Emily Wells has long been turning heads with her unique songcraft. The performer, producer, and songwriter trades in a striking mix of classical instrumentation, folk rawness, and hip-hop production anchored by her haunting combination of voice and violin. Her burgeoning reputation owes as much to her hypnotic live show where, working a looping pedal, Wells becomes a one-woman orchestra, playing live drums, guitars, analogue synthesizers, and beat machines, as well. It's that same blend of deft composition and hand-wrought quality that deeply colors each of Wells's albums.
Emily Wells is an anomaly among musicians, most of whom spend their careers striving for a major label deal. Before she was old enough to vote, a major label was courting Wells, two music-publishing companies were competing for the rights to her songs, and she was recording with award-winning producers. By the time she was legally buying her first drink, however, Wells had chosen a different path. With true indie ethos, she moved from New York, leaving in her wake a lucrative deal from a major label, renowned producers, recording studios, and a manager. During that period of her life, Wells had been offered everything that most musicians want. Everything except what she, as an artist, needed most: creative control.
Attaining the ever-elusive artist's dream of creative control, as Wells would soon learn, comes only at a price. Wells's cost was the thousands of miles logged, traipsing across the country, playing in and outside of bars, pubs, and juke joints. She traveled in a tiny car, dragging along guitars, a tiny bass, a giant old Linn 9000 drum machine, and a four-track. When flush, Wells would spend the occasional night in a seedy motel room, where she would tirelessly record with her archaic four-track and dirty old instruments. Wells didn't look back to her swank days as a would-be priority artist on a major label and regret any of her choices; she saw each obstacle in her path as a challenge. Eventually landing in Los Angeles, Wells finally learned through recording and performing how to have the creative control she craved. Slowly building her own studio, she taught herself how to record and produce. This is the studio in which she would create, record, mix, and produce The Symphonies: Dreams Memories and Parties, her latest release. To get the sound of a full orchestra, Wells didn't take the easy way out and simply loop the layers of violins; instead, she played up to 21 separate tracks of violin on each symphony, often using an octave pedal to create the tones of an underwater cello or viola. In addition to the strings, there is a plethora of other sounds, electronic and organic alike. Two years ago, Wells found a bassist, Joey Reina, and a drummer, Sam Halterman, who add a richness to both the live show and the recordings. Their contributions to The Symphonies give the compositions more depth as well as a little junk in the trunk.