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Tauren Wells

Tauren Wells, former frontman of Royal Tailor, connected with Jesusfreakhideout's Chase Tremaine to discuss his new solo album, Hills and Valleys. Their conversation quickly transitioned from the particulars of the album into a fascinating discussion of Tauren Wells' perspective on ministry. You can find that conversation below, and you can find his album now through all digital retailers and streaming services. Hills and Valleys will see its physical release on July 21...
This interview took place on: June 22, 2017.

Click here for Tauren Wells's Artist Profile page.

  • JFH (Chase Tremaine): "Hills and Valleys," the title track from your new album, has been seeing some great success on YouTube lately, with the acoustic version averaging 25,000 views per day. With such a wide reach, are there any stories you'd like to share about how the song has connected with people?

    Tauren Wells: There have been so many people telling me how the song has helped them through difficult moments in life. It's an amazing thing to be a part of. When I hear stories of a young couple losing their newborn baby at birth and saying how much this song has meant to them in that "valley," I just think, "How could a song even help in such a tragedy?" And yet, God uses these types of songs to give them hope and carry them through tough places. I'm just thankful to be in the room. I'm just thankful to be able to minister to people like that.

  • JFH (Chase): Thank you for sharing that. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but I know how easy it can be to lose a sense of purpose when making music, so I can imagine how powerful it is to be reminded that music can do something like that.

    Album Cover

    Tauren: Yeah, exactly. I think the Bible's on target when it tells us to encourage each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. A lot of people think that the sole purpose and role of music is vertical worship to God, and anything that isn't "worship" isn't pleasing to God. I love how the Bible articulates psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and it's for the edification of the church. Songs are spiritual, music is spiritual. Even though something may not be a corporate worship song, a song that invites the presence of God into my everyday life and positions my heart towards Jesus is worship. To give people a soundtrack for pain and struggle is important. We don't have to borrow songs from other genres to articulate our feelings if we have artists speaking genuinely about our faith in what we all experience as people.

  • JFH (Chase): That's great. That reminds me of three things: a Bono quote about how Christian music has lost "lament" and how it's all one-sided praise; the C.S. Lewis quote that there needs to be fewer Christians writing books about Christianity and more Christians writing books about everything else; and I believe a TobyMac quote where he was asked if he feels limited only singing about his faith, and he responded, no, he'd feel more limited not singing about his faith because his faith is how he views everything else.

    Tauren: Good men. They're right.

  • JFH (Chase): So to what extent, if at all, do you consider this solo project to be a ministry?

    Tauren: That is why I do music. I just heard a great example of this from my pastor. Ministry is not a call to a pedestal, where you get to be celebrated by everyone else. Ministry is a call to the trenches, where you get to fight battles alongside everyone else. It is a calling to people. It's easy, I think, for artists to get so wrapped up in the artistry that we can lose the ministry if we're not careful. It can be all about the gifts and not people. I love that God is gracious in that He gives gifts freely to be people to be used in different contexts of life, but Jesus didn't die for our gifts. He died for people. Our gifts are just vehicles to get us to people, so we can introduce them or reintroduce them to the reality of who Christ is.

  • JFH (Chase): Yeah.

    Tauren: That drives what I do. Particularly, with this album and these songs, I wanted to write, as my wife put it, "songs that people need to hear." When she heard "Hills and Valleys" for the first time - well, my wife always compliments my songs. She says she likes them all, and I don't know about that. [*Chase laughs*] But she said, with this song, not that it's pretty, but she said, "This is a message that people need to hear." That stuck with me, and what she said informed how I selected the rest of the songs for the album. I don't want to just play, perform, write, and release songs that I just like or that people will think are cool...just for the sake of chasing "cool." I want to write songs that people need. I want to have songs on my album where people are driving down the road, they had a rough day, my song comes on the radio, and they turn it up, thinking, "I needed to hear this." That is my hope for this collection of songs and I pray God uses it in that way.

  • JFH (Chase): In our entertainment-based music industry, have you struggled with, as you said, being in the trenches rather than being on a pedestal? Whether as a solo artist or while you were in Royal Tailor?

    Tauren: It's a constant battle, a constant battle for all of us because we all like our minute glories. It's easy to lump artists into categories, or even your pastors and worship leaders at church, because they have a platform and a microphone and lights on them. But it's not anything other than the human condition to want to be celebrated. In any industry, in any place in life, you are drawn to yourself. There has to be a constant denial and refusal of self, and the best remedy for that is other people: being others-driven and others-oriented. I have, of course, drifted into that place where I think it's about me and what I can accomplish. I can crave that, but ultimately it leaves me unfulfilled. So what I'm trying to do is be intentional about people. That's what I see with Jesus. As he was on his way to perform some of the greatest miracles that we would ever see, he stops for a woman with an issue of blood. He sends his words to a girl who was thought to be dead. In his dying breaths, he speaks to the thief on the cross. That, to me, is the picture of Christianity that I want to reflect in my life. It is all about showing people who Jesus is, and that comes at the high price of "self."

  • JFH (Chase): In your desire to make your ministry primarily about Christ and secondarily about the people God has placed around you, is it harder to keep things from becoming about you now that it's "Tauren Wells" rather than Royal Tailor?

    Tauren: That's the same. It's just an artist, a name. It's not easier or more difficult. The goal is to tell people stories, and let the things I say and do make positive investments in peoples' lives. To look people in the eyes and let them know that they're valued. I see it less as a challenge and more of an opportunity, that my "brand" and my songs can be a reflection in which people see Christ.

  • JFH (Chase): That makes sense. And even back then, wasn't it true that a lot of people thought "Royal Tailor" was your name?

    Tauren: *laughs* Yeah, they did. People would yell out, "Hey, Royal!"

  • JFH (Chase): *laughs* So, is there something different you're wanting to achieve with this music? Do you have different goals, or are you trying to reach a different audience?

    Tauren: No, not really. I just have more clarification on my assignment for this season of my life. And it's something God taught me through a process. We have identity, we have calling, and we have an assignment. A lot of times, we get those interchanged and twisted and mixed up, to our own demise. Identity is who God says we are, what He created us to be. Calling is what He created us for. And assignment is how we carry out that calling in different seasons of life. What we do sometimes is we connect our assignment to our identity. We think we or what we do. The proposition that a season of life could be ending makes us feel like it's the end of us-because our identity is so wrapped up in what we're doing. That's why you can be in a relationship that God wants you to end; you don't know who you are apart from that person. You stay with that person because you're identity is wrapped up in that person instead of who God says you are. It's the same thing with jobs and with ministries. If people don't validate you in whatever assignment you're in, you think less of yourself because your identity is so consumed in what you do. God wants us to be set free from that. We can know that who we are does not change. Our value does not increase or decrease based on what we're doing.

    So when Royal Tailor ended, there was a moment when I thought, "Who am I outside of the context of this band?" This had been a decade of my life, so who am I really? But my identity hadn't changed. And I still had the same calling, which, for me, is to call greatness out of others. But the way in which God wants me to execute that calling in this stage of life is different. When we started Royal Tailor, I was 20 years old. No spouse, no children, no real responsibilities. So we hopped in a van, ate ramen noodles, played shows for $50, and had a great time. God blessed that, but I think God is always leading us somewhere, always taking us into what's next. I needed to have the personal resolve to say God is calling me to end this season. I can separate myself from this particular assignment and embrace the next thing God has for me. There is amazing freedom in that. So I'm still doing the same thing that I feel called to do, but I'm able to do that in the way that fits my life now. I have my beautiful wife. I've got two kids and one on the way. I'm involved in a local church ministry in a greater way than I have been before. I think that is what God was calling me to, and unfortunately, being called to something means you have to step away from something else.

  • JFH (Chase): Those are some really powerful distinctions in how to think about ministry. And congratulations on the third child!

    Tauren: Thank you!

  • JFH (Chase): Thank you for your time. I genuinely feel blessed, encouraged, and edified by the things you've shared, and I hope that will be true for our readers, too.

    Tauren: Thanks so much, man! I'm grateful for you and thankful for the opportunity.

    Hills and Valleys is out now, and you can catch Tauren Wells on tour this summer, opening for Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey!

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