Jeh-sea Wells (now known as Welles) is a rock-n-roller based out of Nashville who just released a new album titled Red Trees and White Trashes. I got to talk to the singer-songwriter about his early days in Arkansas, his new album, and more.
TYF: Any particular reason why you decided to go from Jeh-sea Wells to Welles?
Welles: Jeh-sea Wells has always just been me, the person. It came time to pick a band name, so Beau and I decided just to bolster my surname with another E and see if it’d float. It made sense to use my name. I wouldn’t have to get used to being called anything new. They called me Wells back in school.
TYF: Let’s now take it back. You grew up in Arkansas and music quickly became a part of your life. Can you tell us a bit about your early days of writing music? What was it like?
Welles: I had a washboard, an electric and an acoustic, a flute and some recorders as well as Sony Acid 6. I would record little tunes of my own in my room when I was 13. I would take Howard Pyle poems and make them into songs. I also remember recording Norwegian wood. I started by copying things I liked.
TYF: Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to write rock music?
Welles: I don’t think there was a specific moment, it’s been a culmination of experiences. I know hearing Sabbath and Nirvana in high school drove me mad to make big noise with my buds.
TYF: You started your career by releasing a song called “Summer.” Has your writing process changed at all when you wrote this song verse how it is now?
Welles: I will sit down and purposefully write what I think are catchy tunes now. Back then, I wrote all I was capable of, that which was right in front of me, what was on my mind. These days I, more or less, hear tunes I wish I’d written and go write my version.
TYF: Were there any songs you released that you look back on and wish you hadn’t?
Welles: Nope. I released everything back then, as soon as it was made. I’d toss an album up on Bandcamp a month. Was it any good? Nope. Anyone listen? Nope. But I was free to do whatever I wanted, within the constraints of a rural Arkansas scene.
TYF: Let’s now talk about your new music. Congrats on the new album, Red Trees and White Trashes! What was the most challenging part of putting the album together?
Welles: Picking the tunes that would be on the album. I fall in love with tunes that my buds tell me aren’t that great. May just be my pride, but it’s hard to let a tune fall to the wayside when in your heart you know you accomplished just what you wanted to with it.
TYF: How did you come up with the title?
Welles: I borrowed the line from ‘Seventeen’, and I’m not sure who the fella was that wrote that line down that night. It seemed like an accurate description of what you’re about to listen to. It’s where the music came from, white trash and red trees.
TYF: Can you walk us through your writing process?
Welles: With regards to the latest album, I’d have coffee and sit down and write and record until it was time for work again. That’s when I wrote most of those tunes. The ones with riffs started with riffs, like ‘Seasons’, ‘Into Ashes’, ‘Codeine’, etc. Those that don’t, ‘Rock N Roll’, ‘Seventeen’, ‘Are You Feeling Like Me’, ‘Life Like Mine’.
TYF: What was the fondest memory of putting together the album?
Welles: I enjoyed recording ‘Summer’. It was the last tune we cut. My voice was trashed and I was in a foul mood, we did it in just a couple takes with all of us live in the room. It is the rawest, most honest performance in my opinion.
TYF: Where does your inspiration for your music come from?
Welles: It comes from my daily life, the people I’m around and the relations I have.
TYF: Did you have writer’s block when putting together the album?
Welles: Nope. I’ll just write something bad until something good happens.
TYF: I saw you have some shows coming up! What’s your favorite part about touring?
Welles: Playing the show. everything else is just waiting. I enjoy finding nature and getting some running in when I can. We do a lot of thrift shopping and guitar shopping when we’re out, which is a lot of fun. We also love to play frisbee together.
TYF: Any particular venues you want to play at but haven’t yet?
Welles: I’m really not familiar with venues, however, if we had the chance to play at a venue again, I really enjoyed the Eagles Club (the Rave) in Milwaukee, WI. It’s a very cool, old building, lots of sneaking around and exploring to do.
TYF: Lastly, with the summer heat kicking in, do you have fun summer plans or any summer jams (besides your new album, Red Trees and White Trashes) our readers should check out?
Welles: I’m gonna try to get back to Arkansas and do plenty of swimming with my pals. You have got to check out Little Wings. The album, Light Green Leaves, is a good start. Sounds like Gordon Lightfoot tripped and never came back.
For more on Welles’ music, click here.