Meet Hannah Westerholm, aka Half Wolf, an up-and-coming musician whose journey is both inspiring and extraordinary. Born into a music-loving household, Half Wolf’s childhood was filled with the sweet sounds of records playing throughout the house. Sundays were dedicated to music, where they and their brother would take turns picking albums to enjoy together. Those moments of musical exploration laid the foundation for Half Wolf’s deep connection to all kinds of music. They may not have known it then, but destiny had something extraordinary in store for them.
Half Wolf’s Dream Festivals and Venues
Eaux Claires Music Festival (Eau Claire, W)I
Sydney Opera House (Sydney, AU)
Madison Square Garden (New York City, NY)
First Avenue – Main Room (Minneapolis, MN)
It was a concert that sparked the flame of ambition in Half Wolf’s heart, forever altering the course of their life. At 14, they attended Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour. Witnessing the electrifying energy and connection between the artist and the audience, they were struck by a profound realization—they wanted to be on that stage, commanding the crowd with their own voice and passion. That night, the dream of becoming a musician was born.
Yet, it wasn’t just that one concert that shaped Half Wolf’s determination. They attended another music celebration with their mother, gazing up at the women on stage, yearning to join them under the spotlight. The allure of performing live, and sharing their art with the world, became an insatiable calling that they could no longer ignore.
Choosing an unconventional path, Half Wolf decided to pursue their dream with confidence, passing on college and dropping out of high school. While they occasionally wondered about the road not taken, their singular focus on music proved to be the key to their success. For twelve years, they pushed forward by practicing, writing, and sharing their original songs on social media.
In a turn of events in 2018, Half Wolf’s life took a momentous leap. A manager stumbled upon their music on SoundCloud and discovered their videos on Instagram, showcasing their original music. This fateful encounter led to an email that changed everything.
“It felt like a Disney Channel movie moment where the star falls in your lap. I can comfortably say that my life changed after that email. There’s been many ups and downs between now and then. But it changed the trajectory of getting me out of the Midwest,” Half Wolf said.
Since that pivotal email, Half Wolf has encountered numerous highs and lows, yet they persisted with their musical journey, setting their sights on bigger stages and greater opportunities. In their pursuit of success, they found themself leaving the familiar Midwest behind, venturing into the heart of the music industry—Los Angeles.
As Half Wolf continues toward stardom, their story serves as an inspiration to aspiring musicians and dreamers everywhere. Half Wolf’s pursuit of music was fueled by a wide range of inspirations, as well as a perfect blend of experiences that ignited their desire to be on stage and create lasting music. From observing both men and women perform to being captivated by outstanding songwriting, storytelling, and vocals, their passion for the art form blossomed. “I definitely believe in both destiny and fate. I think that in some way, shape, or form, I’m meant to be an artist and performer. Whatever that looks like, I’ll take it,” Half Wolf said.
Grateful for the pace at which they’ve grown, Half Wolf acknowledges that the path has been anything but smooth. Daily encounters with anxiety and stress have become part of their reality, a testament to the demanding nature of the music industry.
Half Wolf tackled challenges head-on with confidence, but as time passed, the landscape shifted. Dealing with the pandemic and relocating to the bustling city of Los Angeles in 2019 heightened the intensity of their experiences. 2020 presented a significant turning point in their journey. Hitting a metaphorical brick wall, they found themselves grappling with an ongoing struggle to reclaim their artistic identity and stamina. These three years have proved to be a rollercoaster of emotions and introspection.
Reflecting on the impact of the pandemic, Half Wolf recognizes it as a pivotal moment that allowed them to gain perspective and reassess their trajectory. It helped them reevaluate their path and realign it with their true purpose and passion for music. They believe that everything happens for a reason, even amid the ups and downs they continue to face.
Throughout their journey, Half Wolf’s resilience and determination have been key ingredients in navigating the music industry’s challenges. Embracing the trials and tribulations, they approach each day with the conviction that they are destined to share their art with the world. As they move forward with their music career, Half Wolf’s experiences serve as a reminder that the path to success is often riddled with both triumphs and hardships. Their unwavering commitment to their passion, coupled with a belief in their own artistic destiny, are the driving forces behind their remarkable rise as a musician. And as the world awaits their next chapters, Half Wolf prepares the next stages of their musical career with an anticipated upcoming release.
In the exciting world of music, the talented musician Half Wolf is set to embark on a thrilling journey with their latest career moves. Having just released their much-anticipated debut single, “Summer Bummer,” they are now poised to make waves in the industry with their upcoming debut EP. As the lead single from this highly-anticipated project, “Summer Bummer” showcases Half Wolf’s unique musical style and lyrical edge. Fans can expect even more from this rising star, as they have more singles lined up for release throughout the summer and fall.
Half Wolf is undoubtedly a name to watch as their music touches the hearts of an ever-growing audience. As they embrace their unique journey and stay true to their artistic vision, we eagerly await the next chapter in their rise to fame. For, in the world of music, where dreams can become reality, Half Wolf is a shining testament to the power of chasing one’s passion and believing in the magic of music.
Half Wolf's 6 Tips for Aspiring Musicians
1. Avoid making excuses based on your situation, location, or world events.
2. Focus on yourself and your goals, and ignore outside noise like social media and others’ opinions.
3. Don’t let age be a barrier, perform wherever you can, even if it’s a bar or a park concert series you create.
4. Seek out spaces like garages or basements to host shows. Play in front of people as much as possible, as the connection with the audience is irreplaceable.
5. Embrace making mistakes and learn from the energy of performing live. It’s an experience that only improves with practice and comfort on stage.
6. Allow the songs to guide you while performing, becoming a conduit for your music and giving the audience a genuine experience.
Q&A with Half Wolf
Do you remember your first professional performance?How did it go?
The first professional performance where I felt like I had made a leap was at the Celebration of Women in Music. It was the biggest crowd I had ever performed in front of professionally. In the second year, I was asked to come back because I had won an award when I was in high school and got to play a song. However, when I got asked to come back, it felt different. It was like I realized that I wasn’t just there because I won an award; they actually wanted me to come back and play music, which was cool.
I stepped out alone on the stage, walked up to a piano, and played to what I think was over 200 people seated in the Fargo Theatre. It was a very special experience that further confirmed that I wanted to pursue this path. Even though I was freaking out, I felt comfortable up there. I remember pacing backstage, absolutely freaking out, and feeling like I was going to pee my pants. My right leg used to shake uncontrollably whenever I got on stage to play the piano. I learned how to press my knee against the bottom of the piano really hard so that it wouldn’t look like it was shaking, which I remember happening. Despite all that, it was fun to come off stage, and people were like, ‘You’re such a rockstar,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Little did you know I was a mess.’ But it was still fun.
How do you approach the songwriting process?
I would describe myself as a conversational songwriter. The songs that inspire me the most are those that sound like everyday language. As an artist, I take that language and turn it into melody and music. This approach resonates with me more than flowery metaphors, which have their time and place, but I believe in expressing myself through a stream of consciousness. I prefer talking about my day, from start to finish, with a guitar in hand, rather than trying to force a song.
When I speak plainly in my songwriting, I feel I am getting to the core of something. Whenever I attempt to write a good song, it often ends up filled with metaphors, which is two steps removed from what I actually want to say.
Writing my first single, ‘Summer Bummer,’ which was released at the end of July, was an interesting experience for me. During the pandemic, my partner and I challenged ourselves to write 14 songs in 7 days, 2 songs per day.
The purpose was to push ourselves and get out of our own way creatively. However, by the last couple of days, I found myself frustrated and stuck in repetitive ideas and melodies.
On the final day of the challenge, I felt the pressure to complete the last song, and my competitiveness added to my anxiety. As I sat on the bed, trying to write a love song, I started feeling more anxious and had almost reached a panic attack. It was then that I realized I had been unconsciously sucking in and flexing my stomach, adding to my tension.
In that moment of self-awareness, I let my gut hang out and sang with the guitar, expressing my frustration honestly. The song then flowed out naturally, reflecting my true feelings. This experience taught me the importance of being present in the moment, describing the surroundings, physical sensations, and emotions. Whether I’m feeling happy, upset, sad, or anxious, it becomes a window into my subconscious.
Are there any memorable performances in your career that stand out to you?
I’ve been very lucky to have had many such experiences at this point. One of them involves both collaboration and performance. In 2019, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a label showcase shortly after moving to LA. Initially, my plan was to come to LA to play some shows, embrace the Fargo vibe, perform in dive bars, connect with communities, and immerse myself in the music scene of Los Angeles.
However, before I knew it, my world turned upside down, or maybe it was just set right side up. Everything was spinning, that’s for sure. I found myself having multiple meetings with various labels. One of these meetings was with Elektra, where I met a great guy, a genuine and non-stereotypical industry professional working in A&R. It was Thursday when we met, and he asked if I could play for them the following Tuesday. Without hesitation, I responded, “Of course, I can do that.” However, as soon as we left the meeting, reality struck, and I started freaking out, realizing that I had to perform the most significant and important show of my life in just four or five days, and I was leaving town for the weekend. But fortunately, I had a great support system around me.
I had been working with Brian West for a couple of months, who introduced me to Elliot Bank, an incredible guitar player. With them and my manager, we gathered at Brian’s house, and it became a boot camp for me—a night I loved. The three closest collaborators and the people I respected the most gathered to help me improve. We went through an all-night session, playing and critiquing my performance and vocals until 4 a.m. Brian’s words stuck with me as he told me that I had to elevate my performance skills overnight if I wanted any chance of sealing the deal or impressing these industry professionals. I appreciated his seriousness, as it fueled my excitement as an artist to collaborate and receive feedback and criticism honestly and constructively. It’s the most effective way to grow, and that night was my favorite part of the whole experience. In the following days, we practiced, tweaked, and had discussions about our goals and what needed improvement. We continued practicing daily until the day of the show arrived. Although I had played numerous shows in Fargo, Minneapolis, and a couple in Los Angeles before, the ones in Los Angeles hadn’t gone as well as I wanted them to. So, understandably, I was a bit nervous before rehearsals began.
However, as the day of the show approached, I knew that this was the moment I had been preparing for my whole life, and I felt ready. Despite a nerve-wracking soundcheck filled with feedback and technical issues, I maintained a balance of healthy fear and confidence as I stepped onto the stage. It felt like everything I had ever learned about performing came into play in that moment. The culmination of years of experience from Fargo shows to the advice of different directors all seemed to align perfectly during those 20 minutes I played on stage.
I became a conduit for the music, feeling incredibly present yet slightly out of my body. The energy was electric, and I could sense that every single person in that room was captivated. I took the responsibility of entertaining them very seriously, and it was a special and beautiful moment in my life. It was a moment of trust in my abilities and a testament to my growth as an artist, proving to myself that I was more than capable of handling it all.
What are some challenges that local musicians face in the current music landscape? How do you navigate these challenges?
The challenges for local musicians today include the internet, social media, and algorithms. This trend goes back to around 2016-2017. When I moved to Minneapolis with the intention of pursuing a music career, I faced difficulties getting gigs because I didn’t have a significant following on Instagram. Initially, I tried the traditional approach by visiting various bars and venues, introducing myself, and handing out CDs, but most places directed me to submit online applications and provide links to my social media profiles. They even had a box to fill in the number of followers I had. This discouraged me as I believed that my internet presence shouldn’t be the sole criteria for getting booked. I had been working hard on my music and felt that bookings should be based on my performance and ability to draw audiences.
To navigate this challenge, I chose a different path. Instead of focusing solely on growing my social media following, I took matters into my own hands and created my own venue in my apartment. I booked myself and invited my friends, allowing me to express myself freely, experiment with new ideas, and build a fan base. This approach was my way of rebelling against the system that seemed to value online metrics more than artistic talent. In my opinion, the current music scene should be a space for exploration, learning, and growth, where musicians can experiment and take risks. However, it appears that many artists are now prioritizing online branding and image-building before showcasing their talents in live performances. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, if musicians are denied opportunities to perform in front of real audiences, they may miss out on crucial experiences and interactions that shape their artistry. It’s unfortunate that some bookers in the music industry seem to favor convenience over nurturing genuine talent.
Have you encountered obstacles or setbacks during your journey to success? How did you overcome them?
Yes, I have faced significant challenges. Growing up in an underprivileged family below the poverty line set me back about ten years compared to others. Moving to LA, I realized that those who grew up here were already five years ahead due to various advantages. Whenever I received money from contracts, it went towards basic necessities rather than investing in my music career. Struggling to survive while pursuing art full-time brought numerous challenges and setbacks.
In 2019, I had to make a tough decision: either give up music to secure a stable job and an apartment or continue pursuing music while living in my car. The financial pressure was immense, especially in an industry where the costs of producing music are exorbitant. Being a full-time musician under contract left me the most financially challenged I have ever been.
I believe it’s essential for more artists to openly discuss this reality. Many musicians are struggling financially, yet the industry expects us to bear the entire burden of production costs. Additionally, with declining revenues from music sales and music often being distributed for free, it’s even harder to make ends meet.
Reclaiming my situation and rejecting the industry’s expectations has been liberating. I’ve chosen to be transparent about my financial limitations and create music that genuinely reflects who I am and what I’m experiencing. Pretending to have lavish productions and resources I don’t possess would be disingenuous and unhelpful. Instead, I’m focused on investing in my art honestly and letting my work speak for itself.
Though it’s been challenging, I love what I do, and I’m grateful for the success I’ve achieved. However, the financial struggles persist, and I’m determined to raise awareness about this issue in the industry.
Are local initiatives, organizations, or venues in Fargo playing a significant role in supporting and nurturing the local music scene and community?
Yes, Red Raven holds immense importance in my music career. It is the single most vital physical location in the entire music industry for me. Without Red Raven, I wouldn’t be a musician, guitar player, artist, or curator. Another impactful initiative is the Celebration of Women in Music, started by Deb Jenkins, which has supported and nurtured not only my music career but also many others.
Red Raven will have a new location opening soon. Any patronage or donation to this initiative is vital to me as a musician.