Interview: Tyrone Wells

bill bodkin interviews the pop-rock artist as he tours the east coast…

Tyrone Wells has an undeniable sound.

It’s a sound, that no matter if you listen to death metal or roots reggae, you feel it. You get a shot to the gut, to the soul, to the brain — and that shot tells you that what you’ve just heard is damn good music.

Wells’ music is made of the stuff that should be sandwiched between Rob Thomas and Colbie Calliat on modern pop radio. It has a wonderful sense of soul, fun and pop sensibility to it. Lyrically it speaks to you. Wells’ wordplay is something that appeals to the masses in its message, but speaks to you personally in its example — not something easily achieved.

Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with Tyrone Wells about hearing his music on television, fatherhood and the freedom of being off a label.

Photo Credit: Danny Vasquez

Pop-Break: Having read multiple interviews with you, one of the overriding themes I’ve seen is that you have this feeling of independence since you left the major label you were on. How much has leaving your label changed you as an artist?

Tyrone Wells: To tell you the truth I don’t feel that much different. When I was on the label I felt like we were, as far as it goes with the music, we were in charge. The label was very hands off — they were just like ‘you deliver the product.’ So, in terms of what I do — making the music, writing music, recording the music, performing the shows, I don’t feel very different at all. What I’m excited about is just having the control beyond that as well — knowing that I can release a record whenever I want to release a record. I can release EPs, I have a bunch of music that I recorded for this record that I can dole out over the next year, I probably have a whole other record’s worth of music recorded. I just love the freedom of being independent — not answering to any bottom line that’s put on you by some corporation.

PB: So, now you have the sense of freedom to release EP’s and albums. When you were signed did you feel constrained or forced to release music? Did the label life cramp your style in terms of getting a record out and finished?

TW: Well, why I say that is a label looks at it so differently. They’ll be like ‘Well we’ve got three guys who are singer/songwriters, three dudes with guitars, and we’re releasing this guy in the same genre, so we’re pushing your release back.’ You know have things like that, as an artist you don’t want to have that happen because there’s someone on the label that does what you do. Or they’ll be like ‘Hey, we’re releasing the new Colbie Calliat or Jack Johnson record and we’re going to put all our focus on that.’ It’s a traffic issue and an attention issue and it’s nice to be out of that.

PB: Your music has been licensed out tons of TVs, movies — take me to the first that you heard one of your songs on something. How was that experience? And are there any that stick out?

TW: It’s a surreal experience for sure. I think the one that moves me the most, because this was happening to me before I was on the label, my publishing company Position Music, was having a lot of success getting my music on TV and film. I think the best placement that I loved was the show Rescue Me, which is about New York Firefighters and the lead character (portrayed by Dennis Leary) had just lost someone and he was having a come to Jesus moment and thinking about the deeper things and they played this song of mine called “When All is Said and Done.” It talks about being at the end of your life and looking back and asking those questions. It was perfect placement — he was just soul searching and he wandered into this church and was kneeling and crying … it was so perfect I couldn’t believe it.

Another was a song called ‘More’ and it was used for a TV show called Intervention. It’s a pretty heavy show … it was on the trailer of the show to open it.

PB: Let’s talk about the new record Where We Meet — can you tell me how this record stands out from the rest of your catalog?

TW: This one took a little bit longer to make it was about a two year process; it was a real labor of love and a labor of labor (laughs). It was a long process. Over that two year period, I wrote over 80 plus songs to be considered and then I took my time and made the record I wanted to make. So I guess in that way it’s different. I liked that process; I used several different producers on the record. I didn’t want to be tied to just one person. So on this record there were four different producers that I used and still the music sounds cohesive enough to be on a record which is cool.

PB: You never would’ve guessed that honestly. Okay, my next question is…80 songs how do you cut so many songs to make the 12-14 tracks on album? Was that hard to do?

TW: Yeah absolutely. I hate leaving songs behind. I’m not going to record all 80 songs I wrote, but it’s a very difficult thing. Part of it is, the songs have to have some sort of appeal in order for me to release them. I can’t just release them based on the fact I like them and it’s not hitting the mark with anyone else. So my small team — the members of my band, my manager, I run things by them and we go from them. It’s heartbreaking when you leave a song behind or 60 songs in my case.

PB: Pick one song off the record that you feel defines what you were going for on this record?

TW: Oh boy…that’s a tough one. I would probably say, on the record what’s become my favorite is a song called “I Can’t Save You Now.” It kinda starts mellow and it kinda gets epic as the song goes on. I just like the vibe of that tune and I feel like it’s well-crafted and people will dig it. I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from the record and people are really responding to that song. I just love it — love playing it, love singing it.

PB: You’re currently on tour — tell those people out there who’ve never seen you play live before what to expect.

TW: I think people leave having had a great time and I’m engaging — everyone is involved to a certain degree. My favorite compliment is when I hear people say they’ve left a show inspired. The shows are fun, but thought-provoking and good for the soul.

PB: After listening to the record it struck me that you have a real emphasis on lyrics. They seemed so personal and in an odd way were cinematic…I got a lot of visual imagery while listening to the songs. When you write is there an emphasis on lyrics first then music second? How do you build a song?

TW: A lot of times it’s synonymous. It’s different all the time. Sometimes it starts with a phrase or an idea and I do my best to set that to music. Or I can just be sitting there with a guitar and this melody is coming out of me and then I do my best to write lyrics to the melody I have written. I’d say that probably happens more when the melody happens first.

PB: What can we expect from you in 2012 outside of the album?

TW: A gigantic tour. For me, this is the year I became a father for the first time a few months ago. I have a daughter. My wife and I are thrilled. It’s funny when I think of back in the day, being in bands, when someone had a kid, it was like ‘well there goes your career.’ For me, music has never been more important because this is how I provide. So this gives more meaning to what I do. I think I have a pretty big learning curve to learn how to be present, I don’t want to be absent. To be honest, that to me is on the forefront of my mind, being a good father. Musically it’s going to be my best year ever because I’ve got all this music coming out that I’m really proud of and can’t wait for the world to hear.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

3 COMMENTS

  1. Nice interview! Love, love, love Tyrone Wells. It’s fun to hear the background of the creation of the latest record. Pop-Break…you might want to correct the spelling the last word in the article. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Love Tyrone Wells! Have seen several shows in Sacramento and Seattle. He is always engaging and humble. Have introduced many friends, family and co-workers to his music and shows. It is amazing how he appeals to so many age ranges and people with so many different favorite genres. My boyfriend had heard some of his music through me and he is a huge grunge/rock fan…a vocalist himself in grunge bands in the 90’s…he went to a Seattle show with me a couple of months back (of course wearing his Led Zeppelin t-shirt) and walked away loving it and wanting to see him again. My 19 year old son is a hip hop fan and also has seen Tyrone live and loves his music as well. There is something amazing about this guy. Nice to see him out there in the public eye! Nice interview…

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