Back to Tyrone Wells Wells blends Gospel upbringing with rock

By ERIC SCHELKOPF - eschelkopf@nwnewsgroup.com

With the Iraq war showing no sign of ending soon, it might seem like good timing to release a song like, “What Are We Fighting For?”

Musician Tyrone Wells knew that people might misunderstand the song, which is not his take on the war. The song is the first single off his latest CD, “Hold On.”

“It’s pro loving each other and learning how to forgive,” the California singer-songwriter said. “I think people do associate it directly with what is going on presently.”

That Wells would write such a song might not be too surprising. After all, he is the son of a preacher.

“I think that my faith informs a lot of my topics,” Wells said. “But then again, I write a lot of hopeless romantic love songs. But I think that definitely my faith does inform my lyrics and my approach.”

Wells doesn’t normally like injecting politics into his music.

“I don’t typically write things that are political, because I think politics typically divide instead of unite,” Wells said. “The label (Universal Republic) kind of helped choose the first single, and I didn’t know how it would do.”

“Hold On” is Wells’ major label debut. But the fact he is now on a major label didn’t change his approach to making music.

“My experience with a major label has been alarmingly great,” Wells said. “I’ve been very fortunate. This record, I made it independently and they bought it as is and released it as is.”

Wells’ blend of soul, rock and pop is garnering comparisons to Joss Stone and Lenny Kravitz. As a youngster, he was discouraged from listening to pop music and was only exposed to gospel.

“If you were listening to pop music, you were listening to it quietly in your room,” Wells said. “It’s not like my parents walked around with a sledge hammer or anything like that. Basically, I was a pretty obedient little kid. I just kind of listened to whatever they encouraged me to.”

Then in high school and college, he started listening to artists like Stevie Wonder and James Taylor.

“I fell in love with Stevie Wonder pretty early,” Wells said. “I started listening to all his back catalog.”

He didn’t consider music as a career until he attended college in Southern California.

“I didn’t think it was realistic,” Wells said. “I feel fortunate because I have myriad friends who would love to make a living by making music, but it’s just not an easy thing to do.”

Wells had some advice for budding musicians.

“If you are going to be relying on record sales to make a living, you are in a tough spot,” Wells said. “So I think touring is essential for any artist to try and make a viable living. And even then it’s hard because when you first tour, you have to play to very small crowds, and hope that the next time you come through it builds. It’s a big investment of time and energy in order to make a living in music today.”