Jesse Wolfe is an American singer songwriter who’s Americana Blues, Rock, Folk style of music is what I call honest, raw and totally engaging. His passion and conviction of delivery whether it be an ‘in your face’ hard hitting lyric or a ‘delicate guitar lick’ are always equally honed and passionate. Playing regular guitar since the age of 13 his affiliation with the Weissenborn is a much newer love affair and one that he is eager to incorporate into his musical craft. The first of which to get recorded is a track called “Broken World” from his new album with his band Citizen Wolfe called “We The People” and is a perfect introduction to his music. Hard hitting society observational lyrics and a kick arse Weissenborn solo really do hit the mark and offer the chance to hear the Weissenborn in a new musical light. As a personal friend it was my utmost pleasure to finally get Jesse on the record and “On Track”.
So Jesse at last we can talk about the new album and in particular the track “Broken World”. First off tell us a bit about yourself. Who are your strongest musical influences and how would you describe your style of songwriting and playing?
“First off i’d like to say thank you for the opportunity to be on TWiE and be interviewed. My name is Jesse Wolfe, I started playing at the age 13, I was born and raised in Indiana U.S. My musical influences would be listed as follows…. Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Slash, Chuck Berry, Allison Kraus, Johnny Cash, Pearl jam, Chris Cornell, John Butler, Jeff Lang, Jeff Healey, Black Crowes, BMRC, John Melloncamp, Neil Young, Oasis, David Gilmour, John Fogerty, George Thorogood, Brian Setzer….. my style of playing…. I would say dark bluegrass? Industrial Folk? Blues? Americana? I think based off the fact that there are so many “fits” for me. I would shove it safely into the alternative category…. my style of songwriting…. I simply like telling stories. Some have political aspects, while others are complete fiction. and yet again some are directly about me. I write what impacts me or any issue that I see fit to shed light on… it could be about anything…. there is no boundary, its circular and intrinsic to one another.”
You’ve just recently recorded and released your first album “We The People” with your band Citizen Wolfe. Tell us what that whole experience was like going from a spare bedroom solo singer/song writer to the lead man in a full blown band recording in a professional studio?
“It was roughly around 2012 that I decided to start writing songs, I had never tried it before. At the time I was laying my Taylor on my lap and just starting to toy with lap-slide. I wrote around 20- 25 songs, one a month for about 2 years. I would basically hit the backroom all day on days I was off and 3-4 hours on days I worked. I was learning and tightening up at a ferocious rate. As far as what it felt like to go into the studio from the bedroom somethings just fit and the time was right. It was like little pieces of a puzzle fitting together. I pulled 8 songs off of the list and formed the band Citizen Wolfe in August 2014 with two local chaps, Doug Herndon and Rich White. I can’t speak highly enough of them, I needed musicians who could take direction. I was very tight on the reins, because I knew exactly what I wanted to produce, both were very supportive. My dreams quickly became theres I knew I didn’t want anything more than a three piece. I think we had 7 practices before studio time came up we booked with Chief Lemon head studio. Curt Hall is the owner and operator. Class act is all I can say, we cut the 8 songs pretty much the first day. We went back and did a few minor fills and vocals on a later date, but most definitely the majority of it was the first session”.
You’ve played live a few times now as a group and judging from the videos I’ve seen you’ve gone down a storm especially your New Year’s Eve shows you’ve done two years running now?
“Playing live is awesome. I’ve never really felt nervous on the stage. It’s the energy in the room, it’s intoxicating, and addictive to say the least. I think the shows go over very well because the crowd feels included in the event therefore they are part of the event. Everyone is performing and playing their part. The energy gets passed around and around, Its quite something, live interactions can be very powerful”.
Tell me how you discovered the Weissenborn and how you learned how to play it?
“I saw a clip of john butler from 2005 at Wave Aid (a concert raising funds for victims of the 2004 Indian ocean earthquake) it was “Treat Yo Mama” I had never seen that instrument before. And had no idea what it was. He was playing this mind blowing groove, and I was instantly connected. I played my taylor on my lap that for months after that. Until I had a very close friend help me acquire my big island from Anderwood Guitars”.
You’re a lefty, has that ever been a problem, playing or learning the instrument?
“No not really. Picture someone handing you a baseball bat and telling you to go to home-plate you’re gonna step up to the plate and one way or another will feel natural to you. Your body just knows. I do have to order all my guitars though, all of the places around me don’t have very good lefty selections on hand so every guitar I have was ordered on faith and research lol”.
Your approach to playing is very….lets say… full throttle at times. The instrument seems to be a good fit for your playing style and it’s refreshing to hear it really rock out.
“It’s a very powerful instrument. It was defiantly deliberate. I have other songs wrote specifically for it “Lies”, “Your Life”, and “Boxcar Of Shame”, But I felt like ‘less is more’ and have it displayed more as a ‘feature song’ of the Weissenborn. As a matter of fact the album was going to be called ‘Broken World’ up ’til a few short months before it released. It was the second song I wrote and it was the cornerstone of the album”.
So let’s turn to the track itself “Broken World” it’s got a powerful message hidden in there. From your prospective what were you trying to purvey with the lyrics?
“Well let me premise this answer by explaining I’m not a pessimistic person. I see a lot in the world that we as people do that is extraordinary. But from the stand point of the song most of my research about our timeline here on earth as a global community regardless of race, religion or what not, ultimately seems to end out “how can we with sheer excellence continue to get it wrong.” So the overall message is lets just step back, take a breath, and figure out where we can be better caring for each other and I feel I defiantly got it right because the song doesn’t come across as accusatory but more as lets sort this out together and be a better community”.
What comes first the lyrics or the melody for a song like this?
“The melody came first …”
How many takes did you have for the “rocking” weissenborn solo on the track?
“It was cut in one run the first time. I play through 2 pickups at the same time one clean one dirty through 2 separate amps (in isolation boxes) so after it was cut Curt was able to go in pull parts of the leads out and place them in different measures, some on the left side of the mix some on the right, some distorted some not. The end result was exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to have a feel of 2 dancing Weissenborns complementing one another basically talking to each other and while though they are 2 separate entities they complete each other like we should as people.”
Playing it live seems to be something you really enjoy, how does it go down with the audience?
“Originally it was slower on the tempo but when we started to play it live with percussion and bass and a crowd it became much more like off the album and it goes to 6ish 7 minutes live. People really enjoy it therefore the band really enjoys it”.
Tell us about your newest Anderwood Weissenborn and how you came to own it, it seems like fate was conspiring in your favour?
“Mr Greenfield from Anderwood Guitars contacted me originally and said he had a guitar shipped from UK to Mississippi and the buyer backed out. I felt so bad for the guitar to come all the way across the globe to get here and not be loved on by anyone, kinda like animal rescue for guitars. Ed redirected it to my address. Originally the plan was to get it to me and I was gonna ship it back to him. I was pretty happy with the fact Ed trusted me so far away to help him out. So I received her an loved on her and made sure she was in good shape. And then the idea came to me that since this guitar had such a turbulent birth that maybe her story was bigger than me so I took her over to the studio and loaned her to Curt Hall to learn a bit with her. I could tell he was very interested in learning lap-slide and I wanted her to live in a studio for a while and absorb the ambience. After a couple of months I retrieved her and gave her to a very close female friend of mine who helps me chase my dreams she was very interested as well in this enigmatic style of playing. I’m happier watching her travel more than me lol. In short she came from the UK to Mississippi to Indiana to Alabama and now she resides in Indianapolis so yeah I think fate conspired to more than just my favour”.
Are you planning any other Weissenborn orientated songs for the next album?
“Yes the next album will have 3 tracks on it “Lies”, “Your Life” and “Boxcar Of Shame”.
Any plans for a ‘Jesse Wolfe’ solo acoustic style album with some new and old songs stripped down back to how they were originally written?
“Yes I have plans to do the original 8 off We the people solo plus 2 new tracks yet to be determined. I play with a stomp beat, dual pickups, harmonica and singing, so there is a lot goin’ on there and I want people to see the versatility in the songs”.
I understand your producer on the album was so taken with your weissenborn that you lent him your spare weissenborn for a few months and gave him a few lessons too.
“Yes I did. he’s a sound man so he’s pretty quick to see whats goin’ on the fretboard. I mostly just gave him the opportunity and encouragement to play after I retrieved her he picked up a dobro and has been chipping away ever since”.
Signal chain; What effects to you like running through your Weissenborn when playing live, there got be some sweet distortion in there?
“Signal chain 2 pickups the house one in the body and a sound-hole fishman, the house pick is clean always and constant to a Fender Acoustasonic, the fishman is my distortion pickup. The signal chain is Ernie Ball volume swell—> Boss digital delay DD-7 —>Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9DX–> OCD Fulltone—> Voodoo Lab Microvibe—> Boss digital reverb RV-5 —> Dunlop Cry Baby—–> to Marshall half-stack. So I run mostly 80/20 clean/distorted and so with the volume swell I can seamlessly shift from completely clean to full distortion or insert any ratio I want a very super stereo quality”.
What was the tuning on the track?
You play a mean harmonica too which leads us onto the next story. I know you’re a big John Butler fan. Tell us about the time when you got up from the crowd and on stage with him and played a song together, man that’s what dreams are made of.
“It was at Iron City Birmingham Alabama. I think it holds about 2000. So I had a harp in my pocket and when he got out his banjo for his track “Better Than” I was front row and I blew into it to see if it was in key lol. So he just stops the show and he’s like “no no no come on up here” so I with no doubt i just popped right up. Very surreal feeling standing on stage with John, Byron and Grant. The crowd ate it up, they were in more shock than me it turned out very well. After that I realised the only thing to stop me from my goals is ‘ME’. It didn’t cost him anything to do that and helped me along my path we chatted for a bit after the show about it, it was a very cool experience”.
You’re also on first name terms with another playing hero of yours Jeff Lang too, wow you’ve got some really cool buddies.
“I Don’t know about buddies, lol, but it’s very nice when the people you admire respond to you or make contact with you in any way. It stimulates you as an artist and a person in general to be in contact with your touchstones. I’ve never met Mr. Lang but he seems to interact with me just when i need it the most he is a one of a kind person and hands down one of the best lap artists I’ve ever seen, I have mad respect for both of them”.
What are the plans for 2016 and beyond?
“My immediate plans are a benefit show set up locally where the proceeds will go for kids to help with school lunches and pool passes for them, and a few other shows peppered here and there and then back to the studio. Just to continue enjoying what I do. I’d like to sum this all up with another thank you Aron for the interview and the opportunity to be heard what my inner thoughts are and who I am, see ya soon!”
To order a copy of the Citizen Wolfe CD “We The People” which features
“Broken Wolrd” send an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org