Tyrone Wells is the guy who you have heard but you don’t know his name. This is an interesting dynamic. The same dynamic that befalls Gavin DeGraw,Matt Cardle and the 1 month pop sensation, Gotye. But let’s ignore the mainstream. What do they know anyway? Tyone Wells is more than just a folky musician that hearkens the seedy raspiness of Bob Dylan. He is more than a musician who crafts pop hooks over 4/4 instrumentation, and sings about ex-girlfriends, love, his hometown, and the passing of time. He is more than an instrumentalist who has songs scattered about episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, The Vampire Diaries, One Tree Hill, and just about every post 2003 daytime soap opera. Tyrone Wells has an ear, or should I say a knack, for what goes on underneath the song. You don’t need to know his name; you need to know his songs.
Perhaps that is why his music works so well as backgrounds to overly melodramatic tv break-up scenes.
But in all reality, Tyrone Wells knows more than you. He’s emerged from the underground, to release a string of four impressive, albeit soft and largely acoustic albums, under the True American label. Aptly titled and representative of Wells, True American gave him a free home to craft homegrown pop under the umbrella of melancholy acoustics and fine-tuned love.
Yet, it was only a matter of time before the major label cycle followed the crumb trails, and found Tyrone Wells soft sensibilities worth marketing and molesting. The accused? Universal Records. That is not to say that his debut for Universal, “Remain,” wasn’t a fun, upbeat record that was wholly Wells. It’s just that with an increased budget comes an increased production value. And with an increased production value comes a guy who can get away with just a little bit more than what could be offered self-recording with an independent. All it meant was that Wells extended himself… just a bit.
Of course, before the major label Universal funded his debut, they re-released his indie album “Hold On.” Fun, quaint, and channeling the likes of top 40 radio with Dashboard Confessional level melodrama.
Universal released 2009’s “Remain,” and it was around this time I caught Tyrone Wells at a small local venue called “The Social”- famous for housing Modest Mouse, Paramore, and many other acts just before their big-break. There was a small group on stage. Tyrone, a short guitarist who remains unnamed despite my modest amounts of info digging, and a drummer who remained hidden and could have honestly been a hired gun, a conclusion I come to after watching his unenthusiastic, basically backstage performance.
Wells provided cheap thrills to the girls, offering them cute smiles and clap-a-longs that left many a boyfriend darting for the nearest exit. But his softness quickly became charming. Tyrone clearly understood songwriting, and channeled a lot of what 20 something’s seem to achieve with almost no effort when they craft these big sing-a-longs. Yet Tyrone comes with maturity, a maturity only found in an artist who uprooted himself from the indie cesspool, into the majors. A maturity that comes from an artist likely knowledgeable of his imminent end with the major Universal, who dropped him just a few months after my seeing of his performance.
With major label dropping comes the decision to either roll over and die or continue on as a real man should. Tyrone released “Metal and Wood” in 2010, featuring more sincere lyrics and less patronizing to the audience. It was his best album to date.
With independence comes, well, independence. The lack of restraints allowed Wells to fully explore his latest album, “Where We Meet.” This 2012 release saw Tyrone Wells at his most down-to-earth. After chugging along in the minors, and being grinded in the majors, Tyrone Wells clearly found a place of comfort in his current status, a comfort that radiates from “Where We Meet.” I fully expect Wells to continue growing as an artist, like any good artist does. But it took some time for him to ignore the word ‘capitalize‘ and flesh out a truly organic collection of songs that stand on their own without the pandering that comes with too much “sincerity,”(air quotes and all.) Tyrone Wells found what works, and we can only hope he continues in the vein of classiness while keeping quality songwriting a pattern he can repeat.
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.