Aspiring rock stars dream of becoming household names in their 20s, but when Nashville-based Americana artist, Tim Wolf, was that age, he fantasized about creating a household consumer brand. The lifelong musician and entrepreneur did taste business-world stardom, winning prestigious industry awards; developing inventions that rewarded him with two US patents; and living in chic and exotic locales like New York and Japan. Yet, the grind got him down, and, by 2014, Wolf found himself at his wit’s end.
One fateful day, a buddy intervened. He marched into Wolf’s office and demanded he shut down his enervating business ventures and pursue his dreams. “My friend metaphorically hit me on the head with a two by four. Things were so gray and dreary, and music just felt like sunshine and beautiful flowers. As soon as he left the office, I vowed to do music full time,” Wolf recalls. Within 24 hours Wolf listed real estate for sale which would allow him to restructure. He adds: “After it was sold, I was completely free to pursue my musical dreams full time.”
To date, Wolf has released a brace of singles, the Castle Built of Cards EP, and next he will issue his full-length debut, Everything I Learned In Grade School. In addition, since he’s fired up his artist career, Wolf has toured regionally and internationally. So far a career milestone has been touring Ukraine and Poland which climaxed with Wolf headlining the Stara Fortetsya Festival in Trostyanets, Ukraine.
His songs are those of the lone wolf—masculine but sensitive, romantic but ill-fated. Wolf a storyteller of hard luck and heartbreak. Wolf’s music is informed by the blues—he’s a lyrical and economic lead guitar player—but contextualized by Americana, that sweet spot where country, folk, and blues overlap, and songs come first. His vocals have a patina that’s both paternal and mythical—as if he’s singing from years of hard road living. Wolf’s song’s invite comparisons to Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler, Rhett Miller, and Jason Isbell.
Wolf’s earthy musicality no doubt is tied to his rural upbringing in South Dakota where he grew up on a large but lonely farm. Despite being a natural at living off the land, Wolf had big city aspirations and earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and set off for the wilds of the business world where he tasted success and excess. Eventually, he tired of the glitz, and brought his enterprising spirit back home.
Back in South Dakota, he pursued various entrepreneurial endeavors while overseeing the family farm. Away from the din and excitement of a life in business, his love of music began to surface. He had been playing guitar since grade school, and continued to practice, perform, and evolve as a musician throughout his adult life. He even picked up the saxophone later in life and began gigging semi-professionally with a cover band.
A series of events recalibrated Wolf’s journey from being landlocked by his family’s farm in South Dakota. His cover band dissolved, and a bubbling-under urge to be a front man, and his friend’s urgent request that he pursue music galvanized him into making some profound changes. He sold the farm, and decided to go all-in with music and move to Nashville in 2017.
It wasn’t an easy transition. The reality of a career in music hasn’t necessarily been the sunshine and beautiful flowers Wolf envisioned. In the wilds of Music City, Wolf rubbed shoulders with powerful producers interested in his talents, but hypercritical of his abilities. “I’ve been broken down so many times,” he admits. “My first reaction was to quit because I felt like I would never amount to anything. I remember thinking what would be the fastest route to sell my gear, but there’s nothing I would rather do than play music.”
However, he’s emerged from it all with dignity, grace, and an impressive back catalog of songs. He’s earned the stamp of approval of working with in-demand Nashville producer and singer-songwriter, Kenny Schick. Schick and Wolf worked together on his upcoming debut album, Everything I Learned in Grade School. That title is pinched from a quip a producer made while listening to one of Wolf’s tracks, remarking that his tasty blues licks were somehow pedestrian—“I learned those in grade school,” the producer exclaimed. To his credit, Wolf did take the hard scrapes in stride, feeling the pain, but also growing from the advice. He fine-tuned his vocals, easing them back into the pocket, but he stayed true to his gutsy and achingly beautiful lead guitar playing.
A sneak peek at his upcoming album produced by Schick includes the smoldering pop-rock track “Earthquake In A Bottle,” the gut-wrenching “A Million Little Hearts,” and the boldly vulnerable piano ballad, “Frequency.” The stunning “Earthquake In A Bottle” conjures the sleek groove-pop of prime 1970s Fleetwood Mac with a captivating romantic narrative. Here, Wolf’s writing is sexy and clever, one choice passage is A palindrome in human form/Like poetry upside down/She looks as good from any direction you can see.
Wolf’s EP Castle Built of Cards EP is available now on all digital sales and streaming platforms. Two highlights on this six-song EP include “Born In South Dakota” and “Castle Built of Cards,” both are co-written by guitarist Jimmy Davis. The swampy “Born In South Dakota” is both a storyteller and a scene-setting song, conveying a mythically grand perspective of Wolf’s home state through the Deadwood series saga of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The lyrics are ominously evocative and feature such imaginative lines as: As the cold blows thru your bones/A man knows he’s alone/When he understands the wind can smell your fear I was born in South Dakota/Born in South Dakota. The EP title track features some of Wolf’s finest lead guitar playing, and his tasty melodic-blues playing evokes Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. His vocals are low-register and understated and tell the story of a temptress woman who hoodwinks the male protagonist, using her charms and deceptive ideals to lure him into a trap.
The Nashville chapter in Wolf’s life has been both hard fought and triumphant. Up next, Wolf will be releasing his debut album, and touring to support the 14-cut album. The road has been reaffirming and grounding for Wolf, especially the festival in Ukraine. “When I went on, the audience was clapping and singing along from the first song,” he remembers. “It felt amazing, otherworldly, and I’m excited to hit the road again!”