Music is a way to connect strangers, says singer Wolffe
Aalai Wolffe chose St David’s Battery for her music video, Letter.
She completed the set with furnishings she hijacked from her home and recorded mainly in black and white.
Her idea was to make her song the star of the show.
“I rented a plant from Aberfeldy and I used a bench from the porch at my house and I got the rug from my bedroom and books I have in my room and that’s how I created the set,” the 23-year-old said, explaining that her goal was to create the illusion of a living room in the outdoors.
“I put it in black and white because I didn’t want anyone to get distracted by the colours of the video. I wanted it to be so you focus on what’s actually happening in the video and connect it to the song itself. Even when the video does go into colour, they’re kind of muted, neutral tones.”
She took on the project with no experience at all. From her viewpoint, a video was the logical way of concluding what she started when she paired the song she wrote with the beat she bought online, and shared them with the public.
“I wanted it to be really simple and easy to watch. I didn’t want to do anything too complex – I don’t have all the money in the world, I have to be strategic about how I create. But I do believe that people can be creative and make something beautiful without having to [spend a lot].”
Although a likely fit in either the “R & B or neo soul” genres, Ms Wolffe thinks poetry is a better way of explaining her work.
“If I was to describe it with my own terms I would just say pure expression, honest expression, raw expression; poetry with music.
“It was recorded here. It was mixed and mastered overseas. I feel like if you have a song you kind of have to do a video for it, with a single. And I think, because this is a really beautiful song, I think visuals just completed it all. [Also], we’re in an age now where technology’s on the rise and a lot of people, their attention span is really, really short. So with music they’re listening to it but, because they’re not seeing something people may not gravitate towards it. You kind of have to complete the package.”
Being creative is an art she learnt from her father, Earlwin Wolffe. The comedian, who performs as “Bootsie”, taught her a lot about entertaining.
“He taught me that stage presence is key; about connecting with an audience – he’s so great at it. I’m still learning. Talking to people, being personable, he’s taught me how to do that as well. He’s played a big part with my music and just raising me as a person.”
With the latter, her mother Alvona played an equal role; she also passed on her love of the “old school music” that frequently played in their home.
Ms Wolffe started out with dance lessons. Interested in singing she made the switch and, sometime around middle school, took voice lessons for “a bit”.
She went back to it in high school where she progressed with the help of a few vocal coaches; the late Marcelle Clemens “was really, really great”.
“I was never consistent with it just because I was a teenager and I just didn’t feel like going at the time,” she laughed.
“I didn’t really take it seriously until about three or four years ago but I can definitely say, looking back, the fundamentals that I learnt from my vocal coaches definitely help today.”
Mindful of Covid-19 she’s training on her own at the moment, often mimicking other singers as a means of practice.
“Because I wasn’t taking my music that seriously before, I could probably have gone to a vocal class every day but it probably wouldn’t have helped me because I wasn’t dedicated and consistent with it. So now just being grounded with what I want to do has helped me to push a little bit more.”
Her father gave her one of her first gigs.
“I’ve only had two performances ever. I performed at the Ag Show a few years ago and then I performed for my dad’s birthday a few years ago as well. I can say even now, because I haven’t been on stage much, it is nerve-racking especially because you’re in front of people that you probably see on a daily basis.”
A bit nervous when she released the video on October 31 she’s thrilled with the response she’s received.
“The song itself, Letter, has been out for a year and a half maybe. I had been putting off a music video just because I didn’t know what to do. I’d never done a music video before.
“I didn’t know who to hire to shoot it; I didn’t know what concept I wanted to do so I just put it off. And then during [the lockdown period] I was like look, the song’s there. It’s a really good song.”
She continued: “I’m really surprised and pleased that so many people do like the song and do like the video. And I can’t wait to do more things that people like as well.”
Letter played on Hott 107.5 for a while. It’s now available on “all the general streaming platforms – iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify …”
“The video is obviously on YouTube. But it is difficult to promote music here because it’s a concentrated audience; we’re a small place.”
As far as the future, Ms Wolffe hopes to continue making music although her endgame isn’t the fame and fortune many entertainers seek.
“I don’t really like to think too far ahead because I don’t like to disappoint myself if I say I’m going to be at this place in X amount of years and I don’t get there,” she said. “Now that doesn’t mean I’m not determined to succeed or do the best that I can, I just don’t want to think too far ahead.
“I just do my music to express myself and to create and to connect with people. So I guess I could say I see myself in the future connecting with more people and allowing more people to express themselves through music because I feel it just connects everybody. It’s unspoken. It’s a connection that everybody has. There’s probably ten strangers right now [who are unknowingly connected] by having the same favourite song.”
Follow Aalai Wolffe on Instagram: @aalaism