The rising guitar star blends classic and psych-rock, Motown, and more influences with modern pop flourishes in songs replete with fat, fuzzy, fizzy tones from her new Epiphone Sheraton signature.
For so many artists, the return of live shows means the return of the thrill of performing, much-needed income, and, in a way, purpose. The third definitely goes for guitarist Emily Wolfe, who, when asked about her goals, immediately responds, "I just want to play arenas every night for the rest of my life. When I go up there, something could hit me at any point—an emotion that I felt 10 years ago could come out in a bend on the low E."
As she sharpens her sound, Wolfe is helping to keep the rock genre alive—not by mimicry or séance, but by taking the grit of the past and expanding it with a broader emotional vocabulary, confidently concise guitar work, and pop-inspired arrangements.
Wolfe, who's toured and performed with Gary Clark Jr., the Toadies, Heart, and the Pretenders, doesn't get why people can be so confounded by the third descriptor. "Some of my rock friends say, 'Pop isn't relevant,' and I'm like, 'What are you talking about—it's everywhere!' It's so sticky for people, and that's really fascinating to me. I want my music to have that quality … but also the realness of a raw guitar tone."
Epiphone Exclusive | “No Man” by Emily Wolfe
What's exciting about her latest full-length release, Outlier, is how she captures exactly what she's talking about. The songs bleed like a wounded gunslinger over a silvery backdrop of deftly layered synths, tight vocal harmonies, and blended acoustic and electronic drums. Over the course of the album, she sings, "I just can't get close enough to you," ("Vermillion Park"), "I'm addicted to the broken," ("Never Gonna Learn"), and "I'll chase you 'til my lungs give out," ("My Lungs Give Out"). It's through her adept genre fusion and aching romanticism that Wolfe offers her audience something to connect with that's not just clever, but also powerful.
"An emotion that I felt 10 years ago could come out in a bend on the low E."
Stone Age Methods
Outlier was produced by Michael Shuman, bassist of Queens of the Stone Age, who Wolfe describes as "like, the coolest guy that I've ever seen in my life." It started out as a long-distance project, as she's based in Austin and Shuman is in Los Angeles. They sent demos back and forth before Wolfe went into the studio in the fall of 2020. (She was later joined by bassist Evan Nicholson and drummer Clellan Hyatt.) With Shuman's encouragement, Wolfe set aside perfectionist leanings and took a more adventurous approach to the recording process than she had in the past.
Emily Wolfe's semi-hollow Epiphone signature model, the Sheraton Stealth, is a modern take on John Lee Hooker's longtime favorite, the Sheraton. It has a layered maple body with a mahogany neck, signature inlays, a Tune-o-matic bridge, CTS pots, two volume controls and one tone control, and Epiphone's Alnico Classic PRO pickups.
Photo by Barbara FG
On her 2019 self-titled first album, Wolfe exacted every tone before entering the studio, but this time around, she allowed more room for spontaneity, which made things far more relaxed. "It was easy to get into the flow and be really present," she says. "I think I'll probably do the next record like that because it was a lot more fun." One trick she made use of with engineer Michael Harris involved an MPC (music production center) controller and a few floppy discs of drum samples. Throughout the recording process, the samples were layered on top of the acoustic drums.
But that experimentalism came with some apprehension. "I said to [Shuman], 'How am I going to replicate this sound live?'" Wolfe says. "He was like, 'It doesn't matter, dude, just make the best record you can and figure out the live stuff later.'" Shuman's attitude toward recording contributed to the flexible atmosphere that enabled Wolfe to evolve, but not without some challenges. "There was one instance when, on 'Damage Control,' I didn't have anything prepared [for the solo]," she says, "and he was like, 'Go up to my living room and write something and come back down when you have it.'"
"If I get a new piece of gear, I have to figure out every single part of it before I can really use it."
The Persistence of Pop
On Outlier,Wolfe's ambition was to create a golden blend of classic eras, drawing upon '60s Motown, '70s glam, '80s synth-pop, and '90s grunge to produce something as enduring as those styles. "If you listen to Motown, in the first minute or so, the hook is there. I wanted to bring that in, too," she relates. "There's so much rawness [to classic rock]; the edges are not perfect, but there's a magic in that. There's also the side of modern stuff where the edges are really perfect and very computerized. I wanted to mix those together and see what would happen."
Wolfe believes that modern pop stars are not given enough credit for their work ethic, daring, and conceptual talent. If you doubt that, consider Carly Rae Jepsen, who wrote 200 songs in the course of producing her albums Emotion (2015) and Dedicated (2019). And there's the prolific Ed Sheeran, who in 2015 sold out the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium for three nights in a row as a solo act, and Swedish writer and producer Max Martin, who's written 25 No. 1 hits (split among 10 different artists), which is five more than the Beatles have as a band. "I have a theory that Max Martin is an alien. He's in the Illuminati, I swear to God," says Wolfe, laughing.
Emily Wolfe's Gear
Although she has just two albums, Wolfe‚ caught here onstage at Cambridge, Massachusetts' Middle East nightclub in November 2021, released three singles and an EP before her first full-length, Emily Wolfe, arrived in 2019. Her new Outlier shows remarkable album-to-album growth.
Photo by Brent Goldman
- Epiphone Emily Wolfe Sheraton Stealth
- 2018 Gibson Firebird
- Fender Hot Rod DeVille 4x10
String and Picks
- Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt (.010–.046)
- Dunlop Tortex Jazz III .88 mm picks
- RJM Mastermind PBC/10 switcher
- Origin Effects Cali76
- Dunlop Cry Baby Q Zone
- EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle
- EarthQuaker Devices Dirt Transmitter
- MXR Six Band EQ
- Fulltone OCD
- Klon KTR
- Walrus Audio Julia Analog Chorus
- MXR Carbon Copy
- Strymon Flint Tremolo and Reverb
- Vertex Boost
"The backbone of so much of our industry is pop," she continues, expressing her admiration for artists like Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande, and pop production as a whole. "I try to dive in and analyze: 'How did this producer make this song stick in my head immediately and live in my soul?' If it comes on in a restaurant and I know every word.… I want my music to have that."
An Ear for Overdrive
We mentioned earlier that Wolfe can be exacting when it comes to finding the right tone. She fuels those analytical tendencies with as much gear knowledge as she can imbibe, saying that she feels lost if she doesn't know something about a piece of gear in her palette. "If I get a new piece of gear, I have to figure out every single part of it before I can really use it," she says.
TIDBIT: Wolfe's latest album was produced by Michael Shuman, bassist of Queens of the Stone Age. The guitarist describes Shuman as "like, the coolest guy that I've ever seen in my life," and he encouraged her most adventurous work.
In her spare time, Wolfe explores every pedal she can get her hands on and entertains herself by searching for the perfect combination for her signature sound. She's put together a "desert island board" comprised of three pedals: the EarthQuaker Devices Tentacle analog octave-up pedal, running into a Fulltone OCD, and an MXR Six Band EQ. "That's the sound that belongs to me," she says. The sequence creates a "crazy fuzztone" from the overdrive. Then she uses the EQ to reduce some of the lows and boost the mids for a sound she says will get her guitar to cut through any mix.
She says she never really liked using chorus until she stumbled across the Walrus Audio Julia Analog Chorus/Vibrato pedal. "It's pretty inspiring. 'My Lungs Give Out' was pretty much because of that pedal," she shares. "It kind of wrote the intro for me." The song's gentle vocal and subtle use of the pedal in the intro, followed by her singing paralleled by quietly distorted guitar in the pre-chorus, calls St. Vincent to mind. That's a comparison Wolfe responds to favorably.
Rig Rundown - Emily Wolfe
On top of her signature pedal combination, Wolfe now has a signature guitar. In March, Epiphone debuted the Emily Wolfe Sheraton Stealth, a black, semi-hollowbody electric guitar with diamond-shaped soundholes and gold hardware, set up with two Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers. "The Stealth is my dream guitar and gift to the music community," says Wolfe. "Playing it is like putting on a perfectly worn-in pair of jeans. It just fits. The guitar is the perfect frequency range for my soul." And for her music—from her stinging blues-rock bedrock to the expressionist colors of her newest work. (It was first featured in our Rig Rundown above.)
Wolfe was only 5 when she found herself intensely drawn to the guitar after seeing one hanging on the wall at a thrift shop. That instrument became her first. But it wasn't until she was in high school that she fell in love with it, which is also when Wolfe first got into songwriting. Her early creative process involved writing down lyrics by L.A. indie-rockers Rogue Wave, her favorite band at the time, on one side of a page, then writing her own lyrics on the other. "They obviously weren't great," she says, "but over time I sharpened that skill."
Wolfe has a reputation for high-energy shows that bring the bones of her songs and the classic rock and blues foundation of her guitar playing to the fore.
Photo by Brent Goldman
Today, she fosters a kind of spiritual connection with her music. "Whenever I get an idea, I try to nurture it and treat it like this thing that wants to be born, then listen to it and what it wants to be," she says. She remembers that someone once suggested she pray to the song she wants to write, to make sure it comes from her and no one else. This advice made a lasting impression. "I was like, 'Oh shit, okay,'" she laughs. "Sometimes I'm like, all of these artists that have passed away—where did their talent go? Where did their songs go? Maybe they're sending these songs down to other people."
In a more concrete sense, Outlier is a departure from Wolfe's first album, which was slightly more traditional and featured a guitar solo on almost every song. Switching her mental focus to hooks and arrangements breathed new life into her writing. While she still feels proud of her earlier work, Wolfe feels she's headed in the right direction. "I wanted to make something that would be classic 10, 20, 30 years from now," she says. "That was the goal, and I think we achieved it."
Emily Wolfe - Damage Control (live in the studio)
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For these new recreations, Fender focuses on the little things that make original golden-era Fenders objects of obsession.
If there’s one thing players love more than new guitars, it’s old guitars—the unique feel, the design idiosyncrasies, the quirks in finish that all came from the pre-CNC era of instrument manufacturing. These characteristics become the stuff of legend, passed on through the years via rumors and anecdotes in shops, forums, and community networks.
It’s a little difficult to separate fact from fiction given these guitars aren’t easy to get your hands on. Fender Telecasters manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s sell for upwards of $20,000. But old is about to become new again. Fender’s American Vintage II series features 12 year-specific electric guitar and bass models from over two decades, spanning 1951 to 1977, that replicate most specs on their original counterparts, but are produced with modern technologies that ensure uniform build and feel.
Chronologically, the series begins and ends, fittingly, with the Telecaster—starting with the butterscotch blonde, blackguard 1951 Telecaster (built with an ash body, one-piece U-shaped maple neck, and 7.25" radius fretboard) and ending with the 1977 Telecaster Custom, which features a C-shaped neck, a CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range humbucker in the neck position, and a single-coil at the bridge. The rest of the series spans the highlights of Fender’s repertoire: the 1954 Precision Bass, 1957 Stratocaster in ash or alder, 1960 Precision Bass, 1961 Stratocaster, 1963 Telecaster, 1966 Jazz Bass, 1966 Jazzmaster, 1972 Tele Thinline, 1973 Strat, and 1975 Telecaster Deluxe. The 1951 Telecaster, 1957 Strat, 1961 Strat, and 1966 Jazz Bass will also be offered as left-handed models. Street prices run from $2,099 to $2,399.
Fender '72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First Look
Spec’d To Please
Every guitar in the series sports the era’s 7.25" radius fretboard, a mostly abandoned spec found on Custom Shop instruments—Mexico-made Vintera models, and Fender’s Artist Series guitars like the Jimmy Page, Jason Isbell, and Albert Hammond Jr. models. Most modern Fenders feature a 9.5" radius, while radii on Gibsons reach upwards of 12". Videos experimenting with the 7.25" radius’ playability pull in tens of thousands of viewers, suggesting both a modern fascination with and a lack of exposure to the radius among some younger and less experienced players.
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne picks an American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster in Dakota red.
Bringing back the polarizing 7.25" radius across the entire series is a gamble, and it’s been nearly five years since Fender released year-specific models. But Fender executive vice president Justin Norvell says that two years ago when the Fender brain trust was conceptualizing the American Vintage II line, they decided the time was right to “go back to the well.”
“We’ve been doing the same [models], the same years, over and over again for 30 years,” says Norvell. “We really wanted to change the line and expand it into some new things that we hadn’t done before and pick some different years that we thought were cool.”
“It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”—Steve Thomas, Fender
To decide on which years to produce, Fender drew from what Norvell calls a “huge cauldron of information” from Custom Shop master builders to collectors with vintage models to former employees from the 1950s and 1960s. The hands-on manufacturing of Fender’s golden years meant guitars produced within the same year would have marked differences in design and finish. So, the team had to procure multiple versions of the same year’s guitar to decide which models to replicate. Norvell says some purists would advocate for the “cleanest, most down-the-middle kind of variant,” while others would push for more esoteric and rare versions. Norvell says that ultimately, the team picked the models that they felt best represented “the throughline of history on our platforms.”
Simple and agile, the Fender Precision Bass—here in its new American Vintage II ’54 incarnation—earned its reputation in the hands of Bill Black, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and other foundational players.
Norvell says the American Vintage II series was developed, in part, in response to calls to reproduce vintage guitars. Just like with classic cars, he says, people are passionate about year-specific guitars. Plus, American Vintage II fits perfectly with the pandemic-stoked yearning for bygone times. “For some people, these specific years are representative of experiences they had when they were first playing guitar, or a favorite artist that played guitars from these eras,” says Norvell. “These are touchstones for those stories, and that makes them very desirable.”
Fender’s electric guitar research and design team, led by director Steve Thomas, dug through the company’s archive of original drawings and designs—dating all the way back to Leo Fender’s original shop in Fullerton, California. They found detailed notes, including some documenting body woods that changed mid-year on certain models. Halfway through 1956, for example, Stratocaster bodies switched from ash to alder. That meant the American Vintage II 1957 Stratocaster needed to be alder, too. That, in turn, meant ensuring enough alder was on hand to fulfill production needs.
Among the series’ Stratocaster recreations is this 1973-style instrument, with an ash body, maple C-profile neck, rosewood fretboard, and the company’s Pure Vintage single-coils.
Thomas and his team discovered another piece of the production puzzle when researching how pickups for that same 1957 Strat were made. “We realized that if we incorporated a little bit more pinch control on the winders, we could more effectively mimic the way pickups would have been hand-wound in the ’50s,” says Thomas. “It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”
Thomas proudly calls the guitars “some of the best instruments we’ve ever made here in the Fender plant,” pointing to the level of detail put into design features, including more delicate lacquer finishes which take longer to cure and dry, and vintage-correct tweed cases for some guitars. New pickups were incorporated in the series, like a reworking of Seth Lover’s famed CuNiFe Wide Range humbuckers, which were discontinued around 1981. Even more minute details, like the width of 12th fret dots and the material used for them, were labored over. Three different models in the line feature clay dot inlays at unique, year-specific spacings.
Ironically, modern CNC manufacturing now makes these design quirks consistent features in mass-produced instruments. While the hand-crafted guitars from the ’50s and ’60s varied a lot from instrument to instrument. “Everything needs to be located perfectly, and it wasn’t necessarily back in the day,” says Norvell. “Now, it can be.”
Don’t Look Back
With this new series so firmly planted in the rose-tinted past, Fender does run the risk of netting only vintage-obsessed players. But Norvell says the team, despite being sticklers for period-correct detail, sought to strike a balance between vintage specs, practicality, and playability. The 1957 Stratocaster, for example, has a 5-way switch rather than the original’s 3-way switch. Norvell also asserts that the “ergonomic” old-school radius feels great when chording. “It might not be [right for] a shred machine, but it feels great and effortless.”
The 1966 Jazz Bass is also represented, shown here in a left-handed version.
Norvell also pushes back on the notion that Fender is playing it safe by indulging nostalgia and leaning on their past successes. He says that while the vintage models are some of the most desirable on the market, the team “purposely did not stick to the safe bets,” citing unusual year models like the 1954 P Bass and the 1973 Stratocaster.There’s a good reason why anything that hails back to “the good ol’ days” hits home with every generation. We’re constantly plagued by a belief that what came before is better than what we’ve got now. But with the American Vintage II series, Fender makes the case that guitars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s can very easily be a relevant part of the 2020s.
The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment.
Introducing the Red Sea, an all-analog signal routing matrix, designed for countless stereo and mono signal path routing options. The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment. The Red Sea has accomplished this in a compact, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution.
Wet | Dry | Wet
The Red Sea gives you the ability to run a FULL Stereo wet dry wet rig using only 2 amps or just 2 signals to the FOH, while also giving you complete control over your Wet & Dry mix! Use the Blend knob to control the overall mix between stereo wet effects and mono dry/drive signals.
Stereo Dual Amps
Run dual amp modelers if full stereo w/ stereo effects. Gone are the traditional ways of one amp in the Left channel and another in the Right channel. Now use the Red Sea to seamlessly blend between two separate amps in true stereo. Think of this as a 2-channel amp where you can blend anywhere between both amps.
Stereo Parallel FX
Red Sea has two independent stereo FX loops. Use each FX loop to run stereo delay's and reverb's in parallel, where each effect does not interact with each other. Huge soundscapes can be achieved with washy reverbs and articulate delay repeats while being able to blend between each FX loops mix level.
The Red Sea can also do the following routing options:
- Wet | Dry utilizing a single amp
- Clean Wet | Dry | Wet (drives DO NOT run into wet effects)
- Wet | Dry | Wet with dual delays (one in the L channel & other in R channel)
- Parallel Dual Amps (run dual amp modelers in FULL stereo)
- Convert a tube amp's serial FX Loop to a parallel FX Loop
- Stereo and Mono analog dry through (avoid latency in digital pedals)
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct amplifier models.
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct maxed-out amplifier models. An all-analog signal path with discrete gain stages featuring MOSFET transistors provides juicy overdrive tones with great note separation that clean up to that sparkly sound that we all love and heard in recordings of the past. Set gain and tone and control everything from your guitar. Sparkly clean to crunchy mean are all there.
You can select the amplifier voicing via the onboard toggle switch.
BSM: Voiced after a blackface amp head that was primarily targeted for bass guitar players but got famous for electric guitar classic rock tones.
VLX: Voiced after a chimey 2x10” combo offering the perfect amount of controllable crunch
DLX: Voiced after one of the most popular low wattage 1×12″ combo amps that have found their way in countless recording studios and clubs around the world.
Stardust V3 now comes with top-mounted jacks and soft-click true bypass via a high-quality relay. The pedal has loads of output volume and enhanced headroom provided by 18V DC (boosted internally) so that it can also be used as a preamp going straight into your Power Amp or AudioInterface when combined with a separate speaker simulation device.
Street price: 199 Euro / 199 USD.
For more information, please visit crazytubecircuits.com.
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original and includes a third footswitch.
Sunn O))) present an enhanced version of the Sunn O))) Life Pedal Octave Distortion + Booster, in collaboration with their comrades at EarthQuaker Devices. The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original to squeeze every last drop of heavy crushing tone available. The octave section has been fine tuned to make it more pronounced without losing the bottom end and we added a third footswitch, utilizing Flexi-Switch Technology, for the octave to allow an additional method of quick and radical tone shaping.
“Working on this new version has been a great continuity of this collaboration which feels so right, and sounds so right,” says Stephen O’Malley. “It’s a really beautiful pedal and it’s also a beautiful art collaboration. I think we made something really interesting that people can enjoy to use for their own music, but also, it makes a lot of sense to release a piece of distortion as a release for our band. We’re really happy that this is a trilogy now.”
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal is designed to represent the core front end chain used in those sessions, to drive the tubes of the band’s multiple vintage Sunn O))) Model T amplifiers (or take your fancy) into overload ecstasy. This is a 100w tube amp full stack’s holy dream, or its apostate nightmare.
Sunn O))) Life Pedal is a distortion with a blendable analog octave up and a booster
- Features 3 different clipping options: Symmetrical Silicon, Asymmetrical Silicon & LED, and pure OpAmp Drive
- Distortion and booster can be used independently
- Expression and footswitch control over analog octave up
- Octave blend allows total control over how much Octave is mixed into the circuit
- True bypass with silent relay based soft touch switches
- Features EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary Flexi-Switch® Technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Current Draw: 15 mA
- Octave Distortion: Input impedance: 1 MΩ / Output impedance: <1 kΩ
- Booster: Input Impedance: 500 kΩ / Output Impedance: <1 kΩ
- List Price: $299 USD