When did your love for music begin?
As far back as I can remember. I spent hours playing Elvis on the keyboard as a small kid, pouring over my mum’s records, and then I started writing my own songs, age 7, and everything felt like it clicked into place. It was magic to me and from that point I was obsessed with songwriting.
Beginning from the first record you ever put out, you combined tech with music, why is that?
I fell in love with records from a very young age and ever since I’ve been imagining how to reinterpret that format for today’s digital age. Like what would the vinyl for today look like? Everything that I’ve created has that as the central idea but just takes a different form: e.g. the 3D vinyl app, intelligent album deck, musical jacket, Raw Space AR experience. I see technology as a way of reintroducing tangibility, storytelling and ceremony to the album in a new and relevant way.
What was the inspiration behind your latest record Raw Space?
To create an enhanced form of streaming that fuses the music with the artwork, lyrics, liner notes and visuals of each song in a seamless way that makes the listener feel they’ve been transported into the world of the album.
You partnered up with Nokia Bell Labs to create the first live 360 Augmented Reality Album Stream, how did that all come about?
I had the idea for this live 360° physical stream of the record, from the world’s quietest room (the Bell Labs’ anechoic chamber), with the artwork coming to life via real-time augmented reality. I shared the idea with the Bell Labs’ president Marcus Weldon and he loved it. Bell Labs has a history of working with artists, which kicked off with Andy Warhol and John Cage doing sound/art experiments from the chamber. So Raw Space was the perfect fit. It’s been an amazing experience working with some of the brightest scientific minds in the world.
Do you have a creative group that you work with when creating your visuals and music videos?
Yes Design I/O, who I worked with on my first album 8ight. There’s always been a kinship there, from a music and design perspective, and that pre-existing relationship has given us the depth and breadth to explore things we started thinking about five years ago. The initial conversation with Raw Space was how to create the feeling of all of the artwork (currently left out of the streaming experience) being brought back into play in a truly captivating and transportive way, unlike anyone has seen before. In my mind, the process of opening up a vinyl and looking at the artwork, lyrics, liner notes created the perfect backdrop for listening to the music and so with ‘Raw Space’ the idea was to take this one step further with the artwork flying off the record and surrounding the listener/viewer, and transporting them into the world of each particular song.
How did you go about creating the visual worlds?
We got together in Boston and I played through the songs acoustically and after each song we talked about what we saw. Some of the visuals came from what I had in mind when writing the song e.g. a Dali-like desert, a faceless Giacometti character, crows overhead, which really painted a picture of the story. Some of the visuals were intimately linked with the music for example with a particularly lush string swell, the trees started growing. And then some visuals were more abstract, and yet beautifully expressive and emotive, and that’s really the territory and magic of Design I/O. Their work blows me away, they really are the best out there. The idea was to take the listener on a journey through the album, with each song telling its own story, which was reflected in the visuals as much as the music.
What are some of your music influences?
Donny Hathaway’s vocals, James Brown’s sass, Nina Simone’s soul, Tom Waits’ grit, Leonard Cohen’s words, Stevie Wonder’s melodies, Brian Wilson’s harmonies, Otis Redding’s feeling, The Beatles’ versatility, John Lennon’s honesty, Rick Rubin’s production and Elliott Smith’s everything. The opening track off Raw Space, ‘Little Moth’, was written in tribute of Elliott.
What is your creative process when you’re composing?
Songwriting has always been the most natural process for me. It was always the one thing that made complete sense, it’s a very intuitive process and one I find hugely enjoyable. It’s almost like seeing the form of something in your mind’s eye and then working with clay to bring it out, refining that form, articulating the features, polishing the surface. It’s like the song is lying there waiting and you simply have to uncover it.
What’s in the future for Beatie Wolfe?
Ahhh that would be telling…