When Christian artist Chris Tomlin brings his Worship Night in America tour to the Lafayette Cajundome on April 27, Tauren Wells will be one of the featured performers.
Other performers include Kim Walker-Smith, Matt Maher, Christine D'Clario and Pat Barrett.
We caught up with Wells to talk about the tour, his influences and Lionel Ritchie. Answers are edited for length and clarity.
Describe your music for our readers.
My music is energetic and thought-provoking pop with funk and urban leanings. That sounds good!
Who are your influences?
I grew up listening to Michael Jackson, Prince and, once we found Jesus, Israel Houghton and Kirk Franklin. … I always keep my finger on the pulse of what’s coming, not just what’s popular.
My music is very informed by messages I hear, things I have experienced, what I’ve seen experienced in the lives of others. I try to put that into a succinct message that communicates to the heart.
How did you get started?
I started playing piano and singing when I was 16. I really didn’t have aspirations musically. … What I was really passionate about was ministry and creating spaces where people encountered Jesus.
That led me to Bible college, which gave me the opportunity to grow as a believer and musically. … I wanted to start a band because I was in choirs … and I wanted to do something way cooler than a choir.
A couple of years ago, I felt God calling me … into a different season … so I signed a new record deal. Now I go out and preach, and go out lead worship, and go out and do my artist stuff. It’s cool to be able to express all the different facets I feel like God has given me to use.
And that includes a music school?
We started Charisma Worship Arts School a couple of years ago. We’ve seen hundreds of students come and be empowered in their gifting.
And you got to tour with Lionel Ritchie?
Yes! Lionel Ritchie and Mariah Carey, and it was amazing. Watching Lionel every night was, I was a kid in a candy shop with a hundred dollar bill. It was ridiculous.
My booking agent is friends with Lionel’s manager and pitched me as Lionel’s opening act. I didn’t know this was happening. Lionel had 10 artists to choose from, and he just happened to pick me.
Did you learn a lot?
Yes. He’s a showman from a different era. I feel like pop artists on stage today are just trying to show how cool they can be, and Lionel’s out there putting on a show, giving people an experience, connecting with the audience using humor, using story, using songs.
How about the Chris Tomlin tour?
This tour has all of the artists on stage together. … We actually sing each other’s songs. … It’s going to be a really cool unifying night.
Are you an Astros fan?
We live in Houston. I do root for the Astros, but I’m really a Detroit Tigers fan, cause I’m from Michigan. We took (my son) to see one of the games. They were playing the Tigers. He couldn’t choose what team he wanted to root for, so he wore both hats. I’m playing at the Houston Astros Faith and Family Night in May so I’ll be repping the 'Stros.
Your best-known song is "Hills and Valleys.” Where did it come from?
“Hills and Valleys" came out of a place that we all have been or we are all headed. … I heard my whole life about the sovereignty of God and how he’s over both our struggles and our successes, but I hadn’t ever really heard what my posture is when we are in those seasons.
So I wanted to write a song about that. … A pastor posted this tweet: "From the mountaintops of life we must learn to bow low. In the valleys of life we must learn to stand tall." I thought that’s the perfect picture for the response of a believer. In success or in struggle, knowing God is with us in it all.
What’s in the future?
I’ll be going on tour with Danny Gokey this fall, which I’m pumped about. We’re on the second single from the album "Hills and Valleys." Billboard just put out an article yesterday (in March), I didn’t even know this was a thing. Apparently, I made history because I’m in the No. 1 and the No. 2 spot on the Christian airplay chart. There’s a big song I’m on by Crowder called "All My Hope," and it’s No. 1, and my song "When We Pray" is No. 2.
I’m really excited to release my next single off the album, which is "Known." It’s going to be very powerful, I think, when people hear and experience it.