Carolina Liar is in the middle of a cross–country tour with Gavin DeGraw and David Cook. “Literally every other day,” says the band’s singer/songwriter Chad Wolf, “one of the guys from the other bands or the crew will say to me ‘How did this happen, man? How are you hanging out with all these crazy Swedes?’”
How indeed? For while Carolina Liar – headlining the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon finale concert this weekend in Forsyth Park – is based in Stockholm, and the other guys are named Carlsson, Carlsson and Goransson, Wolf is a Charleston boy. He’s a Southerner.
In 2007, Wolf left South Carolina to take a shot at the music business in Los Angeles. He was 20 years old, and weary of strumming his acoustic guitar in the same old Chucktown coffeehouses. He’d never even been on an airplane before.
L.A. wasn’t a lot of fun. “I had such bad luck with guys in L.A. for while,” Wolf says. “Most of them weren’t quite on the level of being famous, or really working, but they were living like some sort of crazy famous rock stars. Doing drugs, and really just living this unproductive life.”
Then het met Max Martin, the Swedish writer and producer who’d crafted numerous hits for the likes of the Backstreet Boys (“I Want it That Way,” “Shape of My Heart”), Britney Spears (“Baby One More Time,” “If You Seek Amy”) and Kelly Clarkson (“Since U Been Gone”).
He has also done productions for Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion, Usher, T.I. and Pink.
“I want to be part of every note, every single moment going on in the studio,” Martin famously told the Los Angeles Times. “I want nothing forgotten, I want nothing missed. I’m a perfectionist. The producer should decide what kind of music is being made, what it’s going to sound like – all of it, the why, when and how.”
Impressed with Wolf’s songs, Martin invited the young Carolinian to visit his studio in Stockholm.
“I was so broke and miserable, so tired of what I was doing. Just running up a brick wall. And when I got the chance to go to Sweden, it was ‘This is exactly what I need to do right now.’
“I didn’t believe that Max had actually bought me a ticket. I was thinking, well, it’s just that L.A. thing again, he’s a bigwig and he’s just trying to be cool. There’s so much talk in L.A.”
But real it was.
Immediately paired with some of Sweden’s top studio rock players, Wolf discovered a way of working – and working hard – that suited him fine.
“All these Swedes came in and were like ‘Well, if we try this, we could simplify what you’re doing,’” he says. “I was doing all these weird chord substitutions, and they said ‘You don’t really need that. Instead of putting in all these chords, just come back and stay on A. That’s all you have to do. Broaden it out and all of a sudden it’ll start fitting a little better.’
“They were teaching me how to come up with better productions, how to streamline these songs. It made all the difference in the world.”
Most importantly to Wolf, he has remained the band’s chief lyricist since the beginning.
The band’s wide, anthemic rock sounds like a marriage between U2 on Bon Jovi. “Show Me What I’m Looking For,” “Beautiful World” and “I’m Not Over” have been used in a variety of TV episodes and in network promotions; the band’s second album, Wild Blessed Freedom, was released in September.
Wolf says he’s having a ball on the DeGraw/Cook tour, “These guys have big, built–in audiences,” he explains. “And most of the people probably haven’t even heard of us. They might have heard the songs, but they never knew who the band was.
“It all comes down to the songs. They just kind of get to the core of what people are feeling. Live, when you break the song down to the core elements of a four–piece, it works. Even when people have never heard it. It’s that eureka moment ‘Goddamn, it works. Somehow or another, this thing is connecting.’ I can’t explain it.”
Understandably, when new fans come on board the Carolina Liar express, they tend to think that Chad Wolf is, in fact, Swedish.
“The funny thing is, once you’ really hang out with a group of Swedes for 10 minutes, you’ll see very obviously that I’m not,” he laughs.
“Because I’m a good foot shorter than every single one of those guys. They’re huge – they’re all six–foot–seven, six–eight, something like that. They’re humongous guys. There’s no way they’d kick me out of the country for being a fake Swede.”
What: Rock ‘n Roll Marathon finale concert
Where: Forsyth Park
When: At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5