Jesse Wells of his namesake band, Welles, has never canceled a show: never prior to Tuesday, February 26thof this year, that is.
On Sunday the 24th, the band left Minneapolis heading south on the I-35 enroute to their next gig at Larimer Lounge in Denver on Tuesday, but they ran into some issues: snow, whiteout conditions, and an interstate about to be shut down. And after two days of re-routed, attempted travel in what Wells describes as, “the coldest, most absurd, and adverse weather” he had ever encountered, it became clear that Denver was not going to happen. Wells was not pleased, but he did have a certain respect for the situation.
“Never canceled a show. Ever. I’ve played shows with 103-degree fevers…I don’t cancel shows. And then all of a sudden, something stronger than God himself or – possibly – God, himself: weather.”
“No amount of entitlement is going to stop the snowfall.”
I’m on the phone with Wells as the band makes its way from Boise, ID to their next stop in Portland, OR and, through his soft Arkansas accent, he sounds every bit the relaxed passenger. Welles is midway through a tour which will take them through less potentially weather hazardous areas such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Florida, and their home base of Nashville. I can think of an album’s worth of reasons to attend a Welles show, but how does Wells see his band?
“Let me think: It’s a combination of the entire span of rock and roll. Right? We have all the greatest artists behind us.”
It’s not difficult to grasp Wells’ verbal sketch of what he believes Welles brings to the table, to listeners, and to the musical landscape: what you hear is honest reverence for what came before them and intentions to be the best music creators that they can be.
“We’ve had the good fortune of growing up listening to the greatest rock and roll mankind has ever created and we get to listen to all of it. There’s nothing that’s going on that we haven’t heard. Everything up until the present time. And I’m talking, you’ve got Lennon, you’ve got Bowie, you’ve got Dylan, you’ve got – I’m sure there’s somebody in the 80s that’s good…You’ve got your Cobains, your Cornells. I’ve been listening to a lot of Oasis and stuff like that. So, we get to draw on all those influences and what would any rock and roll band be other than the culmination of all those things?”
That culmination came to bear on his 2018 album, Red Trees and White Trashes, which sounds like an earthy and genuine rock lifeline: grungy, dirty, gently angst-filled, fuzzy, and southern. Devoid of any disruptive contemporary sheen because the music has no need for such things while the single “Rock N Roll” acutely interprets music’s place in life:
“And rock and roll knows your heart, it will tear you apart / Rock and roll is a blast”
So think about that and get to one of these upcoming shows.
Now when it comes to touring, some things – just like the weather – are far beyond one’s control, while others are well within. So, Wells gave me a few personal guidelines for managing life and oneself while on the road because #TourHappens…
“We listen to a lot of podcasts, we listen to rock and roll, archeology, a lot of history, a lot of conspiracy, and then music. But we’ve been on the road now for about two years and I’ve kind of exhausted any kind of playlist or music. We’ve listened to everything.”
A day off:
“Me and Marshall, especially,… will get up early in the morning and hit every single pawn shop in town, looking for guitars, looking for gear, equipment, strange odds and ends. I’m always looking for a little bit of Kombucha. I like that stuff.”
Tour Do’s & Don’ts
“Don’t…over pack. You become a burden to your bandmates and a burden to yourself. Just don’t do it.
Do…take care of yourself. This is work, but don’t try to break down and party too hard or you won’t have your voice for the next show. Go for a jog when you can. Eat something green.
Don’t…don’t be an ass to anybody at the venue. It’s not in your best interest.
Do…drink water. Get some Kombucha in ya. Go have an Emergen-C and that nasal stuff. That Zicam, I like to do that stuff quite a bit. That’s the only thing that goes in my nose.”
That last bit – good to know – but I did have one conversation caveat because Wells’ “Don’t over pack” rule seems to bump up against his penchant for wanting to go to thrift stores and buy shit.
Wells: “Oh that’s ‘cuz you donate as you buy.”
Wells: You’re done with those clothes, you’re not gonna wear them…and if you pack light enough, you got room.”
Me: “You’ve got room to collect on the road.”
Wells: “Yeah. Some shit only lasts one show and then you see a picture of yourself the next morning on Instagram and you’re like, ‘Yup, that’s gone. Not wearing that again.’”
Me: “Fair play.”