Folk Rocker, Uni Student Dave Wells: ‘Running Free’ with Debut Album
Up and coming folk star Dave Wells recorded his debut album in between uni classes. Nikola Jokanovic gives his newest a spin.
It’s hard carrying a personal project through to completion when your plate is already stacked with uni deadlines and word counts. Over the last 12 months, Dave Wells has managed to record and release a debut record with 40 units hanging over his head.
“Being an independent artist, everything’s on you – from management through to recording and producing,” said Dave. “It’s a lot of man-hours, you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of time.”
Dave Wells is a Newcastle-based, independent musician and a student in Primary Teaching at the University of Newcastle. Either one sounds like a full-time racket, but Dave has been taking it on altogether for the past year and some. It’s tough, he says, but worth it.
He’s not going it alone, however. Dave is part of Dashville – a music and arts collective who run the Gum Ball music festival, with their own camping and event showground in Belford. “I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise if I didn’t have that community backing,” says Dave.
The music itself says it all. Dave’s last 12 months have resulted in an album lush with sounds. Dave’s previous releases have primarily been stripped back guitar-folk, however, his debut self-titled is packed with instrumentation: piano, strings, double bass, banjo, violin, even the odd timpani drum (check ‘Cold Rusty Cage’ for the case-in-point). Dave bought a marching band’s worth of muso friends into the studio to help with recording. Ring-led by Newcastle music legend (and UON Music Conservatorium teacher) Robbie Long as the album’s producer, the album was recorded at his space, the Funky Lizard Studio in Kotara.
“He was the guy for the job, Robbie, because he’d know the right cellist, or the right keys player or whoever else, to bring all the elements together. It was just such a pleasure working with him.”
The hard yards weren’t just in the studio; Dave has had to carefully manage his time between music and university for twelve months, while the album was in production. He recalls squeezing in studio time wherever he could.
“There’d be days where I would head to uni, be there all day, then go to the studio for a few hours that night, then do the opposite the next day.”
Lead single ‘Picasso’s Cloud’ is a rolling folk-rock romper.
On the other side of things, the music itself doesn’t bear the battle scars of those 12 months. The album, which was released in late August, is full of rollicking folk-rock tunes, with delicate guitars, driving drums and Wells’ own Buckley-esque voice; it’s a polished piece of work that doesn’t betray the album’s long production. Dave says he went into the studio thinking of the world around him, both immediately and from a birds-eye view.
“Social realism is my thing I suppose. I was reflecting on all these things; people, characters, events, stories happening around you. Things feel quite tense around the world at the moment; I went in with a group of songs which I think caught that.”
With the album out there, it is only just the journey’s start for Dave. He launched the album with a sold-out show in August at the 48 Watt Street space, where he performed the album in full with a 9-piece backing band. Dave is currently booking a coastal tour in support of an upcoming single from the album, whilst juggling a few uni assignments in next few weeks. But for now, Dave’s just happy to have it all out there.
“When I wasn’t in the studio, I was adding weird little guitar noises in my studio at home. I tell friends, it’s probably worth listening with headphones, we added a lot of little details. There was a lot of work.”
Feature image provided by Dave Wells, taken from his website. No changes made.