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Chelsea Wolfe lends a little darkness to her folk

“Even though my visual aesthetic is somewhat defined, I feel like my music is open for interpretation,” says singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.

Kristin Cofer

“Even though my visual aesthetic is somewhat defined, I feel like my music is open for interpretation,” says singer-songwriter Chelsea Wolfe.

One of the more haunting album covers of 2011 belonged to Chelsea Wolfe, a singer-songwriter raised in sunny California but whose music beats with a dark heart. Her fuzzed-out folk songs typically present her as both Gothic songstress and ragged rocker.

On “Apokalypsis,” her sophomore album, Wolfe appeared in a portrait with her eyes wide open, but you couldn’t see her pupils. They had been painted over, rendering them deep pockets of white. The image completely suited the music, which Wolfe prefers to keep open to interpretation.

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“That album is a lot about revelations and epiphanies and realizing the truth about your own life or the world around you,” Wolfe says. “The cover was supposed to visually represent the moment of enlightenment and feeling like your mind is open. That’s why the eyes are whited out like that.”

Last year Wolfe followed that record with “Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs,” which swept away the cobwebs and feedback of her earlier work to reveal Wolfe as a tender songwriter.

From the road en route to a show in Vancouver recently, Wolfe checked in with the Globe ahead of her performance at the Sinclair on Wednesday with a full band.

Q. You give the impression that you’re creatively restless, maybe not very good at sticking to one genre.

A. Definitely not. That’s always been my blessing and my curse. Some people think of it as a curse because they don’t know where to put me. I can’t be put in a specific genre, but that’s OK.

Q. Your image, though, has been somewhat consistent. How important is an aesthetic?

A. It’s important for any artist to have a visual presence. I don’t think it’s been a purposeful thing. I’ve just been trying out any idea I have, and it ties the music together in a cohesive way, even though the songs are all different. There’s a darkness there that’s part of my personality and my art.

Q. Do you think people get the wrong idea about you based on your music or image?

A. I’ve had people ask if I’m into certain cults that I have nothing to do with. But it doesn’t bother me. I’m always really honest. If I’ve heard of it, I’ll talk about it. I like people. I like talking to people. Even though my visual aesthetic is somewhat defined, I feel like my music is open for interpretation. I don’t like to explain what songs are about too often. I want people to inject their own stories and experience into them. That’s how I like to look at music.

Q. You grew up with a father who had a country band. What are some of your earliest musical memories?

A. They mostly involve my dad. He had a home studio, and he and his band would practice there and do a lot of Fleetwood Mac covers. I remember really liking Fleetwood Mac but not knowing those were their songs when I was little. So I was listening to Fleetwood Mac via my dad’s country band. I started experimenting in his home studio and writing and recording songs when I was 8 or 9 years old.

Q. What did a 9-year-old Chelsea Wolfe sound like?

A. My dad made me a compilation of all those songs I did when I was a kid. I’ll have to find it. It’s probably in a box under my bed. If I ever find it, I’ll give it you.

Q. What was your first song?

A. The first song I ever did was a cover of “It’s My Party” [by Lesley Gore]. I also covered “The Neverending Story” theme song.

Q. You’ve said that even though you grew up around musicians, you never considered becoming one yourself. What was that?

A. I think a lot of it had a lot to do with confidence issues and not feeling like I was meant to be a performer or someone who had a presence in front of people. It took a long time to get over that. Fortunately a lot of my friends kept encouraging me, and I finally started taking it more seriously and realized it was something I could do.

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJamesReed.
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