Emily Wells
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Emily Wells


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Emily Wells @ Hotel Cafe

Los Angeles, California, USA

Los Angeles, California, USA

Emily Wells @ Dolores Park

San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco, California, USA

Emily Wells @ Girl Fest Bay Area (venue) CellSpace

San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco, California, USA

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Emily Wells has a quavering, angelic voice that has a little aura of strangeness. On "Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks", she uses that voice to great effect as her band helps her create shuffling, creaking portraits of idiosyncratic characters. Have a listen.

- iTunes
Indie Spotlight
July 2007

Emily was featured on the front page of iTunes for a week this July as iTunes' featured indie spotlight artist.

Her song "Mt. Washington" is also included as the first track on the iTunes' indie compliation. Other artists included on this compliation include Nick Drake, and Iron and Wine. - iTunes

An emphatically DIY artist who rejected major-label deals when she was just a teen, singer/songwriter Emily Wells wrote, produced, and mixed her most recent album, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks. The result is an accomplished record that combines the curious vocal delivery and lyrical quirkiness of Joanna Newsom with the world-weary wisdom of Billie Holiday and the fierce independence and political attitude of Ani DiFranco — strange bedfellows, to be sure. But with Christmas lights knitted into her hair, an impish smile, and the intimately welcoming confines of the Hotel Cafe, Wells makes it all work — just listen to "Mt Washington" if you need any more convincing.
- Flavorpill LA

Who in her left brain would turn down the professional advances of a major record label at the green age of 18? The highly idealistic, immutable, L.A.-based indie/freak-folk artist Emily Wells, that’s who. It has been seven years since Epic Records dangled the golden carrot of fame in her face, only to have Wells slap it away with a refusal to relinquish creative control. Her 2006 self-release, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks is a multi-instrumental, self-written, self-recorded and self-produced reaffirmation of her decision to stay true to herself and her music.

All 14 tracks are fingerprinted with Wells’ unique approach to music. The album’s instrumental complexity sets it apart from more traditional folk. Likewise, her vocals are playful, fluctuating between fragile and precious, mischievous and seductive. But it’s the sensuous string arrangements and Wells’ rediscovery of the piano that separate this album from her previous ones. The addition of drums (Sam Halterman) and stand-up bass (Joey Reina) also enrich songs, helping Wells meet her goal for the album. “I wanted it to feel lush, like you can lay down in it,” she says.

According to Wells, her eighth DIY release, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks, is her most developed work so far. “I’ve released a bunch of my own records, but they’ve all been like going to college for this record,” she says. At age 25, Wells has already had a lot of schooling in music and, more poignantly, the music industry. Her story with Epic Records began when Wells was 16 years old. The teen released an album that caught the attention of the label’s vice president of A&R. Soon after, Wells was in the “development” process as a “priority artist.” In other words, Epic was priming Wells to be a shining star. But after two years of refusing to sign over creative control, Wells walked away. She owns up to her naïveté and her insight, “I didn’t know shit! But I did know that I couldn’t let go of creative control.”

A child artist by nature and nurture, it’s not surprising that Wells couldn’t fathom giving up the rights to her art. Under the wing of her “very devoted, supportive parents,” Texas-born Wells began her musical education at a very young age. “I was four when I started playing the piano and violin,” she says. Wells credits her father, a Christian music minister and French horn player, for her musical upbringing.

Her long-term bond with music is blinding on Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks. Wells sings and plays most every instrument, including the guitar, banjo, violin, piano, Hammond organ, glockenspiel and xylophone. She also gets creative with her violin, using a tune-down technique to get a viola sound and a pedal to get a cello sound. After recording each part separately, she mixed them together to create the album’s warm string arrangements. “There will be like 12 violin parts and six cello parts so you get that rich chamber feel,” Wells says.

Lyrically, Wells plays around with the positive sides of life and love. In the album’s opening song, “Mt. Washington,” she dares her lover to begin their life together: “Forget the mortgage and the end of time / We’ll blend together like bleeding lips / And trust that death’ll be our dying wish.” Wells also hits on other themes like sex, politics, religion, and absolution by way of turpentine.

Wells’ Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks overflows with creativity and expressiveness, serving as the perfect reminder to never lose your creative control.

- Performer Magazine West Coast by:by Melanie Roberts

EMILY WELLS, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks: Multi-instrumental singer-songwriter Wells’ resolutely indie music (written, produced, and recorded by Wells in her own studio with bassist Joey Reina and drummer Sam Halterman) should appeal to fans of freak-folk and poetic lyrics that wind outside usual verse-chorus-bridge constructs amidst quirky arrangements of keyboards, xylophone, guitar and violin. Warbling over solo piano, Wells flirts with preciousness on the Joanna Newsom-esque “Supermarket,” but the unvarnished vulnerability of “My Tin Car” is genuinely affecting, as is “View From a Blind Eye”
- Pasadena Weekly by: Bliss

Acoustic guitar-driven female singer/songwriter music, Emily Wells is an LA artist with a deep, rich voice even when she's singing soprano. A voice that has just the right amount of rasp to come across as wise and weathered. And so she should, she's been putting out records since 1996 when she was just 13 years old with nine records currently to her credit. Her music is a brand of folk that lies somewhere between country and pop. Production touches include sounds of marimba, xylophone, acoustic bass, piano, brush-hit drums and beautiful harmonies.Fans of Leonard Cohen, Elliot Smith, Tom Waits, Bright Eyes, Joanna Newsom and others in similar veins will find Wells a pleasurable listen. It sounds like she could have been influenced by any or all of these artists and many more though there's no sense that she's copping anybody's sound in particular. Jazz, blues, and country figure into her music as does an Eastern European tinge, magnificent string arrangements. and a marvelous vocal vibrato. The full production give the record a great deal of color and originality. Worth noting is that Wells recorded the album herself at home but you'd never guess that this wasn't done at a top-dollar professional studio. Now you can argue that consumer recording equipment has enabled anybody to make records at home, but rare is the album recorded at home by an unsigned indie artist that sounds quite this good.Emily Wells is an artist to watch out for, and Beautiful Sleepyhead and The Laughing Yaks is a very impressive album. Highly recommended listening for fans of the new folk - I'll refrain from calling it New Weird America as the term has probably passed its prime and then some. Regardless, whatever label you want to throw on this, one thing is for certain. Emily Wells is an immensely talented singer, songwriter and musician and this is an album well worth checking out. - Left Hip Magazine by: Gordon B. Isnor

She pulled me into an etheric embrace and dazzled me with her cleverness, connecting my ears to more dimensions of light than most reveal in music, and curtsied in her denim and petticoats like the ironically nebulous and Earthy pixie that she is.
I don't know where this enchanted being came from. She may have first appeared through the crack of a giant prismed egg, glittered with stardust, and whispering her songs in subtle frequencies with unexpected brilliance.
She may have emerged from the womb of a Baby Grand in the lair of a secret genius wiring the ethers with codes and puzzles for the expanded mind...
Alas, we could ponder where such a vibrant child could have come from endlessly, but we may never know, and we should make peace with this, for at least she is here.
What is more, she is a being of integrity, electing the Indie path, over the 'Industry Machine'.
I weep at such inner beauty.
See? Our world is full of strange blessings that reveal an amour for meaning, in the hearts of incarnated Cosmos everywhere.
You say you're not too familiar with her?
Well, you must change that.
Follow me, through this thicket...
- Purple Magazine by: Dazjae

"BEAUTIFUL SLEEPYHEAD AND THE LAUGHING YAKS has some of the best, most well written music and gorgeous female vocals ever."
-Robert Shamlin

Emily Wells: “Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks”
This scarily beautiful CD caught my attention by being low-key, unobtrusive and quietly brilliant. Emily Wells is a one-woman dynamo that put together all the songs on “Beautiful Sleepyhead…” – she wrote the songs, produced the recording of them and played all the instruments except for a couple guest appearances here and there.
The songs throughout have a unique feel; there’s a mixture of a little bit of country, a lot of dark, night-club crooning; soft, ethereal deconstructed tunes with no fluff, no gimmicks, no clichés; how refreshing. There is not a lot of “big” sound to the songs within, but the stark, bare, sparse piano and vocal with a little acoustic guitar tower over many studio-tweaked albums that are big on sound but small on esthetics, which is a strong suit of Emily Wells. Her pretty, fragile-sounding voice sings with refrained angst; her sleepy, sad lullabies are loud in their feeling. The closest thing I could think of to describe Ms. Wells is like a stripped-down Portishead mixed with a Neil Young/Nick Cave/Nick Drake sensibility. It is a quiet, acoustically-based, slowed-down, introverted album, one that mellows one out and something with which to slow things down after too much agitation or excitement.
“Beautiful Sleepyhead” is total DIY – no label support, no distribution, it was all done on a grass-roots level, so if you are interested and want to learn more you’ll have to check out her website to find out more about Emily and purchase the CD. - KM.
- Reviewer Magazine by: Robert Shamlin and K.M.

Indie darling Emily Wells' eighth independently released record, Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks is available December 2nd.
Her latest album is a perfect blend of poetic lyricism, soulful
vocals, and unique arrangements. The addition of a drummer and
upright bass player to the already bountiful compositions synonymous
with Wells' work generates fourteen dynamic songs.

It is not everyday that an executive from a major label flies out to
who-ha America from New York City to court a child prodigy, throwing
money and professional studio time around for the next two years, only
to eventually hear the word "no" from a nineteen year old musician.
The rest of Emily's biography reads like a Jack Kerouac novel with a
female heroine traveling the road away from deeply religious roots to
a loving girlfriend on the west coast. As the story of most
independent artists translates to non-stop touring in exchange for a
career out of the red, Emily Wells made another surprising decision,
to stay home with her new family and build her own professional
studio. By personal choice at the age of 25, she writes, plays,
produces, engineers, records, mixes, and distributes her own records.
A multi-instrumentalist capable of carving out her own world, Emily
Wells is a definitive indie darling with a do-it-yourself, and follow
your heart ethos.

We are in Emily's Los Angeles studio surrounded by her paintings and a
series of giraffe photographs, the blue lights that are referenced on
her seventh record, Making Static, are strung around the room. I think
this record feels like an arrival in every sense of the word. She
agrees, "I have the tools I've always needed. A full studio with real
piano, xylophones galore, a Hammond organ, great guitars, a banjo,
violin…but most of all, for the first time ever I have 32 tracks to
work with. I can finally create the arrangements I hear in my head!
I can create an entire string section and have 20 tracks to go."

After meeting her family it is easy to see why Emily chose to break
from relentless touring. But in a musician's life there still isn't
much time to spare. She smiles, "I'm very lucky to have an incredibly
supportive girlfriend and 11-year-old boy. Tracie does A LOT of
listening to the music and me talking about the music, and her input
and opinions are priceless and influential. Elijah is very creative,
curious and inspiring musically and generally. They are both all over
my record in their own ways. Elijah actually does a little laughing
and yelling on a couple songs."

I ask about the two overtly political songs, and if they were written
together. "No, sadly I keep writing songs about this same war and it
only gets worse. View from a Blind Eye was written almost a year ago,
and 1000 years war was written this summer during the war between
Hezbollah and Israel, though they are related and continue to be and
become more true".
- Out on the Net by Hilary Goldberg

Beautiful Sleepyhead
and the Laughing Yaks
Emily Wells

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr

Emily Wells gives you more music in the first three tracks of Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks than the major labels have given you in the past year. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit because this CD is packed with adventurous music. Incredible music. Downright beautiful music, when you hang your preconceived concepts about music at the door. Did I mention adventurous?

Wells brings so many influences to the mixing board it will make your head spin: world, classical, rock, folk, theater, country and all of their subcategories. Throw in jug band just for good measure and the very fringe of Emily Wells begins to form in your head. Where it goes from there is up to you.

The close to dark and sinister kicks off the album, Wells' double-voiced persona at first seeming a bit apathetic yet foreboding until the chorus of Mt. Washington, where an underlying string quartet negates the brooding mood. The simpler folk-slanted 50 Year Love Affair relies on breathy Gileah-like voice (Gileah's The Golden Planes is well worth checking out, by the way) and odd touches like muted, plucked banjo and beautifully crafted chord changes to set its mood. The more upbeat but moody Fountain of Youth refuses to follow the concept of pop music, changing moods and rhythms at every turn. The chorus, utilized only twice, will leave you hungry for more, and what an arrangement! Waltz of the Dearly Beloved follows like an old Marlene Dietrich movie, sounding dated yet refreshing at the same time, classical-oriented gypsy violins carrying the simple waltz into another realm. Back to Gileah with Big Love Lullaby, Wells breathing as much as singing ever so slowly and making it a lullaby in structure if not in lyrical content. A haunting movement comprised of violins, piano, cello and what sounds like muted and plucked guitar, Action's Debut Rendezvous bridges to the next track, Supermarket which in its slow and plodding magnificence is not about a supermarket at all. Wells duels vocally with herself in Tisis Momar to great effect, claiming love but in a chanteuse-like manner. Oh My God I Miss You looks at life from the bottom, a wondering look at God and reality. The interplay between piano and bass could not be better and Wells' voice is spot on. A masterpiece. If you've ever wondered about a laughing yak, it is here as well, a mere electronic spot in the midst of the music. My Tin Car begins innocuously enough, a pleasant and flowing ballad, but Wells has her own agenda and takes it on an outing which leads into orchestral maneuvers, short though they be. "It's all over the news..." she begins on View From a Blind Eye and it seems as if she has leveled out with a touch of New York, New York", but not so. "...another roadside suicide..." she continues and, well, by this time you should be used to it. If this be a tone poem, it is a poem of stark proportions. The duel piano which ends it is straight out of Rosemary's Baby or some other musically demented slice of life. A shockingly normal country-tinged beginning throws you off at the beginning of 1000 Years War until voice meets background. The juxtaposition of glockenspiel and banjo and Wells' intense delivery almost spell rock, if eerie rock. Banjo jumpstarts Dr. Hubris & His Vile of Turpentine, which could be smoothed into a great country song. Of course, that is not Wells' purpose here. Brash with edgy voice, she drives it home, a fine capper and tribute to the laughing yak.

The fact that Wells recorded, mixed and produced this project herself makes it all that much more viable. She lists among instruments used turning pages, metalophones and neighborhood samples, whatever they are, but the music says they were essential. Handled by anyone else, they might have been tossed aside and the album might have watered itself down and lost the creative edge which makes it magic. She gives a big nod to bassist Joey Reina and Sam Halterman and when you hear them, you'll know why.

In the liner notes, it says that you can "Find lyrics and other beautiful things" online at her website. I searched and couldn't find the lyrics (I am computer-illiterate), a bummer because there are places in a couple of songs where I just need to be sure.

Bottom line: This album may not be for everyone, but it is among the best I've heard in some time. Creative, edgy and haunting, it captures something most others do not: real excitement. Emily Wells is an excellent songwriter and beyond. Ditto on performing. For those who can't hear it, I feel pity.

Track List:
Mt. Washington
50 Year Love Affair
Fountain of Youth
Waltz of the Dearly Beloved
Big Love Lullaby
Action's Debut Rendezvous
Tisis Momar
Oh My God I Miss You
The Laughing Yaks
My Tin Car
View From a Blind Eye
1000 Years War
Dr. Hubris & - FAME (folk and acoustic music exchange) by: Frank Gutch Jr.

Open Mic, June 12, 2007 · Multi-instrumentalist Emily Wells says she's "most influenced by the songs and voices of Nina Simone and Bob Dylan." You can hear it in Emily's music. She's a singer-songwriter with unconventional and often chilling vocals. Supporting her voice is a sparse production with an effective string arrangement and brushed percussion.

A violinist from age three, Emily is now fluent on a wide range of instruments including banjo, piano and electronics. On her latest album, she is joined by upright bassist Joey Reina and drummer Sam Halterman.

In addition to her own musical projects, Emily has recently been involved in writing and recording music for a number of film projects. These entirely instrumental scores are her "most classical to date" and include collaborations with filmmaker Hilary Goldberg.

- NPR's open mic / all songs considered / all things considered


Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks (2006)

Check us out on NPR: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10975660
'Mt. Washington' and Emily are featured here on NPR's Open Mic, part of All Songs Considered / All Things Considered.

"Mt. Washington" and "Waltz of the Dearly Beloved" from Beautiful Sleepyhead, are currently receiving airplay on Los Angeles' Indie 103.1 and the single "Mt. Washington" will appear on the forthcoming indie 103 CD compilation "check one two".

"Fountain of Youth" from Beautiful Sleepyhead is receiving airplay both on air and online on 89.9 KCRW's NEWGROUND in Los Angeles

"Tisis Momar" from Beautiful Sleepyhead is also receiving airplay on 89.9 KCRW's Branches show

Making Static (2005) received airplay on Los Angeles' KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Music for Geek Love (2004)

Shadow Box (2002) received airplay in Los Angeles on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic and nationwide on KCRW’s syndicated Sounds Eclectic.

One Mic Solutions (2001)
Politikal Havoc (2001)
Midori Sour (2000)
Invisible Holes (1997)
Lovesphere (1996)



“The road creates a bubble where time stops and each day is an adventure. There is nothing like getting to play your songs to a new audience every night, “ muses Emily Wells as she, a bit road weary, talks about touring while planning for the myriad shows and festivals she will play this summer in support of her latest release BEAUTIFUL SLEEPYHEAD AND THE LAUGHING YAKS. Both the artist and record continue to garner rave reviews from critics and listeners alike. Emily Wells is being hailed by the PASADENA WEEKLY as an artist “who flirts with preciousness” and whose “resolutely indie music should appeal to fans of freak-folk and poetic lyrics”, likening her work to that of Joanna Newsom. Wells’ new record Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks, “has some of the best, most well written music and gorgeous female vocals ever,” raves REVIEWER MAGAZINE. With white fairy lights glowing a halo around her black tangles, wearing yards of crinoline as a petticoat and chatting up the crowd, Emily shuns the demure attitude usually associated with a girl and her guitar or a girl and a piano, and gives the audience powerful performances, keeping them engaged and entertained all the whilst.

“Sentimental and soulful, Emily Wells produces beautiful music”, states the LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS and PERFORMER MAGAZINE includes Wells as a SPOTLIGHT ARTIST with a full page article in it’s May issue which further extols the artist’s gifts, "The album’s instrumental complexity sets it apart from more traditional folk... her vocals are playful, fluctuating between fragile and precious, mischievous and seductive... Wells’ Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks overflows with creativity and expressiveness, serving as the perfect reminder to never lose your creative control."

Emily attributes the decision to walk away from a major label deal, proffered when she was still in her teens, to her need for creative control. Wells has made great strides in her career in spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that she remains the epitome of a DIY artist. She releases, produces, records, mixes, and writes the songs herself, playing all but the drum and bass parts on Beautiful Sleepyhead and the Laughing Yaks. Wells now regularly performs with two talented musicians, both of whom appear on the album, Sam Halterman (drums) and Joey Reina (upright bass).

In addition to her latest record, Wells has composed the score for a short film called ‘In the Spotlight’, a punk rock, film-noir fairy tale, which will screen at this year’s OUTFEST FILM FESTIVAL in Los Angeles. “In the Spotlight” is directed by Hilary Goldberg, and stars Clint Catalyst, Guinevere Turner, and Michelle Tea. “Scoring this movie allowed me to realize the classical side of my musical desires. I love creating instrumental music because I’m able to get outside of my lyrical walls,” remarks Wells. In addition to scoring short films, Wells’ Is writing a series of "symphonies". When performed live, she does a good deal of live sampling creating giant orchestras with a single violin.

This month Emily was the featured indie spotlight artist on iTunes.