Emily Wells

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Emily Wells
2015 Emily Wells-Main Stage-Treefort-Credit-Rase Littlefield (16806947590).jpg
Emily Wells at Treefort Music Fest 2015
Background information
Born (1981-11-20) November 20, 1981 (age 37)
Amarillo, Texas, United States
GenresAlternative, experimental, classical[1]
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, arranger, producer
InstrumentsViolin, piano, cello, viola, guitar, drum programming, synthesizer, etc.
Years active1999–present
Associated actsClint Mansell, Terry Riley, Questlove, etc.

Emily Wells (born November 20, 1981) is an American multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, arranger, and producer whose genres encompass alternative, experimental, and classical.[1] While initially known for playing violin, she performs with diverse instruments in her work,[2] including cellos, viola, and analog synthesizers. During her live performances she often samples live[2] "using a series of live loops, sample pads and acoustic drums to make rich and haunting neo-gospel with layers of strings and vocal harmonies";[3] her most recent album features "dramatic, meticulous and gothic song".[4]

She has largely produced, recorded and performed her solo albums on her own, and after several solo releases, her album Mama was released on Partisan Records in 2012, to a positive critical reception. She released a full-length album in January 2016, on her own imprint Thesis and Instinct.[5] She has performed live at notable festivals both in the United States and internationally, and collaborated with artists such as Clint Mansell and Questlove.

Early life[edit]

Emily Wells was born in Amarillo, Texas, United States.[6] Her father was a music minister,[7] and Wells began playing the violin at age four.[2][7] In 1990 she moved with her family to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she lived until she began traveling in 2000.[8] While traveling she made her residence primarily in New York, where she would later move after an 8-year stay in Los Angeles.[9][10]

Music career[edit]

Early solo albums (2000-2010)[edit]

At age thirteen she began issuing her own recordings on cassette,[7] starting with an unofficial release with 100 copies. After several unofficial tapes,[11] in 2000 she "took up" with Epic Records but did not actually sign with them.[11] Beautiful Sleepyhead & the Laughing Yaks was her official full-length debut in 2006,[11] with all the tracks written, performed, produced, and mixed by Wells herself.[11] Her sophomore album The Symphonies featured bassist Joey Reina and drummer Sam Halterman alongside Wells.[11]

After her two official releases, the iTunes editors opined in 2008 that "Emily Wells has a unique voice, one that is equal parts honey and stinger: it’s a sweet, syrupy enticement, but there are clear implications of darker things to come... her second full-length, Symphonies… is as complex and beguiling as its name might imply, but it never weighs down in intellectual phoniness or theatrics."[11] Wells was interviewed and performed "Symphony 1 in the Barrel of a Gun" on episode four of Last Call with Carson Daly, which aired through NBC on September 18, 2009.[12] In September 2010, after recently moving from Los Angeles to New York, Wells was joined onstage by vocalist and harmonium player Shilpa Ray. The performance was positively reviewed by The New Yorker.[13]

Mama and Partisan Records (2012)[edit]

Emily Wells tunes her drums before her sold-out show at Treefort Music Fest 2013 at the Neurolux in Boise, Idaho
External video
Emily Wells - "Mama's Gonna Give You Love" Music Video (July 2012)

In 2012, she released her full-length album Mama through Partisan Records.[11] It had been recorded "in a tiny cabin on a Topanga Canyon horse ranch."[7] Music OMH gave Mama a score of 4/5/5, writing that the release "has a freshness and vitality about it that proves startling."[14] Beyond the songwriting, Impose Magazine praised her vocals in the album, writing that it was "a voice that’s made precious while somehow also being distorted, raspy, repressed and hushed."[15] Giving it a score of 80/100, In Your Speakers called it "cathartic," writing that "although Wells does not emulate her jazz and folk influences, she maintains the rawness and the passion of them, one being Bob Dylan."[16] Bring the Noise praised the release, giving it 8/10 and calling it both "one of the most interesting albums of the year so far," and a "fine example of what can happen when someone ignores the traditional boundaries of music genres."[17]

The lead single, "Momma's Gonna give You Love," was featured in The New Yorker on April 10, 2012, which wrote that she has a "moving voice and a boundless imagination."[18] She also released a free remixed version of Mama on Partisan, with remixers such as Jeremiah Jae, Kid Koala, Baths, and Deerhoof.[19] As of 2012 she was collaborating on material with Clint Mansell, a scorewriter and former frontman of Pop Will Eat Itself.[14] That April 2012 she created a featured mixtape for Magnet Magazine,[20] and Wells has periodically performed live sessions for recording studios, websites, and radio stations, including Daytrotter in April 2012,[21] WYNC's Soundcheck in May 2013,[22] Laundro Matinee in October 2014,[23] and KCRW in June 2013.[24]

Tour diaries and soundtracks (2013)[edit]

Wells has written tour diaries and articles for such publications as American Songwriter,[25] Impose Magazine,[26] and The Huffington Post,[27] and she has appeared live multiple times on NPR, with an interview on All Songs Considered on April 4, 2013, and a live performance on KCRW on July 11, 2013.[28] In 2013 she composed a song for director Park Chan-Wook's movie Stoker and toured South Korea promoting the film.[27] A single titled "Passenger" for a then upcoming acoustic version of Mama was released in 2013.[7] The Guardian named her New Band of the Week No. 1,503 on April 30, 2013.[7]

An acoustic version of Mama was released in on June 11, 2013 in the United States and United Kingdom through Partisan Records.[29] It had been recorded with a Tascam 388, with no digital effects added to the basic instrumentation.[30] Her songwriting methods were featured in a July 2013 edition of Performer Magazine, with the publication writing that Mama – Acoustic Recordings shows the artist at her most raw, vulnerable state."[30] Among other shows, Wells performed at Le Guess Who? festival in The Netherlands in November 2013,[31] and also that year she collaborated live with Questlove at Electronium in 2013.[32] She performed with The Roots and Aloe Blacc at the Rock the Clinton Global Initiative event that year as well.[33]

Recent projects and tours (2014-2015)[edit]

"Momma's Gonna Give You Love" was used in the January 2015 trailer for season 3 of the TV series Bates Motel.[34] On March 27, 2015, Wells gave a well-received keynote at Hackfort2 at the fourth annual Treefort Music Fest in Boise, Idaho wherein she presented her methods of composition at the intersection of art and technology and the growth of her sensibility as a musician. Performing with a reduced kit sans drums, she played earlier and later versions of her song "So, Sunday."[35][36] As a headliner on the main stage on the final day of the Treefort in 2015, Wells was regarded as "undoubtedly a highlight of the festival" for her "intensely meticulous and emotional performance."[37] She participated in the festival's Yogafort as well.[38]

Wells was also broadcast on air by WQXR in March 2015, when she performed at Ecstatic Music Festival for the 80th birthday party of Terry Riley, along with other musicians such as Marco Benevento, Nancy Whang, and Face the Music.[39] She has a new full-length album coming out in January 2016, on her own imprint Thesis and Instinct.[5]

Style and influences[edit]

"Wells [is a] virtuoso musician, and she dabbles in electronica, shades of folk and jazz, even classical and hip-hop, creating interesting tableaux and textures that are by turns airy and luminous, and spare and haunting."[11]
iTunes editors, 2008

According to music critics, Wells' music incorporates diverse genres, while her solo material "merge[s] ... hip-hop and classical".[40] She uses many other instruments in her work beyond violin,[2] including cello, viola, and analog synthesizers.[3] She often creates her own loops whilst performing,[2] "using a series of live loops, sample pads and acoustic drums to make rich and haunting neo-gospel with layers of strings and vocal harmonies."[3] In 2015, Wells stated that amongst her influences are the music theorist John Cage, whom she paraphrased ('"Music is a purposeless play meant simply to wake us up to the life we're living...'"), the minimalist composer Philip Glass, and the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan.[35][36]

Personal life[edit]

Wells currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her girlfriend,[41] artist Samantha Nye,[42] and a pitbull by the name of Oly.[41]


Solo releases by Emily Wells[11][43]
Year Name Label Release details
1999 Midori Sour Self-released 1999[43]
2002 Shadow Box Self-released 2002[43]
2004 Music for Geek Love Self-released 2004[43]
2005 Making Static Self-released 2005[43]
2007 Beautiful Sleepyhead & the Laughing Yaks Edub Productions Apr 12, 2007[43]
2008 The Symphonies: Dreams, Memories & Parties Creative Control Records Jul 08, 2008
2012 Mama Partisan Records Apr 10, 2012[11]
2013 Mama (Acoustic Recordings) Partisan Records Jun 11, 2013[11]
2016 Promise Thesis and Instinct Jan 29, 2016
2017 In the Hot Thesis and Instinct Mar 03, 2017[11]
2019 This World Is Too _____ for You Thesis and Instinct Mar 22, 2019


Solo EPs by Emily Wells
Year Name Release details
2009 Dirty Creative Control Records (2009)


Incomplete list of songs by Emily Wells[11]
Year Title Album Release details
2008 "O Holy Night" Single only Creative Control (Oct 10, 2008)
2012 "Becomes the Color" Single only Milan Entertainment (Oct 30, 2012)


Year Name Label Release details
2013 Pillowfight (Emily Wells with Dan The Automator) Bulk Recordings/EMI 2013

Guest appearances[edit]

Selected songs featuring Emily Wells
Year Single name Primary artist(s) Album Release details
2008 "Symphony 3: The Story" (with Emily Wells) Dwight Farrell The Symphonies Creative Control (2008)
"Gee Whiz" (with Emily Wells) Buck 65 Dirtbike 1/3 (Aug 2008)
2013 "Becomes the Color" (ft. Emily Wells) Various Stoker soundtrack Scott Free Productions (Jan 20, 2013)
"If I Ever Had a Heart" (ft. Emily Wells) Various Scott Free Productions (Jan 20, 2013)
"My Only Love" (ft. Emily Wells) Deltron 3030 Event 2 Bulk Recordings (Sept 30, 2013)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Wells, Emily (2008). "The Symphonies: Dreams, Memories and Parties". Bandcamp. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Violinist's Style As Much Hip-Hop As Haydn". All Things Considered. NPR. November 29, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c "Treefort Sunday Recap". Boise Weekly. March 25, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  4. ^ "Review: Emily Wells Layers Art-Pop, Filament by Filament". The New York Times. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Emily Wells". Facebook. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  6. ^ "Breaking Out". Spin. June 2009. p. 44.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Lester, Paul (April 30, 2013). "Emily Wells (No 1,503)". The Guardian. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "Feature: Emily Wells Interview". Room Thirteen. October 29, 2008. Retrieved May 23, 2009.
  9. ^ "Emily Wells – AIM Interview". LA Snark. September 17, 2008. Archived from the original on April 29, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  10. ^ "The Evolution of Emily Wells, New York Phase". Tom Tom Magazine. February 3, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Leahey, Andrew. "Emily Wells". iTunes. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  12. ^ "Frank Caliendo; Casey Currie. Also: violinist Emily Wells performs". Rotten Tomatoes. September 18, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  13. ^ "Emily Wells and Shilpa Ray @ City Winery 9.10". The New Yorker. September 22, 2010. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Murphy, John (June 5, 2013). "Emily Wells – Mama". Music OMH. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  15. ^ O'Malley, Kerri (April 11, 2012). "Emily Wells, Mama". Impose Magazine. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  16. ^ Moran, Emily (April 18, 2012). "Mama Review". In Your Speakers. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  17. ^ Black, Kathryn (2012). "Emily Wells - Mama". Bring the Noise. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  18. ^ Donohue, John (April 10, 2012). "Listening Booth: The Alabama Shakes and More". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  19. ^ "Emily Wells announces free release of Mama remixed, featuring lemonade, The Blow, Jeremiah Jae, Dan the Automator, Teen Daze and more". terrorbird.com. Archived from the original on March 26, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  20. ^ "Emily Wells Makes MAGNET A Mix Tape". Magnet Magazine. April 16, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  21. ^ "Emily Wells - Apr 6, 2012 - Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, CA". Daytrotter.com. April 6, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  22. ^ "Emily Wells: Layering Folk With Electronics, In The Studio". Soundcheck. May 24, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  23. ^ "Video Sessions: Emily Wells". LaundroMatinee.com. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  24. ^ "Emily Wells - Morning Becomes Eclectic". KCRW. June 12, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  25. ^ "Tour Diary: The Adventures of Emily Wells". American Songwriter. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  26. ^ Wells, Emily (June 29, 2012). "On Touring with Your Dog: A Cowboy Romance". Impose Magazine. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  27. ^ a b Wells, Emily (2013). "My South Korean Adventure". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  28. ^ "Emily Wells articles". NPR.org. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  29. ^ Horowitz, Steve (June 11, 2013). "Emily Wells - Mama Acoustic version". PopMatters. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  30. ^ a b Ricci, Benjamin (July 9, 2013). "Emily Wells on Re-Evaluating Creative Choices & Stripping Songwriting To Its Core". Performer Magazine. Archived from the original on September 6, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-03. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  31. ^ Studarus, Laura (November 13, 2013). "Premiere: Emily Wells Mixtape (Le Guess Who? Edition) : November 28-December 1 in Utrecht, Holland". Under the Radar. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  32. ^ "Electronium: The Future Was Then". bam.org. 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  33. ^ "OKP TV: Aloe Blacc & The Roots Rock The Clinton Global Initiative". OkayPlayer. 2014.
  34. ^ Souza, Ana (January 15, 2015). "Watch: 'Bates Motel' Season 3 Trailer Elevated By Visual Flair". IndieWire. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  35. ^ a b "Emily Weels discuses purposeless pay at Hackfort". Boise Weekly. March 29, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  36. ^ a b "Check Out # Hackfort 3". Go.boisestate.edu. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  37. ^ "Treefort Report: The Northwest's best kept secret | Life". Dailyevergreen.com. March 30, 2015. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015. Retrieved March 7, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  38. ^ "Artists at Yogafort". Treefort Music Fest. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  39. ^ "Listen: All-Star 80th Birthday Celebration for Terry Riley". WQXR. March 18, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
  40. ^ Lyons, Stephanie (May 5, 2009). "Interview with Emily Wells". AfterEllen.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  41. ^ a b "Emily Wells". Facebook. 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  42. ^ "Samantha Nye". SamanthaNaye.com. June 11, 2013. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  43. ^ a b c d e f "Emily Wells". Discogs. Retrieved July 6, 2015.

External links[edit]