PREMIERE: wolfi Confronts His Toxic Ego With “Ugly” Video

Photo Credit : artbyhybrid

We all have that moment of clarity when we realize our habits or intentions are nothing short of toxic. One such moment inspired indie singer-songwriter Emerson Vernon, who releases music as wolfi, to write his latest song, “Ugly.” “I really wish I wasn’t such a liar,” he screams, grappling with the harsh realization that his ego may have been his biggest downfall. The video, shot by Herb Maximo, soaks the lyrics in beautiful and serene countryside vistas, certainly a startling contrast to wolfi’s brutal confessions.

The stand-alone single was initially inspired by “an artist I really respected [who] spoke on my craft to be corny,” Vernon tells Audiofemme. “I really admired this artist and when I heard he didn’t respect what I was trying to do it made me really question my ego.”

Vernon took some time to reflect and consider his many relationships, particularly as a role model for his younger siblings. It soon became clear he was leading “a rather unhealthy lifestyle with all the pressure I put on myself,” he admits. “I can be very selfish at times – like anyone in their 20s I guess. I was keeping things from [others] because I thought lying was a form of protection, but that’s not the example I want to present for my little brother.”

Among these many scenarios, he began to feel immensely ugly for what he’d done, even if well-intentioned. “I haven’t changed a bit/I’m still a narcissist/Confessing all the things I couldn’t ever admit,” he sings. He layers his smoke-charred vocal over his words, somehow giving them even more gravitas. “No one would bat an eye/Watching me fail to try/But no one watches me hurt in private.”


Months later, he still isn’t quite sure what he has learned, exactly, but he knows he is a work in progress. “I just gotta do better and sort out my priorities, and I think I’m getting closer to that every day,” he says. “I just really have to remind myself that I’m not shit sometimes. It’s important for me to check myself when I’m feeling up because if I let my ego consume me things always go bad. I don’t think I’m a bad person. I’m just growing up like anyone else, but especially with the career path I’ve chosen, I’ve learned I need to stay self-aware and mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy.”

Originally from Indianapolis, Vernon grew up in the church, and lines like “I know that God will still tell me He loves me” call to his upbringing and ongoing faith. “I don’t consider myself to be overly religious, but I do keep a very personal relationship with my angels,” he explains. “They’re always there for me when I need them. Whenever I’m at a low point, I just meditate and ask questions until I’m presented with some kind of answer. I guess you could call that prayer. I don’t truly know if God is real or not, but I choose to believe in a God so I don’t feel so alone.”

With the help of Maximo, a long-time friend since his Full Sail University studies, the video for “Ugly” evokes the heft of Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” a crucial musical touchstone in Vernon’s childhood. “I really just wanted to be outdoors for the video,” he says, noting it was filmed at The Compound in Palm Bay. “It was such a great day; it was just me and my best friends doing what we loved while waiting for the sun to set for the perfect shot. I think Herb executed [this] perfectly.”

Earlier this year, Vernon released two full-length albums, White and Black, dual collections handling contrasting emotional beats. What is most evident through his catalog so far is the growing strength and force of his songwriting. In many ways, he owes it all to real-world experiences and observations. “I’m living on my own now, so a lot of the things I’m writing about are real world problems. I started writing songs because I was always heartbroken over girls,” he explains, “but now I’m writing about things that are bigger than me. I really don’t have a personal life with how much I work these days, and the things that really shake me are the situations the world and my loved ones are put in. Writing about anything else just feels… inauthentic, I guess.”

“Ugly” arrives as a forward-looking marker in his life. wolfi is still very much in the thick of personal transformation, but it can only go up from here.

Follow wolfi on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for ongoing updates.

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