Proud of his NL connection, Canadian producer/songwriter Rob Wells talks musical roots and interesting ‘Rex’ relations
Rob Wells can name drop with the best of ‘em, and rightly so. The fellow who has a star on Mississauga’s Music Walk of Fame has worked with everyone from Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber to Adam Lambert, Backstreet Boys and Cyndi Lauper He’s also proud to point out he’s worked with a few Newfoundlanders to; from Alan Doyle to Carolina East.
Connection to NL
Another thing he’s proud of? His made-right-here Newfoundland roots. “I actually have a Newfoundland background of sorts. My mother Judy Green was born in Newfoundland, in Bonavista but lived in Elliston, and my grandfather, R.B.Green, was a United Church minister who was in Grand Falls, Corner Brook and Burgeo, just to name a few places I recall,” he shares.
And that’s not all. His grandmother was a school teacher who taught in the Trinity Bay area. No question; the Green family history in NL goes way back.
Wells has worked hard to keep that connection through his work, visiting here many times to teach and connect with others in the music world.
“I’ve returned on some educational trips, just teaching people my methods of songwriting and production… things like that,” he adds.
In 2016 he visited to teach a course in collaboration with MusicNL. That’s where he met Carolina East, at that time a MusicNL volunteer. Then, at an open mic night, East took the stage.
“We were having a great time and people were getting up and singing songs. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Then Carolina gets up to go sing and she sings this one song and we just stop everything we’re doing and stare at stage. Our jaws are on the floor. Pretty much, she killed it. I forget what song, but she just she just nailed it. It was so great.”
Wells and the rest of the audience couldn’t get enough. “She was really funny between songs and we just kept asking her to keep doing more and more. I think she ended up doing about an hour’s worth of music. We were blown away. We just thought, this is incredible. This is kind of what we live for, to discover talent out there. At the end of it, we walked up to her and said, listen, you don’t know us but we would love to work with you, come to Toronto and work with us and write some songs and recording things, because we respect that you’ve got what it takes for the big time.” Now four albums deep, the relationship continues.
Alan the Sailor
He’s equally proud of his work with Alan Doyle. “A song of mine is on his So Let’s Go record. It’s called I Am a Sailor. I love that song. It’s kind of a cool because it’s obviously a tip of the hat towards Newfoundland and the lifestyle there and the history with the sea. And Alan, he’s the singer taking everyone on a journey, like a sailor taking people out to sea.”
We ask Wells if working with a Newfoundland artist is any different than working with an international star. His response is interesting. “I really just look for stuff that really inspires me. I’m always looking for people that are loving what they do and hard workers and great people to work with.” Newfoundlanders almost always fit that bill, he adds genuinely.
Related to Rex?
“Let’s be honest. Newfoundlanders are great people. I think they’re just really loving people that have a big heart and they’re incredibly hard workers as well. You have to be, right? You’ve got to be that way in this life. You’ve got to work that extra amount in order to be heard from so far away and to get off ‘the Rock’ and get heard globally or even just nationally. It is that much harder.” But as Wells knows from his own NL roots, music is simply part of who we are as a people.
“Music surrounds everybody in Newfoundland. I think that it’s just always there. It’s always present. It’s such a big part of the storytelling. It’s such a big part of the life in Newfoundland.”
We ask if there’s anyone else he admires musically from this province of ours. Rex Goudie, he replies, someone else he’s worked with in the past. “I think we’re actually related way, way back. It’s funny, once we traced back that we might be related, he started talking in his true Newfoundland accent and I could no longer understand him,’’ he laughs.
Wells is filled with praise for this place. ‘‘I might be Ontario born, but my heart is definitely part of that land. I just think that everybody has a big heart. Everybody works hard. Everybody really wants to succeed. They have such a musical background just because they’ve been brought up surrounded by music, which is hard to find in a lot of other places in the world.”
“Do what you love”
Just do what you love to do, he continues. ‘‘You’ve got one shot, you get one chance to do what you love. And whatever it is, whatever you wake up thinking about in the morning and whatever you’re thinking about during the day and whatever you think about before you go to sleep at night, that’s what you should be doing for a living.’’
We ask what he looks for before teaming up with someone. “Someone who knows what they love, someone willing to work hard, and someone willing to be a great person. You’ve also got to be somebody that I’d want to sit in a boat with for 10 hours in a day and not want to throw overboard at the end of the day.”
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