The phrase “singer-songwriter” might bring forth images of a semi-talented young man singing love songs to a crowd of girls, but Patrick Wolf is more than just the typical singer-songwriter on a guitar.
In fact, the 29-year-old’s shows are often like experiencing an orchestra. The London native features multiple instruments — from a ukulele, harp, and electronic samplings to a viola — in his creative and sometimes theatrical performances, with a backing band to support his musical needs.
In the 10 years since becoming prominent as a singer, Wolf’s sound has spanned genres all across the board, from pop to classical.
In his newest venture, the singer has stripped down his works into a more intimate set in smaller venues for his performance anniversary. Wolf will be playing at World Cafe Live today, Sept. 18.
The Temple News: What made you choose to do a set of acoustic shows for your 10th anniversary of music?
Patrick Wolf: It comes from making the album, “Sundark and Riverlight.” [The album] is basically stripped down and acoustic reworking of songs. I also have always wanted to do a world tour, where [there are] grand pianos and other musicians. It is really a lovely way to see the world and write. It’s also an easy way for people to ask me questions and for me to see press, so it’s a lot more laid back and intimate than a big band show.
TTN: With “Sundark and Riverlight” written about darker material and optimism, respectively, do you feel a stronger tie to either one?
PW: No, because I think it’s the way the tracks worked out. It is a yin and yang – a light and dark. I think it’s well-balanced the way it is.
TTN: Your electronic shows are normally high energy, with an assortment of musicians and sounds. How do you keep the acoustic shows energetic as well?
PW: It’s a different technique. Some people say acoustic is a far more intense show than the ones that have 12 costume changes and the full band. [Acoustic] is also very rhythmic as well, with playing the harp and stuff, so it’s not a slow, long, boring rhythmic show. I’ve been to a few of those in my time. My show is a lot more intimate and upbeat.
TTN: Could you see yourself creating music for another 10 years?
PW: Oh, totally. [The music] is like chapters of my life. It’s a lot open now and I’m more comfortable writing. I [write] pretty much every day.
TTN: What keeps you inspired and causes you to keep making albums?
PW: It’s not for money and it’s not for fame. It’s basically because I write so much. The way I get by mentally, emotionally and spiritually is to write songs and put them into an album format. It’s just something that’s so intuitive to me now that I’m quite unable to stop.
TTN: Your songs definitely have a story-telling element to them. Do you consider yourself foremost a musician or a storyteller?
PW: I would say both. I think sometimes I write stories to music and sometimes I write music to a narrative. So I think when it comes together on a Patrick Wolf record, it’s a mixture of music and narrative. Sometimes I’m writing stories and sometimes I’m telling people what’s going on in my life.
TTN: Out of all the places you’ve toured at, which has been your favorite?
PW: Hands down I would say Russia and Poland. In a way, Poland has come out of communism just recently so they are still really excited about music. In that way, some songs I sing in London, the [fans] are really blasé about, but that message might really speak to people in Poland. But you get that from many places around the world.
TTN: You play to some pretty big audiences in Europe and in London in particular, but you are lesser known in the U.S. What do you like about playing shows in America? How do the crowds differ?
PW: I think it varies from state to state. It’s not all the audience, it varies how I am. As well, in America they have my music on jukeboxes and they don’t have that in Europe, so maybe I am better known in some places here than where I am from.
TTN: You are playing at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia today. What do you like about playing in the Philadelphia area?
PW: Well, I’ve been there three times for shows. I opened for [Amy] Winehouse in Philadelphia as well, so I do have an emotional tie to the city. [So far] I’ve really only come in for the afternoon sound check and left, and unfortunately, that’s how a lot of tours work. So really all I get to experience is the audience a lot of times. Hopefully this time I will have more than a couple hours.
Danielle Miess can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.