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Interview: Carolina Liar’s Chad Wolf Talks Touring and “Going For Broke” on Wild Blessed Freedom

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L.A.-based rockers Carolina Liar returned to the music scene earlier this year with their independent sophomore record Wild Blessed Freedom. In support of their latest endeavor, the band (Chad Wolf, Rickard Göransson, Johan Carlsson, and Peter Carlsson) hit the road with David Cook and Gavin DeGraw in October. When that tour ended, the guys stayed out on the road with Cook through the end of November.

Chad Wolf of Carolina Liar - credit: CarolinaLiar.comLast week, a couple days after wrapping up his time on the road and also becoming a dad, lead singer Wolf took some time out to talk with me about the band’s experience on the road with Cook and DeGraw, their new record, and what’s up next for the band in the new year.

I believe I should start out by saying congratulations!

Oh, yeah. [laughs] It’s been kind of a crazy week. It’s kind of amazing.

So, the fans want to know – boy or a girl?

Oh, it’s a boy! Healthy, seven pounds or so. He’s got a humongous head of hair, like his dad and mom. He’s gonna be a big hippie, I can tell already. [laughs]

Ah, that’s exciting! So earlier in the week, you guys wrapped up your tour with David Cook; how would you describe that experience?

Oh, the whole tour with David was awesome. Man, he’s great. He took care of us like family. He had all the guys over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner, with him and his brother, his mom and grandparents. He took care of everybody. He’s a really good guy. He’s got a lot of really loyal fans that had never heard of us before, so getting to play for those guys was a really good tour for us, in that sense. He has pretty big crowds at those shows, and so him letting us come out and really letting us play for his audience in a lot of ways was a big kind of, I guess, a hand up for us. I hope we can return the favor with some of the people that we brought out for his shows.

Both David and Gavin DeGraw have these built-in audiences, so was there any kind of pressure performing in front of them?

Yeah, you know, there always is. Because, in a lot of ways you’re a guest to the party. In that sense, it’s a good thing being the opener, because at that point you’re there really kind of as a cheerleader, to show that this is meant to be a good time tonight, everybody’s supposed to have fun and let’s just get this thing started the right way. We’re kind of a fun band for that.

That pressure, being in that position, created by playing for
built-in audiences is something that can really drive you to put on a
better show for everybody. Most of time, most people are going to have
doubts about somebody opening for the band they really want to see. In
that sense, if you come and really try and be humble about getting the
opportunity, I think people are very receptive to it.

I was at the show in Santa Rosa, and I noticed that the people around me when you guys played “I’m Not Over” and “Show Me What I’m Looking For,” were like, “Oh…that band!”

Totally. [laughs] That happens so much. It’s kind of great, though.
It’s funny, you think about how many hits you’ve had on MySpace and
all the media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, all the time you think that
in some small way things would kind of gradually move out like that,
but it really requires a lot of work to kind of get that thing where
something connects to people and they know the name.

I’m not really afraid of doing the work; to get out there and do it. That’s why that
tour was so great for us. Hopefully we’ll be able to go out with those
guys more in the future or more bands like that, so we can keep building up our own career and kind of helping create kind of a crazy night for everybody.

I would definitely enjoy seeing you guys go back out on the road together. There really seemed to be a great camaraderie between both of your bands.

Oh, we were having the time of our lives out there. It’s was a boys club out there. Really, it was. Everybody in all the bands were really great musicians. There wasn’t really like a weak band by any means, so everybody was trying to out-play each other in kind of that, you know, the way guys try to out-drive each other even though they’re best friends. That kind of competitive thing was there, just having fun with it; people throwing picks at each other, bottles of water and trying to mess each other’s show up, that kind of thing. It was really a good time. [laughs]

We’re all talking to each other still, [made] lifelong contacts. With everything that was going on the other day, everybody was giving me high-fives and sending me letters of good hope, because we’re all family at this point. When you spend that much time with everybody out on the road, living that close to each other, you really kind of learn to take care of each other and really kind of nurture each other as family. It was cool. We’d really love to go back out and do that more.

Do you have a favorite moment from this tour?

I wouldn’t say I had one specific moment, in general. I know that Santa Rosa show was absolutely madness. I don’t why in particular that show was one of those ones where things got super crazy for everybody. Gavin had a great show that night, same for David, all of us. I think that was kind of the point in the tour where everybody kind of clicked at a different level. That was a great tour.

There was a moment where we were all playing football before a show in Oklahoma. We were just throwing a football around for about a half-hour. It was just the strangest thing, looking at all these characters that are out, like at the back of this cool, old club, but really rundown part of town. Like what in the world are all these guys out here with these kind of old, beat up, rock star lookin’ folks, hanging out playing football? [laughs] 

Those kind of moments are great, and I think that’s why being on the road with everybody, all the musicians, everything was kind of an overall great moment. It goes by so fast, you look back at it and the whole thing seems like one moment really, as hokey as that sounds.

Switching over to the new record, Wild Blessed Freedom, it’s a much larger sound from you guys on this record.

It’s a totally different sound. We were really kind of going for broke on this one. There were some of these kind of anthem rock songs that we were missing off that last record that we needed to have in order to kind of fill up some of these bigger places that we started playing. So, that was kind of the idea, we really went in there trying to write bigger songs.

Did you go about approaching the recording process a little bit differently this time around?

Oh yeah, totally…well, you know, not completely. You would think that it would be something totally different, but in the long run, it was one of those things where everything started working out through the writing process with just an acoustic guitar. And at that point when we got into it, we were like, “Okay, let’s write the song the same way, acoustic guitar and piano, and then just start building these things out.”

And Rickard and Johan, they didn’t really get to write very much on the first record. So, both of those guys got to come in and start writing on the new record; their contribution to it was a much different approach.

Was there something you had learned during the recording process from making of your first record that you applied while working on your second record?

Oh yeah, totally. We’ve been doing a lot of stuff kind of, you know, cheaply. And probably not recording enough stuff while on location while we were out, just doing random recordings, and how important those kind of things were.
Because “Show Me” ended up becoming what we recorded as a demo,
vocal-wise, what we left on the record. We took that approach into [the new record] and wherever we went, we started recording.

No matter where we were, we were always recording something. In the bus, touring, in the middle of the car somewhere, even if it’s just writing on the MacBook Pro, or in GarageBand, a lot of that stuff became what was on this record. Our guitars on “I Don’t Think So” are something we recorded in GarageBand a couple of years before the record was released. It was there and that became the song, kind of the foundation of it. So, we took all of those concepts and put [them] into recording this new album.

When you’re working on a new song, do you have a certain songwriting style or do you just start with an idea and go from there?

You know, it all depends. There are times when things are just kind of there. It’s kind of one of those weird ah-ha moments, when you sit down and just have this idea and it all comes together, kind of like a painting. And then there are other times whenever you’re working with someone else, and it’s like this is kind of a rough idea of a melody that you see what you can kind of get out so you don’t lose your emotion from this track. So everything’s really different, which kind of makes it fun.

You don’t necessarily go into it right off the bat with that same mentality as you’re going to write this song the same way you did the last one, because not all of them are alike. They’re all kind of little babies, in that sense, where they have their own life form. They just kind of have to grow and see what they do naturally, or it’s not going to be real.

You guys have worked with Max Martin on both of your records; what’s it like working with him in the studio?

Oh, Max is a genius. He’s always just one of those guys, who’ll come in, he’ll hear something one time and know how to fix it. All he has to do is walk in the room. He’ll get in and he’ll start questioning you on lyrics and making sure you’re actually believing what you’re saying. You’re going have to play this song thousands of times, and he’s always in that context of you’ve gotta really believe what you’re actually doing here, it’s got to come from a real place, or you’ll get your ass handed to you.

Carolina Liar - credit: CarolinaLiar.comYou mentioned earlier about those anthem kind of songs missing from your last record, and I had also read that you wanted to create music on this record that would work well for your live show. Did you guys see that difference in performing these new songs while touring on this record for the past couple months?

Yeah, we did. It really worked out great. Especially songs like “Me and You,” the opener, that has really been helping with approaching the kind of energy we want to bring into the set with those new songs. “Miss America” has been working really well. “Beautiful People,” too. That was something we needed to have, one of those songs that’s kind of a big breath of air or something, because most of that set’s really over the top, a lot of energy. Something like “Beautiful People” can take the air right out of everything and make everything slow down. All the songs have worked pretty well for us.

So your current single is “Drown.”  How did this song come about and what was the decision behind making it your lead single?

It was one of those things where as we were writing, it wasn’t [one of] Max’s favorites in the beginning; he didn’t think it was good enough for the record. But as we kept working on it, this is really telling the story of the whole thing that we’re doing right now. The song kind of turned into an anthem for us, personally, and we thought it kind of picked up where we left off with “Show Me.” It had this real kind of anthemic, you know, ambiguous message in it for us, a message that’s really “Let’s jump in this thing head first. If we get killed, it doesn’t matter, hopefully some way or another, it will set us free.”

Something I noticed at the Santa Rosa show is that you guys spent a lot of time talking with fans after the show. Is that something that you value getting to do at each show?

That plays a big part in building up a decent fan base. Just being grateful, being humble, going out and saying thanks to everybody and just kinda trying to give back as we possibly can. The way the record industry works now, especially for rock bands, it might be a bit different for more Top 40 radio type music, but for guys like us, we’ve really got to get out and say thanks and tell people to keep coming back to shows and stuff to build these big audiences. It takes one person at a time to keep building this thing up. You can’t miss every kind of opportunity.

It’s a good thing. It’s a very simple way to give back, and say thank you, and makes everything a little bit more personal, too. We all get caught up in the whole cyber world so much, that music just kind of becomes impersonal. So that’s a way at least to say, “We’re normal people, for the most part, we’re a little bit crazy, but we’re still normal.”

Very cool. So, something I’ve always wondered about is what’s the story behind your band name?

[laughs] What ended up happening was when I moved to L.A., I was working with a producer who literally just never believed anything I ever told him. He always thought I was an extremely good liar. Strange things would always happen, not necessarily strange in a bad way, just kind of a lot to explain and he never believed any of it. So one day, my past band had broken up, I knew I was going to put something else together and he wanted to work with whatever it was, and they wouldn’t do it ‘til we had a band name.

I couldn’t come up with anything that I felt was worthy enough for his time, and eventually he came in to work one day and said, “You know, you’re such a liar, dude, why don’t you call yourselves The Liars?” We looked it up and there’s already a couple bands named The Liars. And he’s like, “Where are you from again?” I go, “South Carolina.” And he’s like, “That’s it! Call yourselves Carolina Liar.” And it just stayed. That was it. The whole concept of us being a band from South Carolina and the rest of the guys from Sweden actually kind of adds to the name of us being a bunch of liars. It’s such an odd pairing.

So, what’s up next for you guys? Are you going to be playing through the holidays, or are you going to pick back up next year?

There may be some radio stuff happening for the holidays, but right now everything is just planned for next year. You know, come back out with another single next year. We’re trying to figure out which one to go with. I don’t know, we’re working on a couple video concepts and stuff like that. There’s a couple of tours that could be lined up by next spring that look really good. It looks like a promising year.

Carolina Liar’s latest record, Wild Blessed Freedom, is available now. For more information on the band, check out their official website.

Photo credit: CarolinaLiar.com

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is an Entertainment Writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has interviewed a variety of people from across the entertainment spectrum, including singer-songwriter/Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas, Andrew Dost from the Grammy Award-winning band fun., singer-songwriter Christina Perri, and acclaimed writer-director Derek Cianfrance.
  • Barbariba

    Great interview Kirsten! You always ask the most interesting questions.
    I became a fan of Carolina Liar after I heard them on tour with David Cook. They’re an awesome band and I really hope they tour with David again. They complement each other so well.

  • Darlene

    This interview was linked on a David Cook google alert. I’m definitely going to check out Carolina Liar. I have a feeling I’m going to love them.