Conversations: Chelsea Wolfe | Varyer

Chelsea Wolfe

Released in February, Chelsea Wolfe’s latest album, She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She, is a rebirth in process. It’s about how such a moment connects to our past, our present, and our future. As Wolfe explains, “It’s a record about the past self reaching out to the present self reaching out to the future self to summon change, growth, and guidance. It’s a story of setting yourself free from situations and patterns that are holding you back, in order to become self-empowered. It’s an invitation to step into your authenticity.”

We were able to ask her a few questions over email back in March, and here is the resulting conversation.

What world does your She Reaches Out... exist in? What are the rules and agreements of that world?

Chelsea Wolfe: She Reaches Out lives in the liminal realm, in the in-between, in the underworld. The agreement is that you’ve got to learn to be still for once in your damn life. You know there’s no going back to your old ways, but the future is also unclear, so you’ve got to figure out how to be ok with standing on that threshold, in that void space. It’s full of endless potential, mystery, and even excitement, but it’s also deeply uncomfortable. There's a *knowing* that soon, the path forward will become clear.

Is there a tarot card (Rider-Waite) that you identify with? One that feels like it embodies your spirit?

CW: I identify most with The Hermit. It’s a card about going inward; about the magic of the inner realm. I’m an introvert at heart so I love when I can tap into true Hermit energy. But I also push myself past my loner tendencies quite often because I want to commune and create with others, and share my songs.

You talk about going sober part way through writing the record, how would you describe the quality of the songs you were writing before and after that change? How do you see them playing together on the record?

CW: Sobriety was the key I needed to unlock this album. Some of the demos remained instrumental for a long time, and it was only after I got sober that I suddenly knew what to write about. “Whispers in the Echo Chamber” is a good example. The space that was created within me when I let go of alcohol opened up all sorts of doors to compartmentalized shit that I didn’t even realize I’d been compartmentalizing. I then understood that there were many more things I needed to let go of, so I started singing about cutting cords and becoming undone, which led the path forward for me to actually start doing so.

You've done a number of scores, is there a dream director or collaborator you'd like to work with?

CW: Definitely, I’d love to work on something for Robert Eggers or Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij. I’m also a really big fan of composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s work.

I wanted there to be moments of conscious self-acceptance on this album, so a line like “I am safe in this body, safe in this heart” - I wanted that to feel affirming when I sang it onstage, and it does.

Chelsea Wolfe

Speaking to the idea of lyrics as an incantation, many spiritual practices emphasize spoken prayer, matras, and spells. How does the idea of speaking things into being play into the way you write lyrics? Do you have a mantra you start your day with?

CW: I feel like I just started tapping into this more intentionally on She Reaches Out. I wanted there to be moments of conscious self-acceptance on this album, so a line like “I am safe in this body, safe in this heart” - I wanted that to feel affirming when I sang it onstage, and it does. I’m on tour right now and when I get to that line it helps me pull my power back into myself when I’ve started to become uncomfortable being perceived.

I actually would like to create a small album of spell-songs in the future. I often sing in my personal spiritual work. As a singer who shares much of their musical work publicly, it’s special to have this intimate communication with Spirit, singing songs under the moon that nobody else will hear. And also, I love the idea of capturing some of these spell-songs for others to create magic to as well.

I'm curious about your personal "used library" you use when writing songs. Can you describe that for our readers? What has been calling to you lately from the archive? Would you be able to share a picture of it?

CW: Oh! It’s really just two big bookshelves full of books, new and old. One silly thing is I have a small collection of different dictionaries, new and old, tiny and massive. When I’m considering a word for a song or album title I like to see what the various dictionaries present about it. After coming up with Birth of Violence as the title for my acoustic album, I felt a bit uneasy about the word “violence” until I found one definition as “strength of emotion” in a dictionary, which felt to me like a woman’s anger rising up within her, and how that anger can be a guide to what needs healing. I also have many of the old Time-Life “Mysteries of the Unknown” books, and I love Taschen’s Library of Esoterica book series as well.

Is there a logic or numerology behind wanting to go sober for at least 13 years?

CW: When I turned 40 I’d been sober for about three years, and I made the decision then to remain sober throughout my 40’s, continuing to work on my issues with addiction. It just happened to add up to 13 years. After that, I may or may not try to attempt a healthier relationship with alcohol.

She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She is out now and available wherever you find music. This interview first appeared in V+Mail. Subscribe to out weekly newsletter and be the first to access exclusive interviews, shop deals, and all the unexpected delights your heart can stand.