Back to Tyrone Wells THE DAILY BRUIN ONLINE 1/19/2007

Wells to release record
Winning Spring Sing was just the beginning for singer/songwriter’s burgeoning career

By Hae Jung Shin

As a 2004 Spring Sing winner and major-label recording artist, it's hard to believe Tyrone Wells wasn't always a star on the rise.

Growing up as a preacher's son in Spokane, Wash., Wells had to hide away his pop music until after his parents' bedtime and was encouraged to listen primarily to gospel. However, it was this early exposure to the soulful roots of gospel and choir music that provided the groundwork for Wells' own emergence onto the music scene years later.

On Saturday night, Wells can expect to play to a familiar Los Angeles crowd, as Star 98.7 FM presents a show at the El Rey to promote Wells' major-label debut, "Hold On," which will be released on Feb. 6 on Universal Republic.

Growing up in a religious family with four sisters who were accomplished performers from a young age, Wells may have been discouraged from listening to pop music, but he was certainly no stranger to performance, participating in everything from talent shows to choir despite an almost paralyzing case of stage fright.

Although this caused him to always perform in the shadow of his sisters, Wells never let this feeling prevent him from pursuing his passion.

"I just kept getting up there time and time again, wherever it was," Wells said. "Growing up, it was always talent shows and (getting) up in front of my church or school. In choir during junior high, I kept getting up there and really embarrassing myself – a lot of times I would just fall apart. But it was about getting up, and one day, finding out that, for the most part, I could do it."

Once Wells started college in Southern California, his enthusiasm for music grew into a burgeoning career. Starting off at McClain's, a local coffee shop in Fullerton, Wells played to an ever-growing audience. Although Wells started there with an offer to play every Thursday for just one month, he received almost instantaneous success and ended up playing every Thursday for three years instead.

"The fact that it sustained itself and grew and I had to go to a bigger room was great," Wells said. "I was selling a lot of records independently by doing things in a really grassroots fashion."

During his fortuitous early beginnings at McClain's, Wells also started performing with other musicians, including UCLA alumnus Mark Chipello. In 2004, Chipello's senior year, he and Wells entered the Spring Sing competition, simply because it was an opportunity to perform in front of a large crowd.

Chipello and Wells ended up taking home the gold, winning for Best Solo/Duet Entry and Best Overall Entry.

"I was doing a lot of music at the time, and the opportunity just sort of came up to do it," said Chipello, who is now the drummer for Wells' band. "Tyrone and I knew each other and it just seemed like such a great fit, musically. I called him up and said, 'Hey do you wanna do this thing? There's gonna be 5,000 people.' That was the first thing we ever did together, and ... it was a huge part of both of our careers."

For both Chipello and Wells, performing in front of a packed stadium audience was an experience in itself, but actually winning Spring Sing helped them solidify their decisions to pursue music not just as a hobby but as a profession.

"It's my full-time job now," Chipello said. "Spring Sing sort of helped us build a starting fan base and created this huge momentum, starting at UCLA."

In addition to Wells, Saturday's show at the El Rey will feature a Spring Sing all-star lineup. Both opening bands, Raining Jade and Mikey G & Dan from Danville, are previous Spring Sing winners, from 2000 and 2006, respectively.

Following Wells' early years at McClain's and his growing popularity in the wake of his performance at Spring Sing, several of his songs have been featured on television shows, including "Rescue Me" and "One Tree Hill." By early 2006, Wells was frequently selling out shows at Los Angeles venues such as the House of Blues, the Viper Room and the Troubadour. Despite kicking off a national tour this month, Wells is simply thankful for the opportunity to perform, regardless of location.

"I'm just grateful to be doing what I love. It's a really exciting time for me to see years of hard work pay off like they have been in these past few months," said Wells, who left with a word of advice to those looking to follow in his footsteps.

"For anybody reading this, for anybody that's creative: I know that you spend a lot of time feeling like you're just pushing a boulder up this huge hill and you're just trying to make something work," Wells said. "But I just want to tell you that one day, when you're pushing long enough and hard enough, you'll find that it starts to roll downhill."