What would you do to subsidize what you really want to do?
Local singer/songwriter Jason Wells goes to work promoting acts that fill arenas with thousands of dollars and middle schoolers. It's as unfeeling as wrapping a McDonald's Filet O'Fish in that light blue paper. After work, acoustic guitar in hand, he strums and sings his songs on the greater Cincinnati area open mic circuit. It's like money laundering, only honorable. The divisions of Wells' day, product and art, aren't so different. After all, isn't most art product? And Wells' Public Diary LP is a very good one.
Wells, after writing all the music and lyrics, handled the vocals, guitars, keyboards, harmonica and percussion on his self-released debut. His voice is a taut Tenor Two with an honest waver, and his songs are tightly written, with only everything needed and nothing more.
Try to catch a set at the coffeehouse nearest you. Or go to mp3.com/JasonWells and give "Monica, You're All We've Got" a listen. Wells creates false hype by day, true Pop by night. He also tends bar for extra cash. Isn't that indie enough for you?
CityBeat: Tell me again what it is that you do.
Jason Wells: My job is to promote singles. Right now I'm working P. Diddy's single on TRL and on radio. I also promote boy bands. Backstreet Boys, NSYNC. Pop music like that.
CB: The local guys, 98 Degrees?
JW: Oh yeah. All of 'em. I've pushed their singles on radio. I get paid to request their songs four times a day, different times throughout, primarily during the evenings. We try to get on the Top 20s, the Top 10s, all the time. Internet requests, everything.
CB: And if your single makes it?
JW: We get a thank-you letter from the label, and a nice little bonus if we make it in the Top 5.
CB: You work for the label?
JW: Actually, I work for Market Development Company, and this company is hired by the labels as a separate rep, besides the label rep. I'm working P. Diddy, Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, and Puddle Of Mudd, oddly enough.
CB: How does one acquire this job?
JW: I worked over at Sam Goody for a really long time. I got to know a lot of the reps that come in there. I just liked their job and always expressed some interest in it. They hooked me up with it.
CB: And if you could promote some of your favorites?
JW: Right now, I'd like to push the new Ben Folds solo album, Rockin' The Suburbs. He's one of my favorites.
CB: Anything else?
JW: Right now, that I'd like to push? I'm so out of the music scene. When I used to work at Sam Goody I used to read everything that came in. No matter what it was, I would crack it open and listen to it. Now I'm kind of out of it. But there's this new guy, his name is Matt Marque. He's a singer/songwriter who gets compared to Badly Drawn Boy, Elliott Smith. Really great. Uses a lot of the Casio drum pads (laughs). I'd like to push him. Not many people know him, so it would be really cool to get his name out there. But, unfortunately, I'm forced to push the O-Towns of the world (laughs).
CB: How does one reconcile this? It could get to you.
JW: It does get to me when I consider all these people that I love that never get the chance. They write their own songs, play their own instruments, it's amazing. I don't think the true artists get what they deserve. I'm part of that reason, I feel. But then I take the money I get from those guys, make my own music and buy the CDs of people I do like. And I do vocals, bass, guitar and keyboards in this other band, the Drunken Monkeys. We have an EP out (The Fool).
CB: Let's talk about the Drunken Monkeys.
JW: I wanted to play a show downstairs in the Southgate House ballroom, and the guy said, "Well, we like to have full bands." I thought, 'I could get a full band together.' The band I came up with is all solo artists (Rich Lewis, Jeremy Strickland). The gig never happened. We just ended up learning each other's songs, and then we started writing our own. A little more rockin' than my stuff. It's a lot of fun to play.
CB: So you're a bass player?
JW: I'm a root-note bass player (laughs).
CB: Have you heard Bob Dylan's Love and Theft?
JW: It's different. Every song is a different song. It goes from Delta Blues to 1930s Ballroom Dance Waltz to Ragtime. Oh, it's really good. I'll be stuck on that for a month. Now I'm stuck on this new album by Jude, King of Yesterday. Really cool album. I'd like to steal from him. (pauses) Hey, would you want to go to the Pernice Brothers show with me? ©