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Fangs Out: Catching up with Actual Wolf

Actual Wolf aka Eric Pollard uses his Grand Rapids charm and folky tenor croon to pump out his new record.
Actual Wolf's Eric Pollard finishes a cup of coffee outside his favorite Minneapolis haunt, The Coffee Shop Northeast, before driving back to his native Grand Rapids, Minn.
  • Emily Dunker
January 24, 2013

As far as Eric Pollard is concerned, cool is nothing subjective.

“Cool is it, i-t. It. My uncle said to me once that you either have it or you don’t,” said the sunglasses-covered face of Actual Wolf.

Pollard’s presence in multiple publications last year insinuates that his solo work has a surplus of “it.”

The Americana splashed alt/country sound and narrative-based, Hank Williams-influenced songwriting has earned him praise from local critics and audiences alike, appearing at First Avenue’s Best New Bands event last Friday and making countless top-10 lists in 2012.

As of late, Pollard has been completely focused on the music, producing over  100 songs independently since the beginnings of Actual Wolf.

Previously working in music as a drummer and keyboardist in well-known northern outfits Retribution Gospel Choir and Low, Pollard already had a burgeoning music career before Actual Wolf. It took facing legal repercussions for growing and selling marijuana a couple years ago for him to step up and create solo material. His arrest and subsequent probation barred his ability to leave the state for more than 15 days, forcing him to stay in Minnesota and embrace the local scene.

“I remember the cop walking me up the stairs to give me a ride home and going, ‘Now’s the time to start doing music full time,’”***** he said.

And it’s very clear that he has — Pollard has moved his energy from the high-power art rock of Retribution Gospel Choir in favor of the Actual Wolf aesthetic, recently adding a full band to his wandering, folksy melodies and contemplative lyrics. He’s been cleaning up his act as well as his sound and is getting closer to the date that his legal restrictions are lifted.

“I’m looking forward to sharing more music with more people,” Pollard said.

Starting work on a new record produced by Alan Sparhawk in the beginning of this year and looking at a release date before the end of the summer, Pollard has made sure to come to the project prepared. He writes lyrics and melodies every day, whether they’re in his head or on the dictation application on his iPhone.

Strict consistency aside, the singer-songwriter tries not to take himself too seriously.

“It’s just art, man,” he said. While it’s an audacious statement, he feels other artists in the music scene could learn a lesson from it, stating that the indie-folk movement is starting to sound labored, particularly in the lyrical department.

Although Pollard is a wordsmith himself, taking influence from fellow northerner Bob Dylan and Rodgers & Hart, he asserts that it’s better to let a listener feel the words rather than turn them into something hyper-literary.

“Why don’t you try to be less like Hemingway and just make a lyric that isn’t too self-involved?” Pollard asked.

This is precisely what Pollard is going for: straightforward sensibility, tight songwriting and an emphasis on appealing to a wider audience, not just “record store people.” All in all, his goal is to set the bar high.

“I don’t just make music for me,” he said, “I make music for people.”

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