“I want the believer to get the same platform as the unbeliever.” – Tauren Wells
Tauren Wells wants to change the way you feel about gospel music. The millennial worship leader-turned-Christian artist understands his listeners are multifaceted. The singer-songwriter does not anticipate his church singles won’t shuffle between those of a secular origin on his fans’ playlists.
In fact, Wells is embracing the reawakening of contemporary Christian radio formats by fusing elements of hip-hop and R&B within his gospel releases. “There are several hyphens to me. I think all of us are hyphenated individuals,” he explains from his home office on Zoom. Though fresh-faced in the solo space, the multi-instrumentalist has spent over a decade in the music business. He is the former frontman of the Christian pop-rock band Royal Tailor.
Since his 2017 solo debut album, Hills and Valleys, Wells has acquired multiple no. 1 hits on the Christian Airplay charts. His high-energy performances and vibrant spin on faith are thought to make believers out of skeptics. Further, his past tracklist conquests are platinum-selling. And Wells is ready to divulge the rough patches which strengthened his relationship with God, alongside his new label Capitol Christian Music Group, on his forthcoming LP.
“At the very beginning of recording Joy In The Morning, I had a conversation with one of my co-writers. He said, ‘You have permission to bring your whole self into this next season of your life,'” the crooner detailed during our album preview. The Knockturnal chatted with Tauren Wells about eternal love, his growing family, sermon-focused features, and why your identity should not be wrapped in your craft. Get to know the preacher in his words.
Last year, your duet with H.E.R. “Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)” earned the support of millions. What was that moment like for you?
Tauren Wells: I loved working with H.E.R.! She is an amazing and transcending artist. I think it was really dope that she decided to write a song filled with hope. It was about faith on her way up.
I think we see a lot of artists in the twilight of their careers look back on the church that raised them. There are things like that. To give her faith space [concerning] what is happening in her life and career was special. Of course, being called to collaborate was also dope. I am a big fan of hers.
I love the song. I think it came out at such an important time. It was released at the height of the pandemic. So, it was a moment where we were probably feeling out of sorts. That musical reminder of being held and safe was poignant.
You are a 10-time GRAMMY nominee. What has this symbolized to you along your journey and future?
Tauren Wells: Man! (laughs) I don’t know. What does that symbolize? I guess that people connect with the music. I am grateful that it is recognized for its artistic side of it. I think there are a lot of people making music that matters.
We hear messaging that is important and inspiring. That is what the Grammys represents. It is not just about if a song was a hit. It is about how it was created.
[Questions come into play] like, “What is the artistic integrity of it?” Those things speak. So, I am grateful. Every nomination has been in great company — so good of company that I have not won. (laughs)
Tauren Wells: Yes, hopefully, some of that will change in the future. It is always a pleasure to know that what I spend so much time pouring my life into — and what so many others have spent their lives pouring themselves into — is being recognized at the highest level of music.
Tauren Wells: That is at the top of the list for me. I want people to take away a certain degree of buoyancy. I want [my music] to lift people. Also, I want people to be able to look inward.
“Fake it” was definitely one dimension of me and what exists on my new album, Joy In The Morning. Unapologetically, I wanted a song that lifted people’s spirits and that people wanted to dance to. That is what we got out of it. It is exciting.
There were a lot of dancers in that single’s visual. Describe your rehearsal process.
Tauren Wells: Oww, hard! (laughs) It was tough. I had not been in a music video with that much choreography. No section repeats movement. So, every section of the song had its own movement. I was not trained as a dancer.
No, I did not grow up in dance studios. But I always loved it, and I respected the art form. So, it was super dope to have such an incredible cast of people around me. The dancers are at the top of their game and skill level. They help me look better. (laughs) I loved working with choreographer Alexander Chung.
You have amassed over one billion combined global streams. Where were you when your label updated you with the news?
Tauren Wells: That is wild to me! I actually read that the other day in one of my press releases. I have over one billion streams. I can’t even think to count that high. Again, it points back to music connecting with people.
I decided as an artist a long time ago — when I realized what a powerful vehicle music was — I wanted to use my music to move people toward God. [I wanted to help them] find their purpose. I wanted them to move toward one another. That has been the focus. Hearing about a stat like one billion streams lets me know it is happening.
The songs connect on a deep level. Hopefully, they are unlocking whatever dream is in their heart and the emotions they felt they had to hold in. The moments they thought they would view alone become different. They can turn on one of these songs and know it is not just them. Other people have been in similar situations. It means a lot to me, but this is just the beginning.
What is your hope for the future of Christian and gospel music?
Tauren Wells: I hope that we continue to broaden the lane for people to be themselves. At the very beginning of recording Joy In The Morning, I had a conversation with one of my co-writers. He is someone I also look up to. He said, “You have permission to bring your whole self into this next season of your life.” I think that has been scary for me.
You have to consider bringing all your strengths and weaknesses. Then there are all your interests and hobbies. It requires every aspect of life. That is what this album has covered. It has covered my shortcomings and my aspirations.
A track like “Afraid With You” talks about areas I need to grow in as a husband. I am learning to be empathetic and listen. Also, [I learned] who I wanted to be as a friend — someone who is ride or die. I want to be someone who is really there for people. The album covers how I believe God feels about [listeners]. God loves them and wants to do good to them, for them, and through them. I think that is not heard enough in the faith space.
I think there has been a lot of judgment. There is a lot of hypocrisy that has made its way through faith circles. If I can be one of the voices who can speak with integrity — and let other people know that there is love, freedom, peace, and joy — that is my hope. I hope it empowers people like me. Yes, I am a husband, father, songwriter, performer, preacher, and worship leader.
There are several hyphens to me. I think all of us are hyphenated individuals. I think there are a lot of creatives that are coming up who have multiple facets to who they are. I hope that the Christian, gospel, and mainstream space becomes more open to the full spectrum of who we are as human beings. I want the believer to get the same platform as the unbeliever. That is my dream.
I had the opportunity to listen to your forthcoming album. The collaboration, “Afraid With You,” featuring Tiffany Hudson, stood out to me due to its Bishop T.D. Jakes sample. What does the quote, “Love has no loopholes,” mean to you?
Tauren Wells: Hmm! It is an excerpt from T.D. Jakes’ sermon. He said, “Love has no loopholes.” It does not make exceptions for your political or social standing. There is no loophole in love. It is all or nothing!
That is my mantra. I feel I am growing, and others need to grow to love all and serve all. That is the bottom line. A lot of times, people want to stand up and make statements, but they do not want to sit down and have conversations.
Love is about listening, learning, and having a safe place. You should be able to share your opinion, whether it is agreed or disagreed with. Love creates space for an opinion to be heard. I think we are losing that in our culture.
You can only sound off if you align with a certain set of beliefs. If we are going to talk about love and acceptance, we have to be willing to let everyone’s voices participate. We need to have dialogue, not just a monologue.
Your recent single, “Empty,” has grown in popularity. Can you identify the headspace you were in upon its recording?
Tauren Wells: I was thinking about how so many good things surrounded me. I still had this moment where all those good things were not enough. It was a funny setting, because I was in my writing room, in my new house. We had just built it. Again, I am in the writing room, which is like a dream. I have written many of my songs in the basement or a closet.
So, I have this space. I have plaques on the wall hanging all around me. They are songs that have reached people. I have my kids upstairs. I hear their footsteps running through the house. My wife is in another room.
She is preparing for all of our family to come over to watch an award show, for which I am nominated for multiple awards! You would think this is when you bust out the confetti. This is when you pop Martinelli’s with your children. (laughs) This is when you just have a great time. You know?
And I go to the piano, and what comes out is, “You can have it all and still feel empty.” We have all been there. We got what we thought we always wanted, and it still was not enough.
It is not a matter of empty things. It is a relationship. It is kids or a job. It is things that you can be doing that are truly meaningful. Still, if we try to pull all of our meaning out of those things, it will never be enough. There is something in us that only God can fill.
Tauren Wells: I do not know what people should expect because I don’t know what to expect! (laughs) I have no clue what is about to happen. I am just so excited. I know that fans are going to hear music that was created honestly. The music is from a human being who knows what it is like to struggle, fight and dream.
They are going to hear that they are loved. The album will let them know that there is hope for their story. It does not matter how dark a night may get. The sun still rises each day. I hope people who are [experiencing a tough] time can take away that now is not forever.
There is a forever coming. If you choose to, it can be spent in eternal peace. There is a place where there is no weeping, sorrow, dysfunction, or disappointment. There is a place where it is only good with God.
This was your first LP on Capitol Christian Music Group. How did the process of recording with this label differ from your past experiences?
Tauren Wells: It was all new. I was about to front and be like, “Oh, it’s the same.” (laughs) No, it was completely different from anything I have done before! I have a whole new team. I brought in Ted T., the executive producer on this album. We share similar creative DNA.
I wanted Ted to be able to speak into the whole breadth of the album. What he does is special and aligned with what I wanted to hear musically. My teams in Nashville and LA are working together. It’s a joint effort. It was not an easy process, but it was worth it. Yes, my album is so special.
You have toured with legends like Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey. Can you name a favorite moment on the road?
Tauren Wells: There are different ways to answer this question. (laughs) I am going to go with my favorite moment with Lionel. He is so cool. I call him uncle L now. He was the best.
He treated my crew and me so well! I do not know if people realize that I went on that tour as an opener. I only had an EP out at the time. My debut album came out during the first show of the tour. I remember they would not let me into the arena. (laughs)
We played the Oracle Arena. I had to wait outside with security for a long time to get cleared to come [backstage]. (laughs) Despite being new, Lionel was always so kind. When I had the privilege of introducing my parents to him, he was so real.
That is what makes some artists endure the test of time. It is more than the music. It is how they treated people along the way. I think it is why he has thrived in so many seasons of life and eras of music. He is someone who treats people well.
Outside of the music, who is Tauren Wells?
Tauren Wells: He is a child of God! It has taken some work to get to the place where I feel like saying that is enough. A few years ago, I had a song out called “Known.” I started telling people, “God knows you fully but loves you completely.” It is a difficult thing to wrap your mind around.
Oftentimes, the closer we get to people, and the more we share with them, the more opportunity they have to leave us. Some people won’t be there for the real you. That is what makes the love of Jesus unique. Before you had a title — before you accomplished anything — you were loved. I have to hold onto that. That is the place where I am most free.
If my identity is wrapped up in who I am as an artist, once anything pertaining to my craft fades, I am going to fade. There has to be a stronger foundation that I get to build my life on. And you better go ‘head with them hoop earrings, too. (laughs)