About a year and a half ago, we did an interview with Nashvillian-by-way-of-Fayetteville musician Welles. Well (pun intended), a lot has happened with him since then. He released a well-received EP entitled Codeine last year. His debut full-length, Red Trees and White Trashes, dropped on Friday, June 15. He’s toured across the US and Europe with some big names, including Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, Greta Van Fleet, and Rival Sons. He’s played a ton of huge festivals. He’s also finally coming back to Fayetteville for the first time under the name Welles, with a big George’s gig on Thursday, June 21st with local regulars Vintage Pistol opening. Tickets are $12 and still available. Doors are at 7:00 PM and the rock begins around 8:30.
If you follow Shindigmusic on social media, you know that we’re big supporters of this local boy done good, and we have high hopes for his career and continued success. One of our primary purposes is to document the on-going history of music and Arkansas, and to help promote and elevate our best artists to the next level. Obviously, we can’t take any credit for any of Welles’s success, but he is kind of our poster boy and a good example for other Arkansan rockers to emulate. He was kind enough to catch up with us from the road via e-mail in anticipation of his triumphant return to town.
The last time we talked, you had just put out “Are You Feeling Like Me” and were gearing up for the EP release, but you couldn’t really tell us a lot about your situation. In the interim you’ve obviously done a lot, especially toured your ass off. What’s life on the road for the past year and change been like, particularly in relation to your old life here in Fayetteville?
You’re right, it went from not talking to not having time to talk. I signed a deal and tore off down the road. It’s been a different life, and it asks you to change a bit just to keep yourself alive, but I think it’s a life I prefer for the time being. Now I can’t stand being home. My hands are wondering when I’m supposed to play that day, and all I had to do was work at the coffee house and do some laundry. I had my logger boots removed (yes, it was a procedure) and I’m sporting some Converse All-Stars right now, ‘cause my feet hurt something awful after Europe. I don’t get to record as much, and that’s the only rough thing. but I reckon you’ve got to get out and live to have something to write about.
You are, of course, Welles, but you have other musicians backing your performance. How did you get hooked up with the members of your band and what’s the dynamic of their involvement in your music?
We’ve had some lineup changes, often just out of scheduling issues, ‘cause most players around here operate as hired guns. That’s just Nashville. There’s a bunch of great players and they stay busy, so pinning down some of my own hasn’t been easy. I met my band out of necessity, shows were in the calendar and I was sending cold texts to strangers wondering if they liked my music enough to play it. We’ve become good friends by now. they make the live show – that’s their involvement, and it’s incredible when I stay out of their way. The four of us have crafted a live show through trial and error (trial/error spanning four lifetimes of playing) – not much different than writing an album.
Your album is released through 300 Entertainment, which is a huge independent label with a ton of big, big name artists on its roster. You’ve come a long way. What’s your relationship like with the team at 300 and as a music fan do you ever geek out on some of the industry situations you’re in?
There is a lot I don’t understand. I feel like I occupy about three rooms in a huge building I entered with a blindfold on. I’m not sure who’s above or below, or where the stairwell is, but from what I can tell my team is small and tight. I feel bad sometimes, ‘cause the weight of some situations falls dead on my philistine mind. Situations that seemed like pipe dreams are now mundane and get in the way of me going out for a drink. There is still so much more that will happen though.
“Red Trees and White Trashes” is clearly informed, at least in part, by your life in Arkansas. You think your Arkansan influence will stick with you throughout your career, or are you eying any other specific concepts to write about in the future? Or will you just continue to write about your own life as it unfolds?
That’s the question, man. I don’t think I can answer it, seeing as to how I can’t show you a part of me that’s Arkansan any more than I can show you a part of me that’s man. I’m still writing my life down, we’ll see where it goes.
Vintage Pistol is opening for you and you personally have a lot of history with them. How do you feel about them being involved and what they bring to the table for this show?
I’m pleased to have them. They had Cosmic American in with them at George’s for only our third show; at that point Cosmic had only played Backspace and Nomads, so that was a big step up. In some way that set the pace for Cosmic, Dead Indian being kind of a clumsy first incarnation (perhaps our woodshed), and we went on in the subsequent months to have good fun. They have the best guitar players in Arkansas, so that’s a plus. Always makes me need to go practice when I watch Stan.
When you moved to Nashville, you had a big moving sale and got rid of a lot of gear, because of course you’ve been able to substantially upgrade your equipment. Tell us about your current rig, and why you use what you use?
Haha! Just to be clear, when I got rid of my things, it was so I’d have enough dough pay rent in Nashville, though after about a year’s time I have acquired the best set up I’ve ever had. I’ve got a Fender Vibrolux that sounds brilliant. Pedals and I have never gotten along, and I’ve been through so many it feels like, but I finally got myself a little board and have started using them sparingly. Moog MF Drive (distortion), Way Huge Angry Troll (boost), Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress (flange), and a Boss tuner. I play the same guitar I’ve always had, it’s a Memphis Strat copy from the ‘70s with a couple of Seymour Duncan Super Distortions in it.
This is your first time back in NWA performing. You have anything special planned for the crowd at George’s?
We’ll be playing our longest set yet, which is exciting. We’ve been around opening for bona fide bands and have had to keep a strict 30-minute set with little to no soundcheck for a year, so I’m excited to stretch my toes a bit. Whatever that looks like, George’s, that’s what you’re getting, just four rock and rollers stretching their toes. We have a little thing we say before we go on. “No butts, no boobs,just four good dudes. It’s gonna be a really good day.”
Welles with Special Guest Vintage Pistol June 21 at George’s Majestic Lounge Get tickets at stubs.net