Jesse Wells Talks New Welles Album, 'Red Trees and White Trashes'

(Image credit: Mafalda Millies)

“People pretty up the guitar too much,” says singer-songwriter-guitarist Jesse Wells. “I kind of fight when I play, and I want people to hear that struggle of my fingers getting gnawed up on the fretboard. I like to use amp overdrive to get a warm guitar buzz, and sometimes I’ll go straight into the board and crank it. When the guitar sounds big and fuzzy, I know it’s right.”

“Big and fuzzy” is an accurate description of the sound Wells and his band — simply called Welles — make on their superlative debut album, Red Trees and White Trashes. The guitarist, having been raised on a steady diet of early Led Zeppelin and stoner rock, played in a succession of outfits in his hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, but it wasn’t until he moved to Nashville that he found a group of players (guitarist Marshall Willard, bassist Davey Nelson and drummer Jordan Rochefort) who shared his gritty sonic vision. Even so, it took some effort. “Nashville is full of great musicians,” he says. “I had to look hard to find guys who wanted to play music that’s a little rough around the edges.”

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.