Q&A with blues rock guitarist/singer Wolf Mail, the master of the telecaster, iconic artist and a true road warrior

""The interesting thing is, when travelling around, you realize that every human being aspires to similar things outside of life. They want a good home, a good mate, a decent job and some entertainment. Blues is appreciated anywhere I’ve travelled to It’s a bit of a universal language that can reach every culture."

Wolf Mail: On The Blues Road Again

Wolf Mail is a Canadian blues rock guitarist and singer. He is influenced by blues, jazz, soul and country. Born in Montreal, Canada, and raised in the South of France and California, Mail spent much of his early years traveling. He began playing the guitar at the age of 10, heavily influenced by Elmore James and John Lee Hooker. Later, Mail received some guitar lessons from David Goodman, and went on to perform his first gig at 14. He left home at 17 to tour with his own band. Mail recorded two independent albums in the mid-’90s before signing up with ZYX records. His first effort Solid ground included the ballad “Hello” which stayed in the best selling music charts in Japan for three weeks and had fans declare their “favourite love song of all time”. Blue Fix followed up which was recorded with the help of the Steve Miller Band. Mail then recorded a live CD and DVD Live Blues in Red Square in Moscow, Russia. His fourth album Electric Love Soul was recorded in 2009 in LA at Doghouse studios by Grammy Award winner BB “Chung” King, and Robert Cray producer Dennis Walker. His follow up The Basement Session was recorded in Sydney, Australia, at the Basement, which has hosted artist such as Prince and Albert Collins. His sixth album, Above The Influence, was released in October 2013.                                  (Wolf Mail / Photo by Andy Postle)

Wolf Mail will be released his 7th new 9 brand new tracks album "The Wolf Is At Our Door" (Release date: March 17, 2023). “The material is a blend of classic organic Blues Roots with a contemporary approach in the sound production” says Wolf. “Having time off touring allowed us to spend more time on songwriting and fine- tuning” he adds. This is the 7th studio release for the Canadian native, following on from his 2017 DVD/live recording in Norway “Oseana Auditorium.”  For two decades with unyielding dedication, “the master of the telecaster” (Player Magazine Japan) traveled the world, performing hundreds of shows per year as a headliner from Australia to the US, Europe and Japan. The road may have been long and winding for the iconic artist, but years of perseverance and dedication seem to have finally paid off and can now be heard on his latest recording. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

As a kid my parents used to listen to early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, Elmore James, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Freddie King. When I heard these records, I immediately connected with that style of music I was able to relate and somehow feel the music and all I wanted to do is find a way to replicate that feeling, that’s when I started playing the guitar. I think one of the great things about music is that it’s apolitical and should stay apolitical, regardless of world events.

The interesting thing is, when travelling around, you realize that every human being aspires to similar things outside of life. They want a good home, a good mate, a decent job and some entertainment. Blues is appreciated anywhere I’ve travelled to It’s a bit of a universal language that can reach every culture.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I would describe my sound as soulful, bluesy, raw and unpredictable. I’m aiming at expressing myself in a spontaneous genuine and authentic way. I like to express myself in the moment in the now I also like to soak in the awareness of the audience and implement that in my artistic expression. My creative Drive is a blend of personal experiences, things that I’ve learnt from those experiences and how I feel at the time that I sit down and write a song. I couldn’t really say where my creativity comes from, it usually knocks on my door at unusual times. Whether it's in the middle of the night or at the restaurant. That’s why I always try to keep a guitar nearby.

"I just hope that Blues musicians will be able to carry on and continue to play this wonderful art form and will have the ability to make a living at it. I believe it’s a timeless art form and I believe human beings will always love the blues one way or another. It’s kind of like red wine, I don’t believe it will ever go out of fashion." (Wolf Mail on stage, Sydney Australia / Photo by Karin S.)

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? What touched you from the sound of Telecaster?

It’s hard to say what the balance is between technique and Soul. I usually try to connect with my feelings and express what I feel and somehow it seems to come out with a respectable balance between technique and soul. I can usually tell if I get a bit too technical. On the other hand, I don’t think you can get too soulful... 

I think the technique must serve the song, when you start being too technical just for the sake of being technical, I’m not sure if that serves the song properly. I think it’s very difficult to express Blues and be very technical. I found the telecaster to be a very efficient tool to express my art form. I think it’s very well suited for the blues, it’s a simple instrument but very effective, it’s also light in weight and has limited choices when it comes to sound, which I found very appealing. Some of my favorite guitarists have used telecasters. That would include Albert Collins, Roy Buchanan, Keith Richards, and a very technical but soulful true master Mr. Danny Gatton.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you? 

In regards of my music career, I had a few interesting meetings. Mark Knopfler once told me after a show when I asked him how he was feeling and how was the gig? He said to me, great but I would rather be at home with my kids, eating pizzas and watching TV. At the time I was touring like crazy, not really spending a lot of time with friends and family, I did not really understand really what he meant by that but as the years went by, I slowly realized that he was right. Music is a wonderful thing, but family is everything. 

Another enlightening experience was when I met Roy Weisman from J&R adventures. After a chat one day he put his hand on my shoulder, looked at me paused for a few seconds and said Wolf (followed by a long silence) “talent is only 10%”. That also took some time to sink in and truly understand the meaning of that, but these were wise words.

"I would describe my sound as soulful, bluesy, raw and unpredictable.  I’m aiming at expressing myself in a spontaneous genuine and authentic way. I like to express myself in the moment in the now I also like to soak in the awareness of the audience and implement that in my artistic expression. My creative Drive is a blend of personal experiences, things that I’ve learnt from those experiences and how I feel at the time that I sit down and write a song." (Photo: Wolf Mail)

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

Gosh there are a few, one of the most memorable one I can think of is when I opened for Johnny winter in Bergen at the Oceana auditorium in Norway. There was a lot of pressure that night not only because of who I was opening for, but they were also filming the concert that night. After the soundcheck I was having a rest backstage when my tech came up and said  with a panic look in his eyes “I think we got a problem” The amps are not turning on” Luckily one of Johnny‘s tech was nearby and asked us what was wrong when we told him the problem he said hang on, let me talk to Johnny he came back a couple of minutes later and said “Johnny is cool if you use one of his amp. Talking about a relief... The show went on and it was a great night.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I think the original blues music and the blues we have now haven’t changed. I think Blues is a bit like love. It’s an intemporal timeless thing, it's in our DNA. What may have changed is the authenticity and creativity of the players. In the past blues players were playing blues because they may have gone through hard times and then expressed their feelings. I don’t believe they had much drive for commercial success. Nowadays a lot of musicians may be thinking a bit too much about making it a business. Don’t get me wrong if you want to have a career, it’s important to see it as a business but I don’t think you should lose track of the original intention which is to create genuine creative music driven by art and soul.

I just hope that Blues musicians will be able to carry on and continue to play this wonderful art form and will have the ability to make a living at it. I believe it’s a timeless art form and I believe human beings will always love the blues one way or another. It’s kind of like red wine, I don’t believe it will ever go out of fashion.

What is the impact of Blues on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want music to affect people?                                                  (Photo: Wolf Mail)

Well, I think Blues is at the roots of every music style in contemporary music. From rock ‘n’ roll to Jazz to Metal to wrap to R&B it’s all rooted in the blues. Even some of the biggest bands in the world are blues base, take AC/DC or the Rolling Stones. It’s really Blues music amped up. 

On my I am just an entertainer if I can perform, and people can have a good time diverting them from their daily grind my job is done.

"I think the original blues music and the blues we have now haven’t changed. I think Blues is a bit like love. It’s an intemporal timeless thing, it's in our DNA. What may have changed is the authenticity and creativity of the players."

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Following your heart's desire, hard work and perseverance will pay off soon or later. If you play the blues might be the latter. Comfort can be your worst enemy, never compromise your values and ethics, cause in the end that’s all you really got. You can meet a lot of difficult people in this business and have some challenging experiences but then again that’s where you may learn the most valuable lessons.

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