CORY WELLS subverts expectations at nearly every turn.
The cover of Wells’ debut album, THE WAY WE ARE, features the Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter perched atop a rusted-out vintage car, calling to mind dusty folk music. Songs like the single, "Cement”, imbued by seemingly effortless musicianship and wistful nostalgia, go a long way toward reinforcing this sonic predilection.
But, there’s more to Wells than what you’ll find on the surface. The songwriter grew up playing Metal before discovering Dashboard Confessional’s seminal MTV Unplugged 2.0 live album, a record that set him on a hard left turn to creating a more well-worn, earnest style. Even so, he injects the desperation and power of his heavy music background into every note of THE WAY WE ARE (out now via Pure Noise Records) – not necessarily in sound, but in spirit.
Across the album’s 12 songs, Wells plays the role of shapeshifter: just when you’ve got him figured out, he unleashes new musical elements – a ferocious scream that eventually gives way to soaring falsetto on “Cement”, coupled with stirring acoustic guitar that crescendos into fiery full-band fare. The ghosts of new-era emo torchbearers (including Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba, who is a contributor on the album track, “Fall Apart”) are alive and well in his lush beds of acoustic-based rock, but Wells isn’t actively summoning them, rather, he’s a decidedly patient songwriter, waiting for the right time to pair a searing lyric with the throat-shredding vocal performance it demands.
Wells launched his solo career in 2017 with his first release for Pure Noise Records, the How To Tear Apart The Ones You Love EP, and the follow-up single “End Of A Good Thing” quickly became a viral hit in 2018, racking up millions of YouTube views and Spotify streams and introducing fans around the world to Wells’ storytelling. As he expands his songbook with THE WAY WE ARE, Wells continues to push the guardrails of his writing, both inwardly and outwardly.
At this point in his still-young career as a solo artist, Wells is in an enviable position: as a true student of music in all its styles and forms (“Every genre has its place, and I appreciate something from all of it”), he’s a songwriter without limits. He’s already masterfully distilled the songs of his youth – the emotional ferocity of metal, the heart-on-sleeve confessionalism of emo, and salt-of-the-earth universality of folk – into the music of his present, and looking forward, there seems to be no telling how Wells’ music will evolve from here.
You get the sense the singer prefers it that way. As it stands, he’s having too much fun keeping listeners – and even himself – anticipating what will come next. “I could write a ton of different styles of songs", he says, "but as long as I sing them like I mean it, the songs will resonate".