Back to Tyrone Wells

Friday, June 15, 2007
Orange Pop: Wells makes the big jump
Orange Pop column: A weekly look at local Orange County bands.

Special to the Register

Orange County's far-flung music scene has launched the careers of major punk, pop, ska, blues and even country artists, but the burgeoning success of singer-songwriter Tyrone Wells draws few obvious ties with those movements.

The longtime Fullerton resident impeccably blends pop, rock, soul and blues with R&B across his latest album. Songs such as gospel-tinged rocker "What Are We Fighting For?" and melodic ballad "Sea Breeze" are among the many highlights of "Hold On," his first album released by a major label (Universal Republic).

Wells has been touring extensively since the release of the 12-song set Feb. 6, but he was in town this month to perform two benefit acoustic shows at Fullerton's Plush Café for Bailey Spoonhower, 6, a cancer patient at Children's Hospital of Orange County. Wells returns home next week to perform a proper homecoming show with his full band at the House of Blues in Anaheim on June 23.

"I came here and went to Hope International University; it's a little private school right across the street from Cal State Fullerton," Wells said of the move from his native Spokane, Wash.

"I think when I left Spokane I thought that I was leaving music behind me and I was going to enter the professional world or something. But then I met some guys right away at the college that were great musicians, so we formed a band at that point and basically there has been no looking back. It's like I can't imagine doing anything else."

Wells has a powerful voice, which he uses in the service of songs that mingle the singer-songwriter instincts of James Taylor with the soulful approach of Stevie Wonder. His distinctive and affecting vocals are capable of tackling a variety of styles, and he is as comfortable playing alone with his acoustic guitar as he is backed by a full band. And that gift of writing, performing and entertaining came despite an upbringing in which the young son of a preacher was exposed only to gospel music.

"As I grew up and got into high school and stuff, my parents were a little bit lenient and I was able to listen to all kinds of stuff, but I think once I got into college I did a lot of research – listening research – behind the stuff that I had missed that was so great. You know, great classic stuff like James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel; I was really a huge fan of Stevie Wonder and still am, especially his earlier work."

Wells established a strong following in Orange County before being signed, performing frequently at coffeehouses such as Fullerton's McClain's and the Plush Café. He also released several independent albums, including "Snapshot" (2003) and "Live at McClain's" (2005) before going into the studio with producer Chris Karn to work on "Hold On" in late 2005.

"I was basically just doing my own thing for about five or six years and had never talked to a major label," Wells said.

"But then I released my last record, which is called 'Hold On,' and within a month I had talked to almost every major label there was. It was really surreal for me because I had just been plugging along forever, and just thought maybe I'm not major-label material, maybe I'm going to be an independent artist the rest of my life – which is not bad, because I was doing fine."

Wells, Kalai and Ernie Halter perform at the Anaheim House of Blues, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive, at 8 p.m. June 23. For more information on that show, visit

To hear several songs from "Hold On," visit