“There’s a power in making decisions, even understanding I’ll still make mistakes. At least I’m taking responsibility for my own life”: Chelsea Wolfe’s addiction battle informed her most intimate album yet

Chelsea Wolfe
(Image credit: Ebru Yildiz)

Self-examination and emotional purging are common themes explored on Chelsea Wolfe’s albums, but her latest, She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She is her most intimate yet. The experimental singer-songwriter – who’s previously collaborated with Russian Circles and Myrkur – discusses a new-found sobriety that found her swapping dark folk and gothic blues for a more electronic sound.

Chelsea Wolfe began work on the harrowingly beautiful She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She back in 2020, when she and her band were unable to get together in person to write. “We sent ideas back and forth and the songs began to collage together,” she explains. “And as time went on we were eventually able to gather together to finish the demos.”

It wasn’t until early 2022 that Wolfe and her band managed to get into the studio with producer Dave Sitek (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bat For Lashes, Pussy Riot) to record the final versions.

The follow-up to 2019’s bluesy dark folk-inspired Birth Of Violence was created during Wolfe’s process of getting sober following an alcohol addiction that, by her own admission, had controlled her life for quite some time. Those themes of rebirth and transformation are prevalent throughout.

“It’s a death process of some sort, in order to be rebirthed as something new,” she says. “As my mind and spirit started to clear up from the fog, my lyrics got clearer as well, and more intentional.”

In Sitek’s studio, she adds, “elements of the demos were run through modular synths, different instrumentation was added, and the songs were transformed into something new as well – something more electronic and beat-driven than before.”

This new sound deserved a new home and Wolfe entered into a partnership with Loma Vista Recordings (Ghost, Korn, Iggy Pop). “When I was finished with the album, I knew I needed to find it a new record label, where this newly rebirthed music would be treated with care,”she explains.

She announced the signing in September 2023 to coincide with the release of lead single and album closer, Dusk. Wolfe refers to the track as a “fantasy-core” contribution, a mythical love song that speaks of friends or lovers who have “gone through hell and back” but continue to return, to unite, “like pottery gone through the fire, broken and pieced back together.”

The healing cycle I’ve been living more recently feels universal. I want others to see themselves in it and know that they’re not alone

These themes of healing – of being destroyed and repaired – are prevalent throughout She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She. Wolfe was conscious that she would need to provide a very raw and emotive performance to give the powerful subject matter the space it deserved.

“I decided to record a lot of the vocals very up-close and intimate in order to share the sort of rawness I was going through as I wrote these songs and subsequently lived them out,” she says.

Healing is not a linear process, though; and Wolfe used her life experience and processes to express such stunted growth through her music. “There are moments of purposeful minimalism and liminality in the music as well, to create spaces in between.

“The rebirth is happening in real time,” she adds. “It’s not something myself or this album has moved past.”

Wolfe’s experiences with alcoholism feels irreversible when she speaks about it: “There’s a power in making decisions. Cutting a cord from a person, place or habit that you know is holding you back or harming you is powerful.”

She admits to feeling like a “passenger on the train” of her own life for some time. “I was letting the tracks take me where they would. But I decided to be the conductor of the train, to make more clear decisions – even understanding that they may not always be the right ones and that I’ll still make mistakes. At least I’m taking responsibility for my own life.”

In spring 2023, the album underwent a transformation with a vibrant new mix from Shawn Everett (Miley Cyrus, The Killers). “I fought it away from the old and into the new,” Wolfe explains. “Shawn’s mix was such a welcome, fresh energy for the songs. I think they needed the alchemy of his touch.”

Everett, she says, painstakingly pulled out details of Sitek’s production and her vocal work. The result is one of her most intimate releases so far. “I can sense how much I’m going to learn, grow and change through sharing this music with the world on tour. I’ve already learned so much from this album, and it’s been such a wonderful guide for me. I look forward to what else it has to teach me.”

Her trajectory looks set to continue along a more personal path: “I already have strong ideas for my next album that I’m daydreaming about getting to explore when the time is right.”

One of the most prevalent themes she hopes to explore is that of healing. “Music is a healer for everybody, whether you create it or not,” she says. “I don’t know that I’ve thought of music as my healing journey – but they do run alongside one another. The healing cycle I’ve been living more recently feels universal. I want others to see themselves in it and know that they’re not alone.”

She looked to other artists who’d followed a similar sobering-up path, both for inspiration and proof that it was possible. She Reaches Out To She Reaches Out To She is a stunning compilation of her deepest struggles and a more raw version of herself than she has previously presented.

Facing life fully present is exciting when you’ve spent half your life only half-present

Whispers In The Echo Chamber tells of self-acceptance and cutting anything that prevents your growth, while House Of Self-Undoing is a story of the moments of enchanting joy and gut-wrenching pain she confesses to feeling more deeply than ever. “Facing life fully present is exciting when you’ve spent half your life only half-present,” she says.

On Place In The Sun, she explores the idea of finding a “home” in a body that she’d been disconnected from for a long while. It suggests she’s more grounded, and also more driven and determined than ever.

With many of Wolfe’s vivid thoughts are already constructed for her next album and it’s clear that this period of transformation and evolution is far from over. “I know it won’t always be easy, but what really is easy?” she ponders.

Cheri Faulkner

Cheri Faulkner is a journalist focusing on metal and alternative music alongside gaming and technology. After graduating from university with a degree in English and Journalism in 2012 she created her own outlet, Invicta Media, which has evolved to become a musicians' services provider alongside music reviews and galleries. As well as contributing to Prog, she also has bylines at NME, the Metro, The Loadout, PCGamesN and Tech Radar. She's thoroughly passionate about progressive metal, Irn Bru and cows