Since stepping onto the music scene in 2020, Wes Nelson has quickly emerged as one of the UK and Europe’s most exciting new artists.
With his irresistibly infectious debut single ‘See Nobody’ becoming a platinum selling, Top 3 smash on the Official UK Singles Chart (to date the track has accumulated over 70 million streams globally), and follow up releases ‘Nice To Meet Ya’ with Yxng Bane, ‘3 Words (Message To My Ex)’, and ‘Drive’ (a stunning collaboration with dance-pop titans Clean Bandit and Topic) all making significant impact, Wes has continually fought to push boundaries and break new ground, delivering a masterclass in how to challenge perceptions and defy all industry expectations.
Wes Nelson x Hardy Caprio – See Nobody (Official Music Video)
Throughout 2022-2023, Nelsons’ career has continued to go from strength-to-strength, as evidenced by his highly successful UK tour, which saw him sell out headline shows across the nation, wowing audiences with his undeniable stage presence, and ace skills as a dazzling live performer.
The former Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins contestant also joined N-Dubz, as the main support for their reunion tour, where he graced the stage at some of the UK’s most prestigious venues, including The O2 London and Birmingham’s Utilita Arena, before joining the trio at various outdoor festivals throughout the summer.
With the surprise recent release of latest single ‘Good Part’ – a vivacious and upbeat R&B inspired bop featuring singer/songwriter Deeps and producer ADP – Wes rounds off 2023 in style!
We caught up with Wes Nelson to discuss his musical journey thus far, re-defining success, the joys of performing live, and why he’s calling this moment in his career, his ‘recalibration era’…
As we approach the end of the year, how are you feeling about the last 12 months and all that you’ve experienced and achieved?
Do you know what, where I’m at now, I feel really good. But I can’t lie, 2023 has been rough, and although the highs have been high, the lows have been super low. These past few months I’ve become such a loner because I’ve been getting too in my head, and worrying about things way too much. As I’m talking about it though, I realise that I’m in a much better headspace now, and because of that, I’m taking much better care of myself which can only been a good thing right? My mantra this past year has been one of wanting to move forward in a positive way by just 1% every day, so now it’s like I’m 365% stronger than I was a year ago, which is an amazing feeling, and sets me up to move into 2024 feeling hyper motivated.
Despite battling feelings of insecurity and diffidence, you’ve still accomplished so much! How do you think you’ve managed to power through, and come out the other side of such a trying time?
I think it’s my overall outlook on life. My mindset is always one of feeling like I’m just getting there, I don’t want to ever feel like “I’ve arrived”, if that makes sense? As cheesy as it sounds I believe happiness is a journey, not a destination, so I don’t think I’ll ever reach a place where I’m truly satisfied because I always like to think I can do better, and go to even bigger places. Settling is losing for me, the chase is what keeps me hungry.
Change can be scary, as can having to make major, career-altering decisions. Talk to us about stepping away from your record label…
Yeah, I recently left my record label, so I’m now a fully independent artist, which honestly… feels great! There’s a freedom to going down the independent route that I really love. I can move creativity in the way I want to move, and take my career in the direction that I’ve always wanted to take it. Art is very individual, it’s your thing, and it shouldn’t be compromised to suit somebody else’s agenda or vision. When I was with the label, there was this mentality of “you have to have a hit, you have to have a hit!” Feeling like you have all eyes on you from those ‘in charge’ effects the art you’re making, and I struggled with that. Now I’m excited to test the waters, and try new things musically without worrying about chart positions, streaming numbers or trying to live up to someone else’s definition of success.
To that point then, we wonder, as you enter this new phase in your recording career, how do you think you’ll define success moving forward?
For me success now means constantly progressing and getting better at what I do, making enough money so that I can provide for my family, and having longevity in the music industry. Award nominations are cool, doing big numbers on streaming is amazing, and have a hit song is incredible, but longterm none of those things really fulfil me or make me happy. They look and feel good in the here and now, but the moment is fleeting. I want to be recognised for the artist I am now, and also in the many, many years to come.
So you’re here to play the long game?
(Laughs) 100%! My ultimate goal is to build a career. Things move so fast these days, so having a couple of hit songs isn’t enough. There’s always a new track blowing up, or a new artist stepping onto the scene; people can forget about you, just as quickly as they recognised you. So for me, it’s about creating a body of work, and a catalogue of songs that will stand the test of time.
Wes Nelson x Deeps – ‘Good Part’
Let’s talk about the here and now! Your latest single ‘Good Part’ has gone down a storm online…
I know, I can’t believe it! I’m actually really excited about this song, and am super happy with the response it’s had, people seem to genuinely really vibe to it! It’s a fun, R&B track that sets the tone for where I want to go next musically.
Are we right in thinking that you didn’t originally plan on releasing it?
I honestly had no intention of releasing it, it was not supposed to come out! I’ve always struggled with social media – I’m rubbish at keeping on top of it, rubbish at creating content, and rubbish at posting on the regular; I’m seriously so bad (laughs). So a while back I came up with the idea of creating a new series called ‘Vibe Of The Week’ where I would post a clip of whatever song I happened to be working on that week. ‘Good Part’ was the first track I shared and it did something like 1.5 million views and got 150,000 likes in two days – which might not sound a lot to some, but for me that was massive – so it seemed like a no brainer to put it out.
For an artist in your position, having that kind of instant feedback from your audience must be invaluable…
Totally! The rollout of this single has taught me a lot, and given me a massive confidence boost. I’ve also realised that the beauty of being an independent artist, is that I can put out music whenever I want with little to no fuss or hassle. I don’t have to get approval from the label, I don’t have to worry about the marketing and promotion, I can literally just see what’s catching a vibe and run with it. That’s inspiring and hugely motivating… I know it’s important to not rely too much on outside motivation, but it also doesn’t hurt sometimes (laughs).
You’re part of an industry that is forever changing and evolving, how do you cope dealing with the uncertainty and unpredictability that seems to plague the life of so many creatives?
Well, it’s funny you ask that because I’m actually calling this my ‘recalibration era’ (laughs) meaning I’m in the process of trying to figure out how to make this business work for me, rather than the other way round. And I say that because you can go about your career, and plan for the future as much as you like, but the reality is this industry can change in a split second, so you have to be reactive and have a sort of game plan to revert to, for when things don’t go your way. I’ve always been very aware of the fact that my start in music was pretty strong! My debut single went Top 3, the follow up did a billion streams, and then ‘Drive’ hit the Top 20, it was incredible and I was fully on it in the moment, but I knew it couldn’t always be like that, and that at some point the momentum I’d built up was eventually going to slow down. And in the last year it has, but that doesn’t deter me or make me feel like I can’t continue to move forward. I know now that I need build things from the ground upwards, in the way I should have perhaps done in the first place.
So now it’s all about developing a bespoke way of working that suits you as a newly independent artist?
Yeah exactly! I just want to be clear though, I am by no means a one man band, I have an incredible team that I work with, and we’re all navigating our way through the chaos, and figuring things out together. Learning from other peoples experiences is super helpful in understanding that there’s more than one way of making it to the top. And of course there will always be a pressure there to perform and do well in this business, but it’s about not comparing your journey to others. I have a drive to compete with myself, and no-one else. I’ve seen what I can do. I’ve seen the people my music can reach. Now I want to prove that I can do this on my own terms.
By using your platform, and the tools at your disposal to your advantage…
Yeah… I mean look, I’m very grateful and aware of how fortunate I am to have the platform and the following I do, but when you’re making the transition from one industry to another, it can be tricky to know how best to go about things. I’m not gonna lie, I found it hard in the beginning to confidently go out there and promote myself as an artist, because I come from the world of reality TV, and now suddenly here I am making music, it’s not supposed to work is it? People already had a perception of who I was, or who they thought I was, from what they’d seen of me on TV, so I didn’t want to beg it and add fuel to the fire and having people saying: ‘oh look at him reaching’ before I’d even released my first single. So my strategy in the beginning was to release ‘See Nobody’, maybe post about it once or twice, and then leave it because I hated that people thought I was forcing it. It’s funny though, because you look at social media now, and the biggest artists in the world are using those platforms and viral trends to promote their music! I sometimes wish I’d not cared as much, and just gone all out to push those first few releases because even though they did well, I wonder could they have been bigger if I’d been a little braver? On the flip side of that though, I feel confident that nobody can ever come back at me and say my success was because the number of followers I have on social media. People liked the songs, and ran with them, it’s as simple as that.
Settling is losing for me, the chase is what keeps me hungry.Wes Nelson on staying motivated
You speak so passionately about your career! Was making music something you always dreamed of doing as a kid, or did your transition into the pop world comes about as a result of an opportunity presented to you following your successful stint in television?
Honestly, music has always been the one constant passion in my life. From the age of 2 or 3, getting my first keyboard, my first microphone, my first karaoke machine, I’ve always loved it. I played football, I did Muay Thai, I studied nuclear engineering… I’ve basically done all these different things, but none of them resonated with me in the same way that music did. I just never had the confidence to pursue it properly though.
How did you overcome those fears and anxieties?
It was a process I guess. I definitely think experiencing a certain level of success in television – a world and an industry I knew absolutely nothing about – helped. I think after a certain point I sort of felt like: ‘okay, well I’ve done pretty well for myself in this area of entertainment, maybe I could make a go of it and release my own music?’ I was bricking it though, because the sad reality is, a lot of people want to see someone like me fail. Like I said before, transition from being on reality TV into music – it’s not supposed to work! But in a funny way, that nervousness and that expectation that I would flop helped to drive me forward, and really make a go of things. I like being the underdog, and being in a place where I’m going to be challenged because it pushes me to do better.
What do you love most about being an artist?
Writing, recording, and being creative. Lately, I’m never not in the studio, and I’m having the best time. My writing is so much stronger, and quicker, and I feel like I now have more feathers in my cap than I did three years ago and that’s a good feeling. I’m buzzing about the music I’m making at the moment, I feel like it’s my best material yet, and I can’t wait for people to hear it.
You’re set out to embark your next solo headline tour in the spring, how excited are you to get back on stage?
I can’t wait to head out on the road again! I absolutely love performing live… actually, that’s my favourite thing about being an artist, performing! Seeing people in the crowd singing along to songs that I’ve written is the craziest, but most amazing feeling ever! I feed off that kind of energy – if the crowd is buzzing, then I’m 100% more buzzing; it’s like this amazing circle of energy that I live for, and can’t get enough of! The amount of times I’ve had my mic turned off at the end of my festival sets is ridiculous – they have to drag me off the stage because I never want the moment to be over (laughs).
How liberated do you feel going against the grain and powering ahead in your own lane?
Erm… pretty amazing (laughs). Don’t get me wrong, I get anxious like anybody else, and I’ve been very open about the personal struggles I’ve faced in recent years, but I refuse to let any of that stuff hold me back. The more that I build, and the more that I create, the stronger I get. Some of these songs I’m sitting on are like gold, but I don’t want to put them out when I haven’t got the reach, so it’s all about building up momentum right now. I promise you though, if the stars align and we get this right, it’s going to be a crazy couple of years!
As you stand on the cusp of a new era in your life and career, what mantra do you want to try to live by moving forward?
That a strong mentality is key. I want my mindset to be bullet proof so that nothing, or no-one, can make me unhappy or put me down. I’m starting my future now, I am my only limit.