by Dylan Naumann
Sitting around a campfire with friends, listening to the resonating warmth of an acoustic guitar can be an emotional experience. Whether it’s a novice or an advanced player attempting to render those captivating moments, more times than not, the communal experience created by the performer will be significant to the audience. The upcoming singer/songwriter Dan Wolff was “mesmerized” watching his father share stories and pick Bluegrass tunes around the fire. “I simply wanted to re-create those moments…”
Releasing a number of albums over the years, Dan has shown a rich diversity of both style and texture in his songwriting. His freshman album, Old Fashion Love, strays from the “cookie-cutter” mentality of pop songs you’ll hear on the radio. He uses a wide variety of instruments, from the saxophone to the banjo, which adds color to a traditional form.
The formation of The Muddy Crows drove Dan out of his singer/songwriter “isolation” and allowed his writing to flourish in the company of other like-minded individuals. Dan says, “I wanted to take them to the next level with additional instrumentation.” He is still in shock that the group would still be playing together a decade later, considering how they got together. “I found some like-minded musicians on Craigslist that wanted to create and promote original music in the DC area.”
His latest release, Folkin’ Around, displays tones shifting from gritty, emotion-filled rock – carried over from The Muddy Crows – to a “quirky” style that simply catches the listener’s ear. His expansion into the realm of writing catchy tunes made him aware that all his songs aren’t “winners.” Dan, in fact, has “panned” or completely “rewritten a number of tunes that weren’t worthy of promotion.” He rehashed some songs that were featured on the album but also went into the rainy-day pile for additional material. This pile consisted of “radio-ready” material but also songs that were too contrasting for Folkin’ Around.
Since moving to Washington, D.C. in 2009, Dan and The Muddy Crows have been voted “Washington, D.C.’s Best Original Band” twice and toured extensively beyond the Mid-Atlantic region (Wisconsin, Oregon, and a 2016 tour in Europe). The charisma Dan displays during his performances is natural and unshakable, but his artistic persona took a few years to develop. Keeping mostly to himself while studying at Cornell, Dan preferred to play guitar for himself in the comfort of the dorm room. But it wasn’t long before his friends tricked him into performing at the local open-mic night. “They secretly added my name to the list…Being a good sport, I did not protest.” He took the stage, hands shaking, a borrowed guitar in one hand, and started to sing. From that moment, when Dan witnessed the positivity of the crowd as his voice wafted into the stale bar air, he realized that he wanted to step out of the dorm and begin to actually play.
It took Dan several years to find a place on stage, playing what felt like an endless parade of open-mic nights, but he came through the gauntlet alive and well. His songwriting matured along the way, from the adolescence stages of posting music to Myspace all the way to bundling up the “bedroom pop” aesthetic that reflected “decades of new life experiences.” This passage of time transformed his character and his work ethic as a songwriter.
Please be sure to check out Dan Wolff and The Muddy Crows in and around the Mid-Atlantic region. The foot-stompin’ isn’t going to stop anytime soon! Get all their up-to-date info and music on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify!
Dylan Naumann is a freelance musician, composer, writer, and improviser. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, he’s currently finishing up his degree from Towson University for jazz commercial performance. He enjoys wondering around town, from local venue to venue, trying to find the inspiring sounds from local artists.