Welcome back to Uncharted, an Uproxx original series highlighting the best artists you haven’t heard of, yet. With the support of our friends at Honda, we are following some of the best emerging talent as they follow their dreams and make great music.
Do me a favor and picture a rock star. Not just an everyday drummer or a local gig guitarist, but a true blue rock n’ roller. Follow that image in your head offstage after a raucous gig. Put them on a plush couch in a green room or standing in a hotel suite just waiting to being trashed.
Now, tell me, what’s in their hand?
If you’re anything like me, your hypothetical traveling musician has a firm grip on a bottle of something fermented, distilled and gut-rottingly strong. Alcohol and rock music are intrinsically linked in the cultural imagination and with good reason. The vast majority of the genre’s icons spent their salad days pickling their insides. But that’s not the case with Emily Wolfe. The Austin-based musician only found how to properly rock out after kicking a rocky alcohol addiction to the curb.
Though you wouldn’t know it if you saw her on a stage now — playing a vicious brand of rock and roll that would make her idols Jenny Lewis and Jack White proud — Wolfe was painfully shy about performing well into her young adulthood. Even though she started playing guitar at the age of 5, Wolfe said she was always uncomfortable performing for a crowd.
“I never liked to sing in front of people,” she tells us. “Even in church, I felt like I sounded weird.”
Wolfe fell into an appropriately quiet style, writing folk music songs with her college roommate. And even though she wrote all the lyrics, she couldn’t bring herself to sing because she was “too afraid.”
“I played guitar and she sang… That was the first band or project I was in that allowed me to be on stage as a guitar player,” she says. “And we got booked at [Austin venue] Spider House… we sat down cause we were too afraid to stand up and play.”
Wolfe did sing though, when she was writing her own music and lyrics — she played the songs to herself inside the closet of her apartment. It was around after she graduated college that Wolfe fell into habits more associated with hard rockers than folkies. She says that she felt “super stuck” in both her music and the office job where she was working and that led to raw, alcohol-soaked writing sessions.
“I was working a boring day job. I’d work 8 to 5, come home, toss a bunch of drinks back and write bad songs. It was a very emotionally driven, drunken and messy process,” she confesses.