Actual Wolf is thankful for the Minnesota music scene and that he's not in jail

Actual Wolf is thankful for the Minnesota music scene and that he's not in jail
Photo by Robyn Schindeldecker

Eric Pollard, AKA Actual Wolf, stepped out from behind the kit and the keys and turned what could've been a major setback for any artist into an opportunity to become his most creative, actual self.

With two EPs out, a top 10 Picked to Click finish in 2012, a Turf Tuesdays residency and a pre-Thanksgiving show in First Avenue mainoom, this former Retribution Gospel Choir drummer and Low keyboardist has much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving week. Gimme Noise had a chance to talk with the troubadour who rose above dire circumstances, while he was on the road from Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa.

See Also:
Picked to Click 2012: #6. Actual Wolf

Gimme Noise: What are you thankful for now in your life and your music?

Eric Pollard: I'm grateful for all my friends and family, and for being in Minnesota around a bunch of supportive bunch of music listeners and musicians. I'm thankful I'm not in jail.

Talk about your music evolution and how you came to become Actual Wolf.

EP: I've obviously been a sideman in various bands around the state, mostly notably Retribution Gospel Choir and Low. I just hit a point when I moved back -- I moved to Nashville briefly. I needed to go to court and needed to move back with my parents while I was in court and going through a bunch of legal stuff. At the time I had a lot to get off my chest and was out of my mind. I had a lot of time on my hands and was writing music around the house. I was writing a lot of music. I decided to finally step away fro the drum set and start my own band and my own musical projects, out in front. I'd always been behind the drum kit, which was a very comfortable place for me to be, or behind the keyboard.

I decided there was no better time than that moment. I felt a tremendous amount of pressure. I started writing what was going on with me, and what was going on inside my head and putting that to music. That's how Actual Wolf started.

Since I lived in Duluth for ten years, I felt my best bet would be to start playing shows in Minneapolis off the bat and working really hard to cultivate a crowd in Minneapolis. I used to go to college there. I have lots of friends in Minnesota who've been very supportive through this whole ordeal. It's almost over -- six months left of probation -- so I'm very excited about that. There's a lot of good music happening, a lot of collaborations, good bands coming out of Minneapolis lately. So it seems like a good place to be, to make music.

When did you start performing as Actual Wolf, and record?

EP: I recorded my acoustic EP last March with Brian Moen from Peter Wolf Crier. He's a good friend of mine. We recorded that over my birthday and started playing shows with good buddies of mine. Some guys in the Farewell Circuit and some in the Cavalier Crooks got me my first bunch of shows as Actual Wolf at the Beat Coffeehouse in Uptown. I got a lot of help from people at the Current, Holly Newsom from Zoo Animal, and my friend Flip Arkulary. Once I started getting that input, I was talking with Al Sparhawk in Duluth. He said "Why don't you record it? I know you have full band stuff. We can record it in the basement." We did, and that became The Lightning and the Wolf EP.

Any more you'd like to say about Thanksgiving gratitude?

I'm very happy for all the support of friends and family in the last couple years and all the help from the Minnesota music community. I'd probably be in a much different place without support. People like Alyssa Bartel and Tom Herbers . . . thankful to everybody for helping me out.

I really feel bad we took all the American Indians lands from them and tried to convert them to our religion. But, I love Thanksgiving. Very thankful for the entire music community, and for the people in Minnesota. It's a great place and I don't think I could have gotten Actual Wolf off the ground as fast as I did without a lot of positivity and support from the people of Minnesota -- Minneapolis, Duluth and my hometown, Grand Rapids.

How did you get the name Actual Wolf?

EP: My friend Al Ratai -- he lives in Duluth but is originally from Virginia, MN. We were cruising around in his truck. He not only came up with the name of my alter ego, and thus the name of the band as well, but he also came up with the title of the EP, The Lightning and the Wolf. We were talking and at the time there was and there still are quite a few "wolf" bands. Al is a follower of music, and a typical Iron Ranger, he said, there are a lot of "wolf" bands but I was an "actual wolf." That's how that came to be.

We were cruising around in his truck again. We were listening to the demos of my full band EP. He just said, you should call it Lightning and the Wolf, like Peter and the Wolf. He's a simple man but sometimes he says very profound things.

Talk about your next show opening for Ike Reilly.

EP: We're looking forward to it. Its our first main room show as a band. We haven't even played 20 shows together, and we are having a really good time and I'm glad. Jake Hanson, Jeremy Hanson and Steve Garrington. I'm really glad to have the support of such strong musicians behind me. It makes what I do much easier and we have a lot of fun playing together so we hope to be doing it quite a bit in the future. We're just starting to hit our stride.

Ike Reilly and the Assassination Thanksgiving Eve 10th Anniversary Show w/ Communist Daughter and Actual Wolf. First Avenue, Wednesday, Nov. 21 7:30 p.m. - $15 adv/$15 door 18+

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