A New York City native who lived much of his childhood in California, Belmont junior Jackson Wells’ life to date has spanned both coasts of the United States, but it’s a faraway locale that has captured his imagination. For this songwriting major and pop performer the Belmont motto “From Here to Anywhere” has taken on dramatic significance as his long-held fascination with Chinese culture has carried him to the heights of fame overseas, with fans literally numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
“After taking eight years of Spanish in school, I just found myself getting tired of it and started developing a real interest in Chinese,” said Wells, who began studying Mandarin in high school and is also minoring now in Chinese at Belmont. Belmont was a perfect choice for Wells due to the University’s prominence in music business fields and its location in Music City, but it also keeps the young singer-songwriter close to home as his family moved to Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee several years ago. And the Tennessee connections helped launch an unexpected journey that’s led to unimaginable success.
Knowing his interest in the Chinese culture, the Chinese tutor of one Jackson’s school friends invited him to go to China in 2012, for what Jackson thought was an opportunity to teach English to students there. Instead, he was encouraged to bring his guitar and asked to perform in the International Youth Music Festival in Chengdu. That year Jackson played in front of about 5,000 people. Return trips saw his audience gradually grow, and his prominence also began to rise exponentially on YouTube, with three music videos garnering more than 1.8 million views internationally. Two years later, Wells’ popularity in China has exploded. His most recent trip in August found him performing as a headliner at the festival, this time playing to more than 470,000 fans over three nights.
“The fans all sing along to my songs in English, but I’m now recording a five-song EP in Chinese,” Wells noted. “It’s the least we could do to show that nation’s people our gratitude and respect–they have given me a career in China.”
Wells travels again to China next week, this time to play a gig organized by actor/former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that’s part of an initiative to promote efforts for cleaner air and “green” efficiency in the country. The event, which has already sold out to a crowd of 18,000, will be broadcast on the two largest public and private TV networks in China.
While Wells looks forward to further developing his career throughout the Asian continent, he’s also hard at work securing fans in the States with recent performances at such venues as L.A.’s House of Blues, Universal Studios CityWalk and Nashville’s own Bluebird Cafe and Mercy Lounge. He was the also the featured artist at a Nashville Predators game in March, playing in front of 16,729 hometown attendees.
Wells began writing songs at the age of 14 and released his self-titled EP in December 2010. A follow-up EP, Inescapable, released in January 2013. Wells’ first full-length album, Picture of Life, was a collaboration with Grammy-award winning producer Bill Cuomo and Beeb Birtles, founding member of Little River Band, and was released in January 2014 on his own independent label.
Still, with all his success to date, Wells continues to keep his team small and focus on priorities. His team consists of his band, a tech support specialist and a merchandise designer. He’s also working with three university students in China who assist in promotion in that country, and he’s partnered with three Belmont students on a class project that aims to think of innovative ideas to further promote his accomplishments overseas. For more information, visit JacksonWells.net.