Our #1 in the 904 Reader’s Poll is nothing if not annually surprising. It’s the one time a year when the editorial team here at Void HQ takes our hands off the proverbial wheel and lets you, dearest reader, decide what’s cool. And from the best craft beer (Karate in the Garage from Southern Swells) to the best yoga instructor (Katie Helow at Casita Yoga Studio) we happily defer to your judgment. (We trust you!)
However, when it comes to arts and music, we happen to feel pretty confident in our predictive powers. The Black Beach at CAP winning #1 Art Exhibit? We called it! Afro-Cuban Salsa outfit LPT’s debut album Sin Parar nabbing #1 Full-length Album? Lo Sabiamos (we knew it)!
We were in for a big, sonic surprise, however, when we tabulated the results for the #1 Song in 904. Top honors–by a proverbial mile–went to a tune called “Mariah” by fella named Wolf Mason. “Who the hell is Wolf Mason?” we wondered.
So we consulted social media. There we found an extremely popular (20K-plus followers on IG) purveyor of contemporary pop who’d been picked by New York Weekly as an “Artist to Watch”. Mason’s reader’s poll-winning tune, “Mariah” blends indie sensibilities with polished pop production. Building off the backbone of some squeaky clean guitar picking and electronic drums, Mason throws his capable voice around with emotive vocal runs folded neatly into hip-hop bars.
It’s a tune built for radio, to be sure. And Mason’s talent, whether you’re a friend of radio-friendly or not, is undeniable.
In any event, Mason’s win our subsequent research was enough to spark our curiosity. So we reached out to learn more about how the young artist honed both his musical chops and his impressive social media game.
Let’s start with a bit about your background. Your song won #1 in the 904. Are you 904-born-and-bred?
I am a proud Jax kid through and through. I was born and raised in Jax Beach until I left for college in 2015 to attend Tulane University in New Orleans.
And did you come from a musical family?
My grandfather was a railroad worker from West Virginia who would play gigs whenever he wasn’t out on the track. He started teaching me to play the guitar, piano, saxophone and harmonica when I was just a toddler. I owe my love for music to him. It wasn’t until I heard John Mayer in middle school that I really recognized the emotional power that a guitar’s infinite combinations of sonic harmony could hold. I fell in love with Motown at a young age and Al Green is still someone I listen to almost everyday. The Beatles were my foundation in terms of lyrics, melody and willingness to push the boundaries of what is in order to see what can be. I love Hip-hop and one of my favorite genres of all time is alt-rock. Good Charlotte, Simple Plan and Fall Out Boy made a huge impression on me as a young adult and the raw emotion they portray in their music through their musicality and delivery are aspects I always try to include in my work. It’s been fun in creating a new genre having all of these building blocks.
You’ve been pretty productive since releasing the 2019 single “Be Somebody.” What’s your creative process like? Are you working with producers? Making everything yourself? What comes first: the beat or the lyrics?
I have been really lucky these past couple of months. I work really hard to create work I truly believe in, and I work just as hard to get it in the hands and minds of people I think would appreciate and enjoy it. I work with a few producers here and there, but I am pretty hands-on with the creative process. I write, record, mix and master, as well as produce, direct and edit all of my own content. Creatively I really don’t have a routine or go-to process, as I want things to come as honestly and organically as possible. The more honest the entire process, not just the music, the better it translates from my intent to the fans. I tend to look to my favorite authors for inspiration. Whether it be [Henry] Thoreau, [Ralph Waldo] Emerson, [David] Foster Wallace, or [Friedrich] Nietzsche. Life is both complex and simple at the same time. I like to capture both and create a relatable space for all of us who are trying to get through the day. Other than that, there really is no order; I just do my best to document my thoughts and ideas. I think I have close to 20GB in just notes on my phone right now [laughs].
And you seem to have a knack for both building your audience and connecting with your fans through social media. As a young artist in the digital age, does social media feel like a natural extension of your musical output? Or do you feel like you participate in it begrudgingly?
Social media both as a concept, and in practice is something I have always vehemently despised and disagreed with, as, in my mind, it exists as this strange pernicious vessel or excuse that enables and promotes superficiality and inauthenticity. It is a separate, synthetic realm that has now ideologically fused with our tangible reality and has really skewed the priorities and values of my generation in particular. It has afforded me the ability to reach and connect with tens of thousands of new fans who believe in my work and mission, or simply appreciate my music or who I am as a person, which I am so beyond grateful for. However, I definitely had to overcome a trying inner-introspective conflict before launching digitally. It is ultimately hard to deny the moments of beauty it allows though. I love getting messages from new people and getting to interact with them – whether it has to do with my music or just how they are feeling. Those moments have fortified my growing appreciation for social media for sure.
Let’s talk about “Mariah” for which you won #1 song in the 904. Give me the background on that song. And why do you think folks have connected with that tune more than others?
“Mariah” was a song I made right after I started seriously launching my music and things were going far better than I could have ever hoped. I was finally in a space where I learned to be entirely present in my life and really felt comfortable with what I was making, and what I was doing. Funny enough the song is actually references Mariah Carrey, just because she’s this incredibly famous and decorated woman in pop culture. I just finally felt that what I was doing was good enough for me, and I had chosen to embrace all the highs and lows held in every moment. If my life were to end any day now, I’d be at peace knowing how much and how beautifully I have been able to live (alongside some incredible people). Like Mariah Carrey, the hook also mentions Lady Godiva, who was a 11th century English noblewoman who rode through Coventry naked on horseback to protest against oppressive taxes imposed by her husband on his tenants. I have been lucky to have had a number of incredible female role models in my life, and existing in limbo between genres that have historically championed materialism and borderline derogatory undertones towards women – I like to make a point to make great music that does the opposite. The song is also just super real, carefree and catchy – yet full of meaning. I guess that is why people have gravitated to it.
What are you working on now? Can we expect a new EP or more singles? Full-length? All of the above?
You can expect a continued constant stream of meaningful, cutting-edge work. I have a collection of art capsules that include different music and video looks and ideas. We also have a number of singles and short films we are working on. I am also personally designing a collection of new merch which we are making available very soon!
My next single, “Blurry” comes out September 18th [See Below]. I am so stoked for y’all to check it out!