Ben Wolf, an emerging artistic songwriter, recently unveiled his debut single “Ultraviolet.” Born in London, Wolf spent most of his childhood growing up in a rural Belgian village, nurtured by the strings of his guitar, exploring the nature reserve in his backyard. With an international upbringing in an academic home, he was destined to become a doctor. But he suddenly dropped out of university to follow his intuition and embrace a wind of change that had been blowing for a while now; songwriting. “Ultraviolet” is the epitome of that transformation, resulting from all the frustration accumulated over the years while gathering the courage to take the leap.
After our first listen to this lo-fi pop masterpiece, it was evident that we needed to sit down with the artist and dive deeper into his inspiration, songwriting, influences, and much more. Take a read below to meet this budding new artist and learn more about what to expect next.
You just released your debut single, congratulations! That’s a very important step in your music career. How were you feeling the day before the release as compared to when “Ultraviolet” was finally online?
Ben Wolf: “Thank you! It definitely felt like a big step. Because of the quantity of music, we’d like to put out in the coming months, we were on quite a tight schedule which didn’t allow me much time to ponder on the big day itself. The day before the distributor’s deadline was quite tricky because I had to lay down the final vocals, which wasn’t an easy task with everything going on at the time. But we managed! The release day itself was great! It really felt like I was a little kid again counting down the minutes until I could run down to get my presents on Christmas morning. It felt very relieving and motivating to know that I had now made a step that could only lead me forward.”
Could you talk us through “Ultraviolet?” How did that concept come about?
“I really, really love Daniel Caesar, whose first single is called ‘Violet.’ So as a sign of respect to him, I wanted to start off my career with a song called ‘Ultraviolet.’ Luckily, I was driving back from university, right after I had had a lecture about an ophthalmology related topic, which is when the concept of a song called ‘Ultraviolet’ came to me.
It was going to be about how I was clearly perceiving something which others couldn’t. This is the central theme to the whole song. Verse one was meant as a wakeup call to people in the industry: don’t catch on too late! The chorus is literally a description of ultraviolet light: it sounds smooth but burns your skin and has a higher frequency than visible light, meaning that it travels faster, while remaining silent. Verse two is one long metaphor portraying me as a bee, which can perceive ultraviolet light emitted by pollen flowers to find nectar. It talks about how the hive mentality, which I was surrounded by during my medical studies, really frustrated me and limited my personal growth. The continued references to nectar and honey all represent this personal growth. Verse three is an explanation for why this hive mentality really didn’t suit me. I’ve always acted differently and had vastly different priorities and goals compared to my fellow students.”
We couldn’t help but notice the multiple references to nature in your artist’s name, but also your debut single. Where does that deep connection to nature come from? Would you say it’s one of your main sources of inspiration?
“Although Wolf does coincidentally fit the brand really well, it wasn’t meant as a reference to nature. Because my surname is Dewulf, I had always been called ‘Wolf’ by most of my sports teammates back in England. However, because I spent most of my childhood with a beautiful nature reserve right in my backyard, I have always had a very deep connection to nature. Camping has always been one of my favourite activities and hiking gives me a rare opportunity to have complete peace of mind.
Also, having written many songs and looking back on them, I started to notice patterns: when writing about nature I seem to never be lost for words. This is especially true for anything related to water. Maybe it’s because I’m a Pisces, but I prefer to believe in science rather than pseudoscience.”
What’s a song by another artist that you wish you had written yourself? (and why?)
“‘Best Part’ by Daniel Caesar and H.E.R., partly because I’m a big fan of Daniel Caesar but also because it captures the indescribable concept of love with such accuracy yet simplicity. It’s also the very first song that made me realize the awesome power of music and how helpful it can be in some of the darkest moments of your life.”
You quit your medicine studies to pursue a music career. What triggered that bold move and how did your family react?
“It was a really tough and scary decision to make, because of the fact that it was influenced by, but in itself also influenced so many factors. A large factor would have to be the sudden death of my best friend and ex-girlfriend at the age of 18. Seeing her life being celebrated at her funeral, made me question how I’d be remembered. Because I can’t influence how other people perceive me I can only influence how I see myself. So, an obvious point of improvement would be finding a satisfying career. Although medicine would allow me to help many other people, it would never help me, personally, to develop myself. I felt that music would allow me to do both and was, therefore, a logical choice to consider.
My mother was very supportive, as always. My father on the other hand still struggles with it to this day. I don’t know if he’ll ever fully realize what I’m capable of, but I’m doing this for myself, so it doesn’t really matter. He does still support me though!”
The delay between the completion of the first song you ever finished and the release of your debut single was quite short! What has been your creative process so far?
“The 26th of November, 2019, was when I finished my very first full song, so just under a year ago. I guess that is pretty short, but it only shows how quickly things can change if you let it. The development of my creative process has been a really interesting one. ‘Ultraviolet’ was written a few months ago when I would still try to approach writing with somewhat of a logical structure. I had to know at least one of the following three things: either the first two lines, what instrumental I was going to use, or the general message I wanted to convey.
Then I realized that there doesn’t have to be any logical structure whatsoever. That’s just you limiting yourself! That’s why I don’t put any limits on my creative writing process anymore: I write when I want, which happens to be all the time. I finish when the song is finished or at least when the second verse is finished. I don’t write with a preformed idea in mind and I always try to confront myself as much as possible. I feel like these few rules allow me to let my inner child roam free and be as creative as possible. At the end of the day I still see it as playtime and it only makes sense that I fall down and bruise my knees from time to time, as long as I get back up and continue playing. It’s all about having fun and learning about myself.”
After the COVID-19 pandemic began, many artists were hesitant to release new music, especially considering there was no possibility to promote their art through live shows. Did that ever scare you? How do you envision positioning yourself as a new artist and reaching a new audience during these weird times?
“The opposite is true for me: I’ve never performed my own songs on stage and would love to start that part of my journey off with a nice catalogue of songs I can rely on. This allows me to turn these sad, lonely times into something positive. Also, it’ll allow me to look back on this period knowing that I did something productive with my time. Well, the foundation for our plan rests on my high output and the quantity of music we can release in a short period of time. I’m hoping that the streaming platform algorithms will favour this strategy.”
What’s next for Ben Wolf? Are you working towards an EP?
“As mentioned before, apparently, I’ve got quite a high output. This means EPs and albums are very possible in the near future. However, this high output also means that my writing gets better week by week. We’ve already written and recorded an EP, but because of the exponential improvement over the last few months, I wouldn’t be able to tell you with any certainty how it’ll be used, if at all.”