Ira Wolf Music
Ira Wolf is a new-folk singer from Montana who has found her voice all over the world. She has been on and off the road touring solo since summer 2014. This gives her the opportunity to share her Americana melodies all around the country and dive into nature in her down time. Solo travel has taught Ira to embrace fear and gain confidence.
Interview with Ira below.
Meet Smiling Ira
How did your lifestyle come to be?
Almost two years ago I found myself feeling extremely defeated. I had moved to Nashville about a year previous, and had some expectations of how quickly things would move and who would be instrumental in my musical journey. I was quickly confronted with the reality that my career wasn’t just going to happen on it’s own, but I had no idea how to move forward. After chatting with a friend who was feeling a lot of the same stress we thought ‘Why can’t we just start doing it on our own?’ The truth of the matter was that I had no experience in booking shows, I didn’t have an album to sell, and I didn’t even know how to plan a road trip. I had a good job, a nice home, and some extra savings, but being secure also meant feeling stagnant. And so, in the summer of 2014 I quit my job and started blindly scheduling small tours. Since then, I’ve continued booking shows and staying on the road as much as I can.
When did you know you wanted to be a full-time musician?
I’ve known without a doubt from as early on as I can remember. There was never anything else that felt right. I always dreamed of performing, and got started fairly young with piano at age 5, voice lessons at 12, and guitar around 16. It wasn’t until my 20’s that I knew I wanted to tour full time. I suppose I caught the wanderlust bug and stopped being good at staying in one place. Plus, I loved the idea that traveling the world could potentially be a huge part of my full-time job.
What’s your travel vehicle like? Do you typically drive solo for shows?
I’ve been traveling in a Buick Rendezvous this year. It’s basically a ‘mom van’ that looks a little less ‘mom-ish’. I’ve loved having something that I can sleep in whenever I want to, but it’s still sturdy enough to trek into the mountains, which is perfect. It has a few quirks for sure; I have to roll down my window and I can only open my door from the outside, and the gas gauge doesn’t work, so I do a lot of guessing when it comes to filling up, but so far it’s been a trooper.
I’ve toured a lot with other acts and sometimes with band members, but recently I’ve begun doing a lot more solo work as the routes get bigger and the time on the road gets longer. I don’t mind going alone though. I find that it pushes me outside of my comfort zone and creates a space for me to meet more people and experience the road on my own terms. I do miss having someone to take over the driving responsibilities when I get sleepy though.
Where has your tour taken you?
This current tour started in Nashville (my pseudo home-base) in July, and took me through the midwest, northwest, and southwest states. I spent a majority of my time the northwest though. I grew up in Montana and am pretty partial to that area of the United States, both for music and the mountains.
In what ways does music allow you to connect with others on the road?
Music has a way of instantly drawing people together, so whether it’s at a show or a campfire, I find that I’m more open and honest with people when music is involved. There are a lot of great festivals and music events that attract a specific type of person, and I’ve loved feeling like I’m instantly part of a community in those places. I also love the chance to listen to other people’s songs, and share my own in small settings. It feels like everyone is spilling their most personal life stories, and it’s a really unique way to learn about who somebody is.
You’ve solo-traveled in Europe and Asia as well. How did that prepare you for the United States?
Before I started my European and Asian adventures I’d never done any solo travel, and was scared to death to take on such a such a huge endeavor on my own, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t jump at the opportunity. I’m so glad I did too, because it made solo travel in the states much less intimidating. Being overseas definitely influenced my perspective and my writing a lot, too. I’d never experienced a lot of the cultures that I was immersed in, and I had to learn to rely on myself or on strangers, rather than my phone or my friends. It was truly incredible how confident I became in myself through those travels. I felt brave and sure of who I was, and ready to take on anything, and I still like to reflect on those experiences when I feel my self confidence slipping.
Take a photo of your five must have items for road travel.
1: Acoustic guitar. It’s not only my main source of income, but it’s also what helps me express myself in the world.
2: Chacos. I’ve had this pair for nearly six years and they’ve accompanied me on all of my greatest adventures. Perfect for hiking, swimming, or any kind of outdoor shenanigans.
3: Hiking Pack. I do as much hiking and camping as possible between shows, and my pack has come in handy for a lot of overnights and spontaneous treks.
4: Journals. I keep two journals with me at all times; one for details of my travels, lyrics, or emotional venting, and one that asks the writer a question every day for five years.
5: Cold Smoke. Any time I make it to Montana I stock up on my favorite beer from home, to make sure I always have some on the nights when I feel a little homesick, or just need to decompress after a rough show.
What have you learned about yourself on the road?
I’ve learned that I’m a lot more capable than I thought I could be. I had a habit of building my life and my future by relying on other people to take care of things. I used to be afraid of the world, and now I find that the greatest things I’ve seen/done are those that scared me at first. Being on the road alone has made me realize that I can handle anything that’s thrown at me, and fix things on my own, because if I don’t, nobody else will.
What’s your ideal sleeping location?
In a sleeping bag on the top of a mountain.
Where are you now and where will you be in one month?
I’m currently in Montana for a few days. I actually flew up to play a show while the Buick is having some work done in Tennessee. Next month I will be in the southern states, touring through Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee.
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