Actress, comedian and San Antonio native Noël Wells (Master of None, Mr. Roosevelt) picked up a guitar years ago, but jokes that she probably wasn’t coordinated enough at the time to even attempt to start a music career. She was in a band in high school and wrote some songs, but only knew enough to get her bandmates to occasionally strum the right chords.
“I guess my rhythm was a little off,” Wells, 32, told the Current during a phone interview Monday afternoon from her home in Los Angeles. “But this last time I picked up the guitar, it made a lot more sense to me.”
This was at the end of 2016 and Wells, who was born in San Antonio in 1986 and attended Memorial High School in Victoria, knew she wanted to add to her repertoire as a performer. Three years later, her venture into music has paid off with the upcoming release of her debut album, It’s So Nice!, which is available for purchase August 30.
It wasn’t just learning a few chords that motivated Wells to write a 12-track album, which combines different genres like folk, pop, alt-country and psych-rock. She was inspired by the perfect storm of emotions she was feeling at the time – a combination of a personal break-up, the stresses of maneuvering through the cutthroat world of moviemaking and even the bleak political landscape.
“I don’t think I would’ve jumped into doing a whole creative adventure like this if a lot of extreme things weren’t happening,” Wells said. “Writing the album provided me a lot of comfort. Anytime I sing these songs, I feel a lot better.”
Wells considers her new album an “anti-political diary.” None of the songs specifically mention how divisive the political landscape has become over the last few years, but Wells said she would be lying if the “ugliness” didn’t push her to find some sort of relief through her songwriting.
“Whatever side you’re on, I think [politics today] is taking a toll on all of us,” she said. “I think it’s hard not to feel a little out of control. It seems like everything you believe in is being called into question. It was happening to me in a micro sense — like reality wasn’t really what I thought it was. When that foundation gets shaken up, it’s like an opening is created for something new to come out.”
What has emerged from It’s So Nice! is a sweet and soothing synthesis of self-reflection, self-sufficiency, heartbreak and hopefulness. In the song “Sad Girl Blues,” Wells sings about someone who is fighting to reclaim who she is as a person. In “Burn It All Down,” she explores the idea of starting a new life from scratch after being emotionally defeated.
“I think every [project] I do is based in some version of my internal reality, but it always services whatever the project is,” she said. “But [this album] does feel like it is a very accurate reflection of me. This is ‘for-real’ me.”
For Wells, each song has two meanings. For example, in the song “Star,” some listeners might hear her singing about the audacious confidence one might display when taking on new challenges. She would also like some listeners to hear a message of innocence.
“When we’re young, we haven’t had the weight of the world put on us,” she said. “We haven’t had failures. We all dream and believe we’re worthy of being stars. We’re all born with that exuberance.”
The album cover reinforces the idea of Wells’ duplicity as a performer. It’s an image of her with a sketched pair of devil horns and an angel’s halo taking up the space above her head. Only time will tell which one will triumph.
“I think I’ve been an angel all my life,” Wells said. “But I’m very happy to say that I’m balancing that out with a little bit of devil that I needed.”
Support Local Journalism. Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.