Jackson Wells has hit the music scene, emerging as a rock star on a local and international scale in the unlikeliest of places.
Garnering 1.8 million YouTube views internationally, Wells has toured China and established a sizable fanbase.
Wells is living the dream, whether running with his three Rhodesian ridgeback dogs on his parent’s alpaca and cattle farm in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee or running from throngs of screaming girls in Chengdu, China.
“My friends joke that it’s the Hannah Montana syndrome. I don’t think that it is a terrible thing right now. It’s nice for me to pursue school here and be a rock star over there,” said Wells, who sells out stadiums in China.
As an undiscovered artist in Nashville and renowned rock star in China, Wells, a senior songwriting major at Belmont University, developed a niche for translating songs into Mandarin.
At the age of 5, Wells began acting in musicals. A few years later, he joined an adult praise band at church and soon started performing his original material for audiences.
“Jackson has always had a very good stage presence,” said his mother and manager Lindsay Wells.
In seventh grade, Wells began learning Chinese. He thought the Mandarin characters would be like bars in music.
Wells traveled to China for the first time and performed for 2,5oo people with a guitar in hand at the Chengdu Youth Festival, three years ago. From that day forward, Wells’s career in China took off. Since his original appearance in Chengdu, Wells has become a headlining artist.
“The Chinese fans greet him with open arms. There’s so much joy and excitement when they listen to the music. It’s a very uplifting experience,” Lindsay Wells said.
Wells writes original songs and then sits down with his mentor Jenny Sun, a native of China, translating his lyrics to convey his message. The process of translating lyrics from English to Mandarin takes two to three weeks.
“His enthusiasm for learning Chinese and Chinese culture has impressed me a lot. I was deeply touched by his determination of using Chinese in his music,” said Sun.
Wells traveled across China for his first tour, from July 29 through Aug. 9. The venues varied in size, some as large as the Ryman Auditorium and some more intimate like 12th & Porter. Wells sang to more than 12,000 fans throughout the 10-day tour.
“The fans there are amazing. People are not quite as jaded and really want to hear all types of music and are really into rock, soul, cultural acts,” said Wells.
His international fan base continues to grow and Wells plans to maintain a strong connection with his fans in China.
“Listening to his song, especially in Chinese version, is just like hearing a story from his inner heart. The Chinese version of his songs has opened a window to younger generation of Chinese. They are so eager to know the peers of west world. How to live, how to think and how to love,” said Sun.
Wells’s soulful and gut-wrenching lyrics paired with his ability to switch lithely between impassioned English and Mandarin tonal inflections allow him to connect and converse with his Chinese fanbase. With his long bleached blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and laid-back persona, Wells epitomizes a dreamy rock star.
Apparently, the fans think Wells is a dream worth chasing. At the Chengdu International Music Festival, while meeting crying and screaming fans, the barricade broke and Wells had to run from a throng of girls.
Wells said it was “terrifying and awesome at the same time.”
“I felt like one of the Beatles,” said Wells.
Wells plans to move to Beijing in the spring. He will record and study Mandarin during his semester off.
Article and video by Courtney Bellush