Few producers in music can rival the pedigree and resume of Grammy-nominated producer, mixer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Greg Wells. The man The Police’s Stewart Copeland once dubbed “the Swiss Army knife” for his wide range of skills has crafted hits for everyone from Katy Perry and Adele to Timbaland featuring OneRepublic, Keith Urban, and Deftones. Wells’ career has transcended sonic guidance, as the fluent guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboard player has mastered the balance between hands-on help and drawing out an artist’s own sound regardless of genre.
In contrast to many of his peers, Wells’ career has never been about creating an aural stamp to imprint a “signature sound.” Despite his vast knowledge and lifelong interest in music, Wells prefers to be a guiding sensei in the studio rather than an overshadowing presence. “You have to jump into the pool with the artist and quickly assess what’s happening,” says Wells. “You want to hear somebody lost in their own performance with a complete lack of self-consciousness. For me, the goal is to shine the best light on the artist themselves and help them be as true to themselves as possible. I’m more the basketball coach than the player.” It’s this philosophy that has helped Wells write and produce some of the best-selling and highest-charting tracks of the past 15 years.
Wells scored his first mega-hit with Celine Dion’s “The Reason,” a track co-written with Carole King and Mark Hudson. Produced by Sir George Martin, the track became a Top 5 hit in Europe and helped the album Let’s Talk About Love sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. Wells’ keen, adept musicality, versatility and mastery of multiple instruments quickly became the worst-kept secret in the industry as artists ranging from OneRepublic (“Apologize”, “Stop and Stare”), pop superstar Pink (“Why Did I Ever Like You”) to singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright (“Across the Universe”) to Adele (“One & Only) all called on Wells to write, produce or perform on the track. “It’s about trying to create something compelling, regardless of genre,” says Wells. “I grew up listening to everything and never wanted to limit myself to one particular sound.”
Prior to producing, the Ontario native had a long, varied history of musicianship. At 3, already self-taught on drums, Wells’ grandmother taught him piano. Professional classical and jazz piano studies would follow four years later, with Wells splitting his lessons between jazz and boogie-woogie and Bach and Beethoven. A debilitating bone disease at the age of 11 left the producer bedridden for months with casts on both legs, enabling Wells to play and absorb a myriad of musical styles.
In 1990, Wells moved to Los Angeles and hooked up with famed jazz composer, piano player and Prince’s string arranger Clare Fischer. It was Fischer who began recommending Wells for work and eventually, the songwriter would link with famed music industry executive Miles Copeland, founder of I.R.S. records and manager of The Police. After recording, and subsequently shelving, his own album — “It was a super-informative lesson in what never to repeat” — Wells turned to producing and writing for others. “I’m a musician first,” says Wells. “I am often the full band like on [Mika’s] ‘Grace Kelly’ and [Katy Perry’s] ‘By The Grace Of God'” That base knowledge is essential and rare, and it’s why rapper Theophilus London can roll to Wells’ private studio in the morning and Keith Urban can cut a track later that afternoon with both feeling confident with the results.
It is this diversity, versatility and musical fluency that continues to make him one of the most talented and sought-after producers, songwriters and musicians in the industry.