had “Walk in My Shoes” written all over it. 

Predator

Like “Silencer,” “Predator” is a revenge track. It’s about the perpetrator of an assault, which is something rarely talked about aggressively and bluntly in music. I’m really proud of this message, and I hope this song haunts the perpetrator for the rest of his life. My biggest hope, however, is that this song helps victims find and own their rage, and heal from letting it out. 

Road To Ruin

“Road To Ruin” began as a song I wanted to crowd surf to. I wanted to write something really musically heavy, with a strange time signature, and it ended up being about my own journey through addiction. It’s supposed to sound like the brain of an addict deciding to either turn toward sobriety or continue down a path of self-destruction.

High Crime

“High Crime” is written from the perspective of the perpetrator of a crime. I put myself in the shoes of the criminal and wrote the song as if I were that person. I recorded the slide guitar on the demo alone in my home studio at 2:30 am one night, threw a ton of effects on it, reversed it, and slowed it down. The demo take of the slide guitar ended up being on the album recording because there was no way to recreate that sound in the studio. This song is long, but I wanted it to be a world of its own. I wanted it to swallow people. 

Rock Bottom on a High Wire

I wrote this song from the perspective of a wife in a dying marriage due to the husband’s infidelity. I used to know this particular couple. I put myself in her shoes and truly felt what it would be like to be in her situation. The lyrics in the first two choruses are I can make you love me, feel my fire as validation for her pain. But the last chorus reads I won’t make you love me, feel my fire as a reminder to her that she can take her power back. 

Hopeless in Panorama

I wrote the chorus of this song in a hotel room in Oregon. I was on the road touring and all of the political injustice happening to the LGBTQ community left me feeling hopeless. Touring this country, I see so much division and pain, but I also see small pockets of joy and openness. I’ve been to every state at this point, but the only place I want to live is somewhere open, loving, and accepting. This song is my love letter to the queer community. The end of the bridge is also a nod to my fascination with extraterrestrial life in the lyrics: I hope they beam me up and let me steer, ‘cus I don’t belong here.

Second of Relief

Throughout the pandemic, no one was sure when concerts would come back. Touring is one of my favorite things to do in this world. I love playing music more than anything, and having that eliminated from my life during the pandemic was unbearable at points. As a sober person of more than eight years, I felt that I wasn’t able to dip out in any capacity through drugs or drinking. I had to sit in the feeling of darkness the pandemic brought on, without being able to numb myself or leave my body in any way. It seemed like everyone else got to dip out through their own vices. As an artist, playing live music was my vice. I didn’t have that anymore, so I wrote the song “Second of Relief” about feeling trapped without an outlet. 

Can I Read Your Mind, Lover

This is the only love song on The Blowback. Since the themes of this album are so heavy, I wanted to end it with an emotional break. It’s a simple song about the connection I have with my soul mate. The pulsing synth throughout the track is intended to sonically mock the motion of sex itself. My intention with the drum beat was to write a beat that hadn’t been written before. 

Photo:  Jackie Lee Young / Courtesy of e2PR

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