To have fame and success in the music industry on an international level is an accomplishment every artist wants to achieve, but it is also a great challenge. With songs topping the charts from Canada, to Japan, as well as multiple awards such as the MTV Europe Award for Best Arabian Act, Karl Wolf has definitely achieved that goal. His hit single "Africa" went four times platinum in Canada and he has worked with Three 6 Mafia, Mary J. Blige, Jay Sean, Snoop Dogg and countless others.
So sit back, grab a drink, smoke or whatever you need to chill-out and calm down, because we are talking with Karl Wolf about his humble beginnings, his push to become where he is today and how he plans to bring his world-famous sound to the America. Karl also has a hot new single available on iTunes called "Go Your Own Way," which is a take from the 1976 hit "Go Your Own Way" by the British/American band Fleetwood Mac. "Go Your Own Way" features Block Squad Monopoly's artist Reema Major and is gen-pop certified. GPC means it is hot as hell, we love it, want to dance to it and are promoting it as you are reading this article. So, without further a-due, Karl Wolf.
So Karl, what made you want to get into the music business and how did you get your start?
My parents were both musicians. I grew up in Dubai because my parents left the civil war in Lebanon in the 70's. My dad used to play the drums in a band, and my whole family pretty much had musical talents. When we came to Dubai, there wasn't a big outlet for music like there is today. So when I arrived in Canada, that is when I got into production. I started producing and writing for different artists. That is how I got my start in the business, and after selling about a million records as a producer/ songwriter, I decided that it was time to be recognized for my musical talents instead of just writing for other artists. One thing leads to another, one record to another, and now I am here today four albums in and over 2 million records sold worldwide.
Who were some of your main inspirations?
Obviously, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder had a big huge influence on me, since I also play the piano. Prince, Chicago, Boyz II Men, 112, Naughty By Nature and pretty much everybody from Hip Hop and R&B to Pop and Rock & Roll influenced who I am today.
Which major artist gave you your first real big break and what was it like?
My first big break was opening up for Mary J. Blige in Dubai. That was my first big concert. She was cool and sweet to me, which was very surprising because everybody was telling me about how she is tough and not cool with people. So that had me a little scared, but she was really nice! She sat down with my parents and me, and we all talked. She told me how everybody was telling her about my music and that she liked what she heard. So yeah, she pretty much gave me that big break, and it was just a snowball effect from there.
So you have opened up for big names like Mary J. Blige and Lauren Hill. You have also worked with many other big name artists such as Snoop Dogg, Jay Sean, and Three 6 Mafia. Out of all of the artists, you have worked with, whom did you enjoy working with the most?
I definitely enjoyed working with Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia. That is my boy. Dude is mad funny; mad cool. We shot the video in L.A. for our single “Mash It Up,” and he is just a riot. He is fun to be around; he is a real good dude. I also enjoyed working with Snoop Dogg as well.
Your people say that you are coming out with a new single and album soon. You have already had international success with past albums, do you think that this next one will bring that same success to the America?
I think so. America and I have been flirting back and forth with my music for quite some time. I think it is just a matter of the right song for the market and support behind me. There's also a growth of interest happening with my music in America. Earlier this year, I did the New York City show for Pop Explosion, and it was a big success. So I might be on maybe 20 dates per tour in American cities. I am working in the studio on some crazy stuff and thinking about working with some major artists. I do not want to say any names right now, but I am thinking of some major rappers who are hot in the industry right now. I might be working with Mavado on something in Miami soon.
Speaking of working with other artists, Drake and Justin Beiber have gained their popularity mostly in America. Are you considering working with one of them since you are bringing your brand to America?
Me and Justin Beiber actually did a show in Toronto when Usher brought him out. He came up to me and told me he was a big fan. There's a connection; a Canadian connection. Maybe I will call him up on something. However, I do not like using people; just calling them up to say "let's do a record." I am not gonna call them up and just go out on a limb and say “Hey, I am working on a record. Help me out.” It has got to come out of love. It has got to come from them. So if they want to work with me, they will reach out. I am in my lane, so if they come through, more power to that.
"Africa" is one of your biggest hits thus far, but is it one of your favorite songs?
"Africa" is probably my favorite songs to perform when I am on stage. However, one of my songs that I love is one from an older album called "My Ethnicity." That is a really good one that I like. It reminds me of my parents and where they came from. They came to North America because it really wasn't safe where they were. My parents sacrificed their lives to give me a better life here, and I will never forget that. That was the whole concept of that song, never forgetting where you come from.
So what is it like having this level of success in your career and what life lessons did you learn from it?
As an artist, you never work hard just to fail, and it is rare when things really work out. The success of "Africa" was a real shock to me. It was my biggest single, but the story behind that is really interesting and made me learn a lesson. Nobody really believed in it, and no one wanted to sign me at the time. I bought the rights to the original song from Toto, recorded my own version, and borrowed almost $200,000 to make the whole project happen. Every label from Universal, Sony, and Warner Bros just told me that I did not have what it takes to make it. They did not want to give me a chance until I hired a radio promoter. "Africa" got on the radio, and it blew up in Canada. BMI called me soon after, offered me a record deal, and the song went four times platinum in Canada. So, one of the lessons I learned is to stick to your guns. The guys at the top really did not know anything about the music. I mean, if all of these guys at the top rejected this song, but it became my biggest selling song, how can you have faith in these guys when it comes to what's good music or not? So for artists out there, don't listen to the bigwigs telling you what's not going to work because they really don't know. You have to go back to your fans. I pretty much said “Screw the labels” at that point, and decided to let the people decide. That is when I learned that success comes from your fans. When you promote and build your fans, that is when the big labels will respond.
How do you feel about your female fans? Are you single, or do you have a special lady that's inspiring your music?
Ha, ha, ha! I love them! The more, the merrier. It is all fun, but I use my music for inspiration. I am single because it is hard having a girlfriend in this industry, especially with all of the traveling and the long nights. It is less drama that way!
Article By Christopher Mobley
Photography By Steve Haining
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Copyright 2013 USL Magazine