After more than 15 years of writing songs, recording albums, touring annually and doing all the other things an independent artist must do to build a career, Tyrone Wells needed a break.
His goal: To stay home and be a father, diversify his interests and recharge his artistic battery.
Check, check, check, check. Mission accomplished. The Seattle-born, Spokane-raised Wells is back on the road after an 18-month break, playing songs from his new EP Days I Will Remember for his loyal, grassroots fan base.
For those that know him, it's no surprise that Wells' time off turned out to be quite productive.
"I like to be in motion and I like to be creating," he says. "I start to feel pretty restless if I'm not actively making or doing something."
Wells, who graduated from North Central High School, timed his break to coincide with the birth of his third daughter, who is now three months old. Including his wife, he now lives with four females — familiar surroundings, considering Wells grew up with four sisters.
"I think that's maybe a big reason why the majority of my listeners are female, because ... I do have kind of an uber-sensitive (nature)," he says. Wells also believes he got his "people-pleasing" need from his dad, a pastor. "I like to make sure everybody's OK ... which is good and bad, because you can feel really stretched, but also people are amazed that you take the time to care."
Wells' older daughters are three and six years old, which means heading out on tour comes with mixed feelings, especially after being home for the longest stretch of his career so far.
"I just wanted to be present more," he says. "I want to be very present, and that's something that takes some doing when your job is to be gone. So I'm trying to figure that out."
Wells made the most of his time at home, though. He wrote the six catchy, honest and life-affirming songs on Days I Will Remember, which all showcase his natural ear for a killer melody. And he started a couple side projects with friends. In one of them, he focuses on composing "high-energy tunes" that you could imagine soundtracking the climactic moment of a major motion picture. In the other, he and two buddies are committed to occasional songwriting retreats in the mountains.
"As a creative person, it's been so life-giving to me because I'm stepping outside of my normal shoes and writing music in a different genre, and I don't have to take it quite so personal," Wells says. "When I'm writing my own stuff, I'm trying to dig in and be really vulnerable and honest. Writing stuff that's (supposed) to make you feel a certain sort of way, it's really liberating."
He's also branching out into other artistic mediums. Last year, Wells partnered with Portland-based Broken Eagle Studio on a children's book, The Whatamagump, that features a character and story developed by Wells and art by Broken Eagle, which hand-built miniature visuals for the story and then photographed them. Together, the group raised more than $80,000 for the project on Kickstarter.
Wells has since written an EP of children's music to go along with the book, and he plans on writing more stories about the Whatamagump, a nervous monster who finds courage with the help of a brave little girl.
The experience has opened Wells' eyes to the possibilities that exist for him beyond writing and playing pop-rock songs.
"It's been an epiphany for me personally. It's like, 'OK, I don't have to just be about this one thing,'" he says. "If you've been doing the same thing over and over again with your ability, it can feel stifling, even though you may be in a sweet spot and you might be enjoying what you're doing. But there's this part of you that's like, 'I wonder if I could also...'"
His voice trails off and he pauses for a second before continuing.
"That's been super encouraging and fun for me," Wells says, "to do some other things." ♦
Tyrone Wells, with Gabe Dixon • Fri, May 18 at 8 pm, doors open 7:30 pm • Sold Out • All ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174