The lyrics from “Love Is Action” describe where Tauren Wells is as a recording artist embarking on a solo career. “I have more awareness of who I am, what I want to say and where I want to go,” he says. “I can’t say that I had that when I was younger.”
Tauren is the former frontman for Royal Tailor, a Provident Label Group/Sony Music act whose two albums over a five-year career garnered two Grammy nominations and another for New Artist of the Year from the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Awards.
The group formed in college, but eventually, life pointed in other directions. The guys began to marry and start families. In 2015, the group parted ways to pursue individual interests.In many ways, pursuing a solo career felt like a complete reboot. In fact, May 2016 saw the release of Tauren’s first music in three years. Undefeated also served as the soundtrack for the internet-famous Dude Perfect’s World Records Edition episode on YouTube which, along with another Dude Perfect video featuring the No. 1 single Love Is Action, has garnered more than 83 million views combined.
It’s a taste of the unconventional approach he and his team are planning. “I want to be a pioneer for Christian music, but I’m not trying to be famous or be cool for the sake of being cool,” he explains. “I want to say something that impacts people.”
Back home, Tauren and his wife, Lorna, have been quietly busy building a life around ministry and music. In addition to serving on staff at her father’s church in Houston (Royalwood), the two have launched a private music academy called Prisma Worship Arts School, which has expanded to two locations with 20 “Dream Coaches” and 100 students – in just two years.
Tauren and Lorna have two sons, Kanaan and Lawson. Balancing work and family might be crazy at times and both Tauren and Lorna both have their hands full, but Tauren feels compelled to do more. His wife champions the idea: “We said this from the beginning: This is a family calling.” Now the family is getting ready to add another son into the mix.
I was able to chat with Tauren about his new album, where he gets inspiration from and fatherhood.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your album Hills and Valleys. Congratulations on your album. Talk about the process of this album from the initial concept to the finished product.
Tauren Wells: Initially I didn’t know that I was headed out to be writing a full length album. I knew eventually it would get to that point. Everything is just so single driven now that I was just writing songs to turn in songs to release singles. A couple years ago now I wrote the title track Hills and Valleys. It was when I was walking myself through some hills and valleys.
I played the song for my wife. She is very sweet and pretends to like everything. She loved the song initially. It just wasn’t the song vocally per se. She said this to me and it shook me for the next two years of writing. She said, ‘I feel like this is a song that people need to hear. There are a lot of good songs, but this is a song that I feel people need. That hit me pretty deeply because there is a lot of music out there that will carry us from moment to moment.
That created some perspective for me that I guess that I really didn’t have before to be honest. It is not to just create music that I thought was cool or give me credibility among my small peer group. It would be music that people would be listening to and say I needed this today. That shaped my whole writing process. Once I got that place the writing was pretty easy.
AE: What did you learn from your experience with making this album as an artist and what will you take away from those lessons?
TW: The most important lesson was that I can’t do this without God and without people. It sounds very simplistic, but we strive to do things ourselves so often only to be frustrated and disappointed because it didn’t turn out like we wanted it to. This is what I am trying to do over and over. I have to remove myself from the equation, but so does everyone else that got us to where we wanted to be.
Toby Mac said this and I love it. Every time he writes a song he prays that God will hollow him up himself so that God can breathe something through him that people would need. That is my heart. I could talk about where I from and where I have been and what I have done. I don’t want to waste your time with small talk from my own mind because I am not the answer. So many times we feel like we are the answer, but if we just let God do what He does through us so much more can be accomplished. Allowing other people into the process and trusting other people helps elevate others as well.
AE: Do you have a favorite track on that album?
TW: I love them like I love my kids. I don’t love them all the same. I love them all uniquely. I love them in the way they need to be loved. I would say my most vulnerable moment on the album is a song called Known. That song was inspired by a quote from Timothy Keller that says, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” I get goosebumps quoting it because the reality that God sees me entirely. Knows me fully and yet loves me truly is incomprehensible grace.
I know me. I know my inclinations and deficiencies and brokenness. Yet this perfect and Holy God sees all of it and still calls me loved. The song is so important for a couple reasons. One we would understand the depth of love from God, but also the truth that he confronts us.
People like to lineup on one side or the other. They like to line up on love or they like to line up on truth. They like to line up on grace or they like to line up on judgement. The Bible says Jesus came full of grace and full of truth. It is 200 percent. It is 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth. The two are indivisible because both reside in Jesus. It is a deep song. There are so many layers to it. I hope that people get this simple understanding that God loves them fully and truly. I hope through this song we can find the way to be the mirror to both grace and truth.
AE: Was there a band or musician that inspired you to become a musician?
TW: I had a really diverse musical upbringing. My dad was a musician. He had a lot of different music in the house. We would listen to BC, which is before Christ we were listening to Prince and ZZ Top. We were listening to The Isley Brothers and Wynonna Judd. It was the whole spectrum.
I grew up and started discovering more music. Michael Jackson was a major influence. Justin Timberlake was a major influence. Going into more Christian music I started to discover people like Israel Houghton, Marvin Sapp and Freddy Hammond. All of the Black Gospel started to flavor my musical taste. You can hear a lot of that throughout the album and especially in the live shows.
AE: What popped into your mind when you found out that you were going to be a father for the first time?
TW: Oh crap. (Both laugh.) You always see your parents as so much older than you. My oldest son is four. I felt that I would have had more things that I accomplished and under my belt. I felt like I would have more wisdom and understanding. When the reality sets in that I am responsible for this little boy I realized that the older I get the more I don’t know. It kind of hits you like a wave.
I have had great examples. I am fortunate to have had my dad extremely involved in my life. He was awesome and is awesome. He has always been there for me. He has been at everything that I have done. I want to replicate that in raising my son. Man, that first initial blow I don’t want to sugar coat it. There is a lot to take in. I was super excited. It was what we wanted. We feel like it was the right time.
AE: What are some of the core values you look to instill into your kids as they grow up?
TW: I have a good friend. His name is John Nix. He is a Pastor. We usually do a camp a year together. He does a camp called Camp Electric that I either teach at or perform at. He started to instill this into his son and I started to do so with my son. I think it is a really important principle. It is first time obedience with a grateful heart.
You can ask my son what the number one rule is and he will say first time obedience with a grateful heart. He knows how to say that, but not always do that. I think repetition is the key. There are a few things that are automatic boundaries. One is that we never ever, ever, ever disrespect mom. That is one we honor. The whole idea of respect is very important to me. The lost art of manners. It is a navigational point. You wouldn’t think that saying yes ma’am or no ma’am are important or yes sir or no sir on the surface, but I think it teaching our kids something internally that people are worthy of respect. If we can get that into the heart of our kids that we respect people and respect authority that it saves you from the heartache down the road. I think we need to be intentional about instilling those values in our kids. We are a family of faith so it is all about loving God and position our lives on what Jesus has taught us.
AE: What is the one biggest piece of advice you have for new dads?
TW: Listen to your wife. (Both laugh.) I mean seriously it is a point of pride. I believe in us being leaders. I think when it comes to raising children there is something unique that mothers have to care for children. I want to in a private way say I know what is best. I am the dad, but really my wife has this natural insight sometimes into practical situations where it would just be better if I went with the flow with that as opposed to trying to do it my way.
Being on the same page with your spouse with raising kids is really, really important. I would encourage husbands and wives as they go into the season of raising kids to really sit down and talk about what they want their family to look like, what the values are going to be, what is most important and where do you stand on discipline. Where are we at? You can get into it a little bit and realize that you are not on the same page. That could cause a lot of conflict that could be avoided if there was some preparation. My wife and I are on the same page.
Life of Dad Quick Five
AE: Do you guys have a favorite family movie that you all love to watch together?
TW: It changes a lot, but my oldest likes to watch Big Hero 6. We also have been watching Space Jam. That is our go to movie.
AE: Do you guys have a favorite song that you all like to sing to or dance to as a family?
TW: Well-being that I am musician and that I write my own songs I would love to plug myself here, but I can’t. My kids do like dancing to my music, but their favorite song is You Can’t Stop Me by Andy Mineo. We turn that one and we turn up.
AE: Describe the perfect family vacation.
TW: Well the perfect family vacation would be without our kids. No, I am just kidding. (Both laugh.) We go with my in-laws to Lake Travis. We go out on the boat, have fun and ride tubes. We rent a big old house and just buy a bunch of groceries and hang out. We play games. I really enjoy that.
AE: The first album that you purchased was….
TW: Oh this is embarrassing. Oh man why would you bring this up? (Both laugh.) I was really little and for some reason I really wanted this Joey Lawrence tape. He was in that show Blossom, but he put out music. I wanted that tape so bad that I kept bugging my mom that I wanted that Joey Lawrence tape. I came home one day and that mug was sitting on my dresser. I thought I had died and gone to Heaven. I can’t tell you one song off that tape, but that was my first music purchase.
AE: Do you have a venue that you would love to perform at?
TW: Well I am going to be checking it off the bucket list this summer. I am touring with Lionel Richie. I am playing Madison Square Garden. That place and the O2 in London are the venues. I am excited for that one.
Follow Tauren on Twitter at @TaurenWells and go to his website taurenwellsofficial.com to purchase Hills and Valleys.