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Interview and Album Review: Cory Wells ‘The Way We Are’

Cory Wells’ debut full-length album, The Way We Are was released via Pure Noise Records on Nov. 15. Throughout the twelve song album, Wells traverses through the whole gamut of emotions, delivering powerful screams, lush acoustic guitar, and even a soaring falsetto. Four years in the making, The Way We Are faces topics like understanding, acceptance, and perseverance.

The album’s opening track, “Distant” is a brief, but blunt warning, and feels anything but far away, or disconnected at merely 2:10 long. Stay away from me / The devil’s got the best of me / And it’s all I’ll let you know

Despite Wells’ initial warning of staying far away, listeners can step into the innermost workings of the songwriter’s heart on the following 11 tracks.

The third track, “Wildfire” is one in which Wells’ delivers a message he hadn’t exposed until now — hatred. “Wildfire really felt like letting go to me,” he said. “I’ve never been much of a confrontational person really. I had so much anger and resentment built up towards someone who wronged me. I needed to let it out, and let it out I did. That song is one of a kind on the record, like many of them. It was a very healthy song that I needed to write.”

This is the song that you also might hear an ode back to Wells’ metal band vocals, with searing screams, and even a couple Further Seems Forever-sounding influences.

Wells is currently on tour with Dashboard Confessional in the U.K., having cited Chris Carrabba as both a major influence and turning point in Wells’ musical trajectory.

“I have listened to Chris’ bands for a long time,” Wells said. “Tour has been amazing so far. The crowds have been receptive, kind and respectful. It has honestly been a dream come true to be put in the position I am. He is so generous, well-spoken, genuine, and just a joy to be around. Every night is like a learning experience.”

The fourth track, “Harbor” is one that Carrabba inspired, and happens to be Wells’ favorite on the record. Carrabba even worked on “Fall Apart,” along with producers Jon Lundin, Anton DeLost, and with extra vocals from Lizzy Farral (Pure Noise Records).

“The man definitely works as hard as he can,” Wells said of the emo king, Chris Carrabba. “It really is something to look up to, honestly. One thing I did learn from him when I wrote ‘Fall Apart’ at his house, was to not be afraid to start again. ‘Fall Apart’ was a completely different song. It was about something very specific in my life. He told me, ‘I don’t think this is that song. I think you still have to write that song. When you do, I want to hear it.’ I then wrote the song, ‘Harbor.’ It is quite possibly my favorite song off of The Way We Are.”

“Broken” is a song that we’ve heard before, as a previously released single, but that’s not to say it still isn’t a great track. Obsessing over where I should go / There’s no way out now, just through, I know / This pain will fade in time I hope / I can’t just hide my distaste, I’ve got so much to say to you.

“Waiting” features more clear vocals versus the raspy ones we accustom this powerful vocalist with, and that reads refreshing. There’s even a nice acoustic jaunt in the middle, which almost sounds like an Americana/banjo track. Why can’t we just piece this back together / Instead of waiting til we fall apart, and I break your heart again.

The familiar singles, including “Patience” and “Ghost of a Good Thing” have all been remixed and remastered, however. “Not much has changed recording-wise, but there are things I hear in the songs now that I had forgotten were even there in the first place,” Wells said. “They just feel bigger and more emotional now, I think. It is a very noticeable difference.”

“Patience” is a catchy acoustic song, coupled with relatable lyrics, and that somewhat iconic Wells emotive growl. This is the exact sound Wells has made to deliver.

“I have always wanted to play this kind of music,” he said. “It took a long time to figure out what ‘me’ sounded like. I figured it out when I wrote the song, ‘Avoid the Blame.’ I knew that would be my center, and that I could reach out into different styles and genres from there.”

The final track, “Cement” is definitely Wells reaching out into a different style, compared to the others on The Way We Are.

Wells wows on the last track, pulling out all the stops with impressive ranging falsetto vocals. Inspired by understanding, acceptance and perseverance, this singer-songwriter spoke about the meaning of the song.

“This television idea of a picture-perfect relationship is just not possible,” he said. “I think people tend to forget that. So much of American life is based on pop culture and this ‘Jim and Pam’ relationship. People tend to remember the good things, and not the bad. ‘Cement’ is about accepting that you aren’t perfect. Neither is your partner. That’s alright. There will be obstacles you have to get through, and get through them together. At the end of the day, you are you, and that’s okay.”

Drowning out the bad days doesn’t make the good days shine any brighter. Forcing things won’t make others fall into place more seamless. Sometimes, things weigh heavy on our hearts until we uneasily confront them head-on. Humans are messy, we’re a wreck, and that’s okay. That’s real.

And at the end of the day, The Way We Are is a refreshingly real — with screams and scars from a turbulent past, contrasting the beautiful, soaring moments of clarity.

“What I think is beautiful about it is that you can listen to it in any order, and it will tell a different story,” Wells said. “I feel it will be cohesive any way you spin it. You can even change the order to fit your own story.”

It’s okay if your story is messy, own it — because it’s your story. And that’s just the way it should be.

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah's a little bit of a rock 'n' roll rebel, almost always at a concert. She loves to soak up the scene, immersed in the music journalism world, still buys CDs and rents music documentaries from the library. Just don't call her a hipster. She's never been that stylish.

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