Jonathan Wells is not your run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter.
His business cards say “Warrior Poet”— and that’s exactly what he is.
Born in Concord, NC, his parents surrounded him with music and took him on tour with their gospel act from the time he was an infant. He learned to play the piano, then the saxophone, the flute, and finally the guitar. As he grew as a musician and in his faith, he realized that God was calling him to use his gifts for ministry.
But music wasn’t the only calling Wells heard. No matter how far his guitar took him, from his first small gigs in North Carolina coffeeshops all the way to shows before big audiences on the Nashville stage, Wells couldn’t shake off the other duty he had yet to perform.
Wells explains, “I wrestled with how I could serve my country and pursue a music career at the same time for a couple of years. But every time I saw something on the news or in the paper about our soldiers being deployed and their need for men, it always brought back the feeling that I enjoy all of the wonderful freedoms in our country, but haven’t sacrificed anything for those freedoms. So, when Kendra and I moved to Nashville, I was sworn in as an American Soldier in the Tennessee Army National Guard.”
It wasn’t an easy task, but it was certainly one that changed Wells’ life—and his music—forever.
“Training to become an Infantryman was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life, mentally as well as physically,” says Wells, “but it taught the artist in me to be more organized and driven to accomplish whatever you set out to achieve. I learned how to focus on a level I never knew before, and how to persevere through difficult situations and circumstances.”
He remembers with emotion, “I can’t explain how it felt when I received my crossed rifles and was welcomed into the brotherhood of the Infantry, or the pride of receiving my Blue cord, identifying me as a U.S. Army Infantryman. I believe in serving my country, and being willing to sacrifice my freedoms and my life for my family and my country.”
Wells is strong, solid, and built. Yet beneath his obviously military exterior and intimidating physical frame beats the heart of a wordsmith who has known true emotion, and has that rare gift of translating it into song.
The startling smoothness in his voice calls to mind a mix of sincere ‘90s pop-rock and pure country class, equal parts honesty and groove. There’s some honey, sure, but there’s some grit, too. It’s all about the balance.
“I think a song needs to be more than just a formula if it’s going to move somebody, more than verse-chorus-verse and we’re out. It’s not that simple, and that’s what a lot of the songs I hear on the radio are; just formulas,” Wells says. “My goal is to craft a song that the listener’s own story can fit into, but one that’s still vague and clever enough that it makes you really think, too. The song is just the framework. I want to give listeners that rich moment, when you just feel it, and you know you’ve been there.”
“I just want to tell great stories,” Wells says with a grin. “Plain and simple. That’s all it is.”
And those great stories have begun to get him the attention he’d hoped for when he made his leap of faith and came to Music City. Wells has released two albums (“Stone’s Throw” in 2005 and “Along the Way” in 2009), has opened for Vertical Horizon, stars in a national Cheerwine commercial, and won first place in the state of Tennessee for the 2012 Texaco Country Showdown. He has also been admitted as a member of the exclusive NSAI (Nashville Songwriter's Association International) GAP Group. On top of that, Wells is a regular at writer's nights around Nashville, and plays shows with his band at various venues.
Jonathan Wells is a rising star in the making, and one to watch. Just like his values, his songs are simple but true, profound and rooted down. Check out his music here, and remember to share the link if you like it.