Fresh off his Roll with It Tour, singer/songwriter Tyrone Wells sat down with Blast’s Madeline Knutson to talk about the recent addition to his family, his positive lyrics, and his strong connection with his fans. Originating from Spokane, Washington, Wells has released eleven albums over the past thirteen years, with songs from those albums featured over 50 times in film and television shows.
Blast: Your family recently grew with the birth of your second daughter. How has being a father changed you as a musician and a person?
Wells: Before I was a dad, I could be more single-minded about my profession. The things that took most of my attention were my relationship with my wife and my profession. I could throw myself fully at those two aspects of my life. When you have kids, you want to give more of your time and yourself to them. I have had to realign my order of what’s important to me. The cool thing is, when you have kids, it gives your career even more meaning. You’re not just trying to make a lot of money or get famous. You now are providing for your family and focusing on sending your kids to college one day. There is a lot more meaning behind the work that I’m doing. It definitely has changed my perspective, but in a very good way.
Blast: Your music focuses on staying positive and persevering through the tough times. Have you always been an optimistic person and where does that strength come from?
Wells: My music is pretty optimistic. From time to time, I will write a more depressing song and sometimes those will never see the light of day. I think it is human for all of us to feel down and sad from time to time. I try my best to be optimistic and hopeful for my listeners because I feel like a lot of what is out there in the art world is heavy and not always uplifting and I want to add more positivity. In regards to where my strength comes from, I think that’s two-fold. I’m a preacher’s kid, so I heard messages of hope growing up and I think that my family is hopeful and optimistic. Also, taking that faith that they taught me as my own instilled a sense of hope in me. I believe that there is more to this life than just walking a difficult path. Life can be hard but there is this hope in me and this trust in me that there is a lot of meaning in life and in the end, we are reunited with the one that made us. There is a lot of hope in my heart because of that.
Blast: While your other albums have been more acoustic and focused on a softer sound, your recent release, “Roll With It” seems to be more upbeat. Was that your intention or did that just naturally happen as the album was being put together?
Wells: Part of that change came from me working with other people. I love to collaborate with other writers and some of the guys that I wrote with tend to lean towards a more upbeat sound. I also wanted to write a more upbeat record, not just positive, but literally faster with more up-tempo songs. Also, my daughter played a part in the new sound. I love seeing her react to stuff and watching her jump around and dance. It’s funny because that was probably, without me knowing it, a big reason for the faster songs. In retrospect, I recognize that I wanted to see a reaction from my three year old daughter. Certain songs wouldn’t interest her or she would want to listen to Coldplay instead. When I played her song that she wanted to listen to over and over, I felt like I had found that sound I wanted.
Blast: You are very fan friendly and always greet everyone after your shows. Did that come from you going to concerts growing up and meeting musicians you liked or is it more based in your desire to have a personal connection with your fans?
Wells: I think it’s probably the latter. I feel a lot of gratitude to the people who come and pay money to hear me play and buy my music. I literally feel gratitude because they are helping me to survive and thrive as an artist. I never get it when artists are, like, too cool for their fans. I just really don’t understand that because I think it’s a horrible way to be. I’m so grateful for anybody who is going to support what I do. I understand when it gets to a certain level for some artists where it is overwhelming or fans are not being respectful to the artist. But for me, at my level as a singer-songwriter, I can say hi to everyone that is willing to wait around after a show. That is intentional because I am grateful for their support.
Blast: One thing I really enjoy about your concerts is the stories you tell before some of your songs. It really adds another level of connection between you and the fans. What is your best story about a moment you’ve had on this tour?
Wells: On this tour, we are playing a game called “what are the odds” with each other. You choose a task and then one of us (usually it’s the sound guy Logan) will say to Kevin, who he usually picks on, “What are the odds that you will do this task?” Kevin will give him the odds, like 1 in 20, and then they both count down from 3. If they both say the same number, Kevin has to do the task. One night, we were in Austin after a show on the tour. Austin on the weekends is just madness because they shut down the whole downtown and there are college students roaming around everywhere. It’s packed wall to wall people. There are a lot of guys out selling roses to all of the couples walking around. So, Logan asks Kevin, “What are the odds that you buy a rose for some girl and give it to her tonight?” They counted down and both said the same number, so Kevin bought a rose and mustered up the courage to give it to this girl. As she walks away, Logan asks, “What are the odds you go and take the rose back?” Kevin said 1 in 20, they counted down, and unbelievably, they both said the same number. Kevin had to go find the girl and take the rose away from her. He tried but she wouldn’t give it back, so he had to buy it off of her. Logan even has a friend with a tattoo on his butt of Sara Bareilles lyrics because he lost one time. I just basically give really high odds so the likelihood of me doing anything is pretty slim.
Blast: You’ve been successful for a while now, from being on tour across the country to having your songs on a variety of television shows. Was there ever a moment when you thought that this wasn’t the right path for you?
Wells: This is what I dreamed of doing since high school. In college, I was in a band and that’s when I really had the true belief that I could do this. There were a lot of lean years where I was barely making any money, but I always believed that I would be able to do it. I think you have to be single minded and think that there are no safety nets in order to succeed in a career in the arts. You have to just throw yourself wholeheartedly at it to make it a living. I think there are times of doubt that I have had to face, but only for a split second. I would always talk myself out of it and keep that faith.
Blast: You have a lot of good advice in your songs that listeners can really take to heart. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and the best piece of advice you have for an aspiring musician?
Wells: A good piece of advice that I have always heard is to play to your strengths. I think it’s easy to compare yourself to other people in life and want to be someone else. It’s important to look at what you are good at and be about those things, rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing. That’s applicable for everybody. People need to take a sober look at reality and think about what they excel in and play to those talents. A piece of advice I would have for an aspiring musician would be that the most important thing you can have, over talent and connections, is work ethic. You have to work hard and be comfortable in your craft and do whatever it takes to get there. For example, Andy Grammer used to play on 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, CA on the street for a year or two. That was him becoming a true musician and I think that is so cool. It is all about work. The people who are the most successful are the ones who work the hardest.
Be sure to follow Tyrone Wells on Twitter at @TyroneWells and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tyronewellsmusic. You can also check out his website at www.tyronewells.com.