CoS Exclusive FeaturesInterviews

Interview: Chad Wolf (of Carolina Liar)

on March 27, 2008, 10:19pm

After nearly shattering the Los Angeles coffee house scene, Chad Wolf is finally finding the future that any singer/songwriter pine for: success. In his new outfit, Carolina Liar, Wolf’s enjoying media attention with songs “Show Me What I’m Looking For” and “I’m Not Over,” while feeling comfy at home with Atlantic Records. What’s more, the band is also scheduled to appear at the inaugural Pemberton Festival.

Yesterday, one of our own writers, Jay Ziegler, had a chance to sit down with the rising artist and the two held quite the discussion.

Check Out: (Carolina Liar’s new single, “I’m Not Over”)

“I’m Not Over”

COS: I heard about your show you guys did at the Viper Room [in West Hollywood, California] recently and you packed the crowd. That’s awesome! How’d it go?

Chad Wolf(CW): Yeah! It was a really fun night. It was probably one of the best shows we’ve done. I don’t know if it was the crowd that was there or what happened but everybody was just really playing along with each other and really made it fun and everybody got into it. Even the bar staff was dancing around! So it was a really, really great night. Like I said, it was probably the best show we’ve done yet.

COS: Especially at The Viper Room, where by name alone, people know exactly what it is.

CW: Yeah for sure. After the show we felt pretty proud after the show. We were all, “Man, we gave everything we had on that one!” So it was good.

COS: After reading over your bio, you’re a pretty big inspiration to a lot of people out there. From the time you’ve been active, you’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest songwriters [Diane Warren] and producers [Max Martin] in the industry. First off, how does it make you feel to be in their presence?

CW: It’s the scariest thing in the world! [laughs] It really is. It’s so strange, especially with Max. I met him before as a friend and I never wanted to bring up music around him. I just didn’t think it was appropriate because he’s such a big rider, and everything started working this way. He started calling and asking about the way we were writing songs, Tobias [Karlsson] and I were coming up with. It was just extremely surreal. Probably one of the scariest things was getting in the vocal booth the first time in front of Max and really knowing I had to sing it. It was really, really scary. I remember practicing one of the songs we were going into for about a month before I went to Sweden just to make sure everything was locked in as good as I could possibly do it.

COS: With that in mind, how does that influence you as a musician?

CW: Oh it’s a huge influence, working with Max and Peter [Svennson, guitarist of The Cardigans] because what they really turn me on to is that I’m more of a blues musician, trained in American jazz and blues and melody is secondary. Working with guys from Sweden, melody is so important and it’s classical in some sense. You approach things in that way and you don’t have the liberty to sing a blues riff in something. You would stick to the melody and there’s a law to sticking to the melody. We stuck to these simple melodies that would go over major/minor chord changes. The song would be written in minor, but you would be singing over it in major. You can pull on these different types of emotions and these things I never really even thought of before. When I was writing by myself, I would work on lyrical ideas and find more of a guitar riff. Now working with them, it’s broadened all my horizons and I’m hoping working with them, I’ll be able to connect everything together and push myself harder and harder.

COS: Wow. That must be really just a surreal feeling.

CW: Yeah it is. It’s a lucky thing. It’s so surreal. It’s one of those dream scenarios, you know? [laughs].

COS: Going back to your bio, you cited Depeche Mode, The Cure and Falco as some of your primary influences, definitely a lot of 80’s European influence here. What other musical icons besides the ones you listed influence you as a musician?

CW: A big, big influence of mine would have to be John Hanton Jr. When I was about thirteen years old, my mother and I were watching Austin City Limits and he happened to be on. He’s this amazing Delta blues slide player. At that time, I had never really heard any delta blues before. He was playing all of these Robert Johnson songs. I had never heard of him at the time, but because of that performance, I started getting into Robert Johnson, Son House…all of those delta blues players. Just amazing, amazing blues music came out of that for me. I also grew up in a Pentecostal home and there’s a lot of gospel influence as well; that Southern Baptist Church influence type of thing; choirs and what not. Anything though I can get my hands on and some of the stuff that the guys in the band bring in, and you can learn so much from any artist that’s out there, if it’s recorded, it’s worth listening to.

COS: With your blues influence showing through and given what you mentioned before about going to Sweden and how they’re extremely focused on melody, it almost seems like a contrasting musical counterpoint given in your songs.

CW: Yeah totally, it’s definitely a new form of counterpoint.

COS: That makes all the songwriting process better, definitely. Now, regarding the songwriting process and everything, where did the band’s name Carolina Liar come from?

CW: I had this band at the time called Suzy’s Parlor here in L.A. and it broke apart. I had a small indie deal with the band, but since the band broke apart, the people I worked with at the time decided that we shouldn’t keep that name. We were talking one morning and we were like “Man we gotta find a name. We gotta make it up today. We gotta focus and make a name right now.” We started talking and one of the gentlemen in the room goes, “You’re one helluva liar!” to which I said “No, I’m not.” I would tell them about these stories about growing up in South Carolina and they’d never believe me, kinda like that movie “Big Fish” where it would sound like these outlandish lies, but it was pretty true. So he goes. “You’re from Carolina, right?” and I said, “Yeah.” “Carolina Liar?” “Yeah I guess that’s a good name.” And he just said “Nope, I’m taking it. That’s the name, we’re leaving it at that!” Eventually they let me out of that deal once I started working with Max. They agreed it was a better opportunity to go over to Sweden and learn so much more. Everything’s cool and everyone’s really happy to hear that the band name is still surviving.

COS: It’s definitely a catchy name. It flows off the tongue well and it’s pretty easy to remember. Good call on the name.

CW: Well cool! It’s funny. You would never think that something like that would work right off the bat, but it’s holding and its something we’ve been playing around with a lot lately. Atlantic [Records] has been making these stickers that say ‘Everybody’s a liar’ and these big stickers that say ‘I’m a liar…Carolinaliar.com’ From this, we’ll have a big world of liars. [laughs]

COS: [laughs] That’s definitely a smart move on Atlantic’s marketing department.

CW: Haha, yeah.

COS: Now regarding the album [Coming To Terms], it’s coming out on June 3rd and you’re currently on a promotional tour firing up the release of it. How is the tour going so far?

CW: It’s going really well. It’s been a lot more fun that I anticipated actually. We’re jumping through towns so fast. We were in Seattle, Monday and Tuesday morning and down to Portland on Tuesday around 1pm. We stayed in Portland up until about this morning and we flew down to Sacramento and Sacramento up to San Francisco. We just finished playing at a radio station about thirty minutes ago and literally just checked into the hotel prior to the phone call. Yesterday we recorded three songs for two stations and played two thirty minute sets at two different stations in Portland. That’s how it worked out. I’m already losing my mind. Yeah [laugh] I’m a liar, I’m already working the name! [laughs]. It’s fun waking up in a new town every day.

COS: [laughs] So you’re in San Francisco at the moment, right?

CW: Yeah we’re in San Francisco right now at this hotel called the Mark Twain. It’s a really beautiful town. We drove in today and the sun was out for a good four to five hours. Traffic though in the city is just crazy.

COS: Now with this tour in full swing, do you have any crazy tour stories that you want to share?

CW: Yeah! Last night we were at this really great, great place in Portland called the Jupiter Hotel. Max [Grahn, the band's drummer] and I were there and they have this club there called the Douglas Fir [Lounge] and Vampire Weekend was playing there last night.. We didn’t get to go to the show, but we hung out in Portland and in the hotel itself. The hotel was this crazy kinda hippy thing where all the doors were all made out of chalkboards and they supplied chalk for all the people in their rooms. Everybody was doing designs on the doors and it was just this totally neat pocket of creativity in this town that I’d never seen before. Max and I never expected to see anything like it, but it was definitely a neat little place. It’s a super eco-friendly town with all of these environmentally-conscious people. That’s the best tour story we’ve got so far, aside from all of this crazy traffic. But you never know, madness will probably be bound to happen any second.

COS: Along with the album, you currently have two singles out, “I’m Not Over” and “Show Me What I’m Looking For.” “Show Me” has been currently airing on promos for [ABC's] “Eli Stone” and recently it was featured on [MTV's] “The Hills”. That’s crazy!

CW: Yeah, that was crazy. It made our myspace site crazy for us. We were getting about ninety plays a day, and then it went from ninety to 2000 plays in one day, just from the one television show. That right there is just such a nice gift, ya know, to get a placement like that. It’s a great thing, as it helps us out in so many ways. We’re getting so many big breaks and we’ve got some great people working for us. Everybody at the label is great and we couldn’t ask for anyone better on our side.

COS: Now with the tour in full swing, where have you noticed your hot spots? Where on tour have you seen your fans react to your music the most?

CW: So far, the biggest has been Portland. They picked the album up and have been playing it at the station, so when we played there yesterday, we got a good response and everyone was really welcoming about it. Also, this radio station we played today in San Francisco, Live 105, the staff there was really responsive and really cool. They seemed to get into it and some of the ladies that work at the station were singing “Show Me” and they heard it from “The Hills” the other day. Los Angeles the other night at the Viper Room was a really good night too. Between those three, it feels like that could be our area at the moment for us. Right now it just Max and I doing an acoustic tour.

COS: Given the success of what Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have done recently by releasing their albums on the internet, will “Coming To Terms” see an internet release or a live stream at all?

CW: It possibly will, but I haven’t heard the whole idea behind that yet. There may be a chance that there may be an internet release first. I can’t say for sure because I don’t know, but that’s something you definitely have to look into. It works so well for those other groups and you can’t deny its influence in the market these days, so it’s something we’ll have to pay attention.

COS: Finally, one more question. You’ve got a great career ahead of you and the best thing I can compare it to is the Cinderella run of the Boston Red Sox winning the World Series a few years ago [2004]. You’re living proof that underdogs can make it and that anything is possible. What is your message to all of those aspiring musicians out there trying to make it in the world?

CW: Just don’t quit, no matter what. No matter how many people tell you to stop…don’t! [laughs] Never ever quit, I mean the one thing that saved me was that I didn’t listen to others. I was too dumb to listen to them.

Currently, Carolina Liar is touring the United States, but you can purchase their music via iTunes.

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