Dan Wolff - 10 Questions Music Interview
Dan Wolff and his band are an exciting up-and-coming Americana/Roots-Rock group that have twice been declared ‘Washington DC’s Best Original Band,’ by The Washington City Paper Readers Poll. Specializing in original compositions, Wolff has released an impressive 5 albums since 2014. Dan Wolff can be heard as a solo act, as part of the Dan Wolff Trio, and with The Muddy Crows. Dan has toured the U.S. and has played 21 shows across Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. As a solo artist, Dan explores the adventures and lifestyle of a modern-day musician and troubadour. His collaborations explore intimate folk, story-telling, Roots, Americana, and heartfelt rock n' roll.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I started off playing covers at open mics in coffeehouses. But, when I went to memorize other writers lyrics, I often found myself confused by what they were saying. I would modify the lyrics to make the meaning more clear, or even more personal. And I also found most pop songs to be overly repetitive, I wanted to throw in some more colorful chords or a bridge. So, over time, I found that it was much easier to start from scratch and write a song that both lyrically and melodically felt more true to the artist that I was becoming.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Originally, I performed under my own name (Dan Wolff). But, when I formed a band, we billed ourselves as "The Muddy Crows." After performing one of my more popular tunes at the end of a set, I was approached by a well-meaning individual who accused the band of plagiarism, stating that this was not a song by "The Muddy Crows," but rather an artist named "Dan Wolff." We all got a good laugh out of this scenario, but it was great to know that my fans had my back!
What has been the high point of your music path?
In 2018, I performed in front of 11,000 people at a "Lantern Festival." People unfamiliar with those events should definitely do some research. But, never before nor again have we performed for that many people at one time. And the sky was a sight to behold!
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I tend to start with the music- either a riff, or a progression that has caught my ear. I wouldn't say that I really focus on lyrics or the narrative, I focus on exploring what the music is already saying. I don't try to force it in any direction, I simply play it over-and-over until the melody becomes obvious and I begin humming along. Over time the words and the meaning are revealed by the music itself. And so I write them down. At some point I do revise and try to make my thoughts more coherent. But, I think that the key is to allow the artistic side of the brain time to work out the song on its own, before I get too analytical about how or what is being said.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
The idea of "Social Media" is constantly changing- there are so many platforms and they are all incredibly saturated with content. Artists need to be more than musicians, they need to be marketing experts, and video editors. They need to keep up with algorithms and submission processes to tap into different markets. I find it increasingly difficult to maintain the existing presences on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and traditional web pages. And for all of that effort, you are still mostly presenting to your existing fan base. It's that organic growth that is the holy grail for artists- honestly, I am not sure that I have figured that out yet.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats - they are so energetic for an organic vintage sounding band. How many Americana bands have a full horn section? Plus, you have Nathaniel dancing around like he is James Brown!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I have been playing with The Muddy Crows for so long that rehearsals are almost unnecessary. I think that we have really found our groove and we have an idea of how we each should approach a given song. The changes may be tricker, but if everyone has a chord sheet in advance, we can usually sing it through back stage and immediately play it live!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
The song that has been my greatest challenge so far is tentatively titled "Hey, Everybody." It's not technically difficult. But, there are a few sections that I still refuse to consider the chords finalized. At the core of the issue is that the overall harmony of the song is a bit unique- so there are some melody lines which could go several directions. And while all of them would be fine- I can't decide on how I want the recording to go. Because while the song is in a demo stage, there are infinite possibilities- but as soon as you release a track then you have solidified the song. As an artist, I sort of enjoy the fluidity of an unfinished work. I guess I am just not ready to move on.
What's coming up in the future?
During this whole COVID-19 pandemic, I have really been focusing on creating videos for YouTube and Instagram. I am enjoying the creation of visual content over simple audio as I think that this is more appealing to a wider audience. So, for now, I am working on writing and recording remotely so that I can put the final song into video form and promote myself to a broader social circle.
Tell us where fans can access your music?