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Interview: Wesley Dean opens up about his new music, finding himself and his incredible voice

The Australian Idol winner caught up with us about his latest songs.

Wesley Dean
Credit: James Cant

Wesley Dean is perhaps better known as Wes Carr, the winner of Australian Idol in 2008.

Since winning the show, he’s carved out a successful career releasing four studio album and two EPs. For his latest music – Are You Gonna Save My World and This Thing Called Life – Wes is going under the name of Wesley Dean, his first and middle name.

Ready to step back into the spotlight with plenty more music to come, Wesley spoke to me last week about his new music, his journey to find himself and his incredible voice…

You’ve recently put out two new tracks. Why did you decide to do that now?

We recorded back in September and October last year and I recorded 20 songs. I’ve been working on a lot of songs the last five years and it was always the plan to release them at this time. The whole COVID pandemic that’s been going on luckily didn’t stop us because everything is online at the moment, an also my music is designed to shed a bit of hope and a bit of love around around the place. There was talk of maybe waiting till it’s all over but I was like, ‘well, no, that’s what music is. Music is about liberating people and personal freedom’. It’s always been like for me especially at this sort of time where people are feeling a little bit hopeless. Are You Gonna Save My World, I wrote that song a year ago and it wasn’t designed to have any kind of clickbait potential or whatever goes on these days (laughs). It was just a bit of a coincidence that people were actually talking about that sort of question at one stage. A few months ago, people were like, ‘who’s gonna save the world from this thing that’s happening?’ There was a lot of fear and still is a lot of fear. I hope that my music can disable a little bit of that fear in people’s minds and give them a bit of a hope and a bit of something to think about. I just reflect what I hear to be honest, in society and life and being a dad. The steam train has left the station and we’re ready to drop a few more tunes in the next coming weeks. The idea is just to keep going. You’ve got to! (laughs)

You mentioned you’ve recorded 20 tracks. Is the plan to release them over the course of the year or are you working up to an EP or album?

We’re making up our own rules. That’s the best part about being an independent at the moment. We’re making up our own rules and we’re designing our own future with all of this. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time anyway. I guess I’ve come into my own a bit with the songwriting too. I’m writing a lot more. It’s all just sort of clicked for me in a lot of ways. To get to know one’s self these days is a long journey and for me, that’s what these songs are about. We don’t know yet what’s going to happen in the future with the releases, whether it’s going to be a collection of songs or whether it’s going to be singles or whether it’s going to be an album, who knows? I do know there’s gonna be a few more singles dropped before I start to make my own album because I’ve got so many tunes, I want them all to live on in the best way they can and have their own voice. We’re treating every song as something different song – they’re almost like a different genre some of them but they’re not, they live in the same world. The next one is called Magic and it’s a bit more upbeat. The last one was six and a half minutes long. This one’s a two and a half minute country rock kind of pop song (laughs).

Wesley Dean

Credit: James Cant

The tracks we’ve heard so far are so raw and organic. They’re completely different from what we’ve heard from you before and a million miles away from your Australian Idol days. I guess it must have been easy to lose yourself when you win a show like that?

I’ve had trouble finding who I am anyway forever and music was the only thing that made me feel like a sort of semi-normal person or something. I’ve been doing this since I was so young. From singing and dancing and studying that to having a little bit of experience at acting but always being a musician, that’s been my heart and soul. Going into different sort of bands – pop bands to rock bands, to acoustic outfits and then to Australian Idol – it was the path to fulfilment. It wasn’t the overall fulfilment. I was still learning the ropes. I was still in my apprenticeship days. Now this is me coming of age as a man. I guess looking back, although one of my songs is called Don’t Look Back and I’m going to break the rules there, everything that I’ve experienced is all in this music. All the stories and things have come from different places of life; growing up and being famous, and then not being famous, and then changing my name to Buffalo Tales and realising that wasn’t really the answer either, and then I did a dance thing and toured with a DJ. This is a coming back home and using all of that live experience to reignite the flame that is me as a musician and as an artist. This is truly who I am, more so than trying to fit into somebody else’s a square peg in a round hole.

When you won Australian Idol, did it feel like your life wasn’t your own for a while afterwards?

For me it was like a personal development course that I did (laughs). It really made me aware of who I really was and who my friends were, and what my environment was and how safe and unsafe I was in different scenarios of my life, and the feeling of working it all out within myself, more so than looking out and trying to blame everything else, blaming the system. I think a lot of people these days want to blame something for their own thing and of course, go and do that, take your anger out on something for a second but look at what it’s really shining a light on. For me, it brought out a lot of my own stuff that I had to deal with to be able to think clearly as a human and as an artist.

To be honest, what I’m trying to say is it was a blessing in a lot of ways, because although maybe I didn’t fit the mould I look back on it with a really fond memory, and you only remember the good stuff anyway. It shined a light on who I wasn’t and made me realise who I was, and that is a songwriter and an artist and somebody that looks at things a little bit more abstract in some ways than being a poster boy person, not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that that wasn’t me. I had more in me and more in my heart to tell. I had songs to tell instead of boy meets girl over and over again, which is cool and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that – half of The Beatles’ catalogue is all about that and I am a big fan of The Beatles obviously – but for me, songs like what I’m doing now is what I’ve always had in me. I’ve always wanted to express that. I’m just so happy that I’m almost starting again and doing that right now.

When I listen to your songs it’s always your voice that grabs me. It’s such a powerful, ripped-from-the-soul kind of voice. When did you discover you had it and how has it developed over the course of your career?

Touring, I think. Playing live a lot has definitely strengthened my voice. I’ve always had a bit of a loud, raucous sort of voice ever since I was a kid. I used to sing Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 songs when I was little, singing twelve hours a day every. You just build some strength in the chords., I’m no expert on it, I’ve always been singing since I was really young and that’s what I’ll always probably be doing. I’m 37 thirty seven and I think as a male you hit your peak at around that age as a singer. Your vocal chords get stronger and stronger till you’re 50 or 60. I just love singing. I just enjoy it. It’s just one of those things that makes me get out of bed in morning (laughs).

Your voice is incredibly versatile. Was it influenced by listening to a whole host of genres and artists growing up?

Yeah, from Al Jolson to John Lennon to Jim Morrison to Glenn Shorrock from the Little River Band. All the 60s and 70s music. Elvis, I guess every singer has a time with Elvis at one stage in their lives. Also Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin and Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, all those sort of guys. They sort of leapt into my soul at one stage in my life and (Bob) Dylan, even though a lot of people complain about his voice. I think it’s great and (he has) great story telling. You always know where Dylan’s at when he’s singing. That’s what it’s about. It’s about the personality more so than the technical thing. As long as it has personality and passion and you feel like it’s telling a really true story, that’s what I love about music the most.

Wesley Dean

Credit: James Cant

This pandemic must be very frustrating as you’re not able to get out and play these songs…

It is frustrating. It’s such an unfortunate thing. It’s crazy and I just don’t even know where to start with it all. It’s so fresh and there’s so much fear going on. I hope that people’s mental health is OK out of all this too. The arts are usually the first point of call when you have to raise money but we’re the first people that gets cut with this. I totally get it. The frontline workers are absolute angels and heroes, and they’re the true heroes out of all this. Anyone who’s risking their safety or life for this thing is an angel in my book. I just truly pray and hope that it all blows over and everybody can get back to doing what they do best. Hopefully it’s that simple. Who knows? It’s been a huge wake up call. There’s a lot of positives out of it too, I guess. What we’re seeing around the world (like) you can see the Himalayas for the first time in 30 years and the ocean life is regenerating itself. There’s a lot of great things as well happening, but for me certainly touring and playing live is definitely one of the greatest things that I love doing. I do hope to get back one day very soon.

Have you made it over to the U.K. for any shows in your career yet?

No, I haven’t played in the U.K. I’d love to. I would absolutely love to. A lot of people have said to me that I should get over there and play shops. I’m hopeful it will be very soon in the near future.

Is there anything else that you’re working on or that’s keeping you busy at the moment?

[00:17:28] Being a dad (laughs) of a two year old and a seven year old boy. They’re keeping me on my toes all the time. I’m just always thinking about new music and writing. I’m always writing. While I was writing these songs I had about 50 or 60 songs to choose from, and I ended up narrowing it down to 20. I love the process of doing that because anything’s possible when you’re writing music. I hired out a little space in the back of the church, where I finished off all these tunes. It was just a great time. It was the first time I had two weeks to myself where I went to this workspace from 8 o’clock to 6 o’clock and clocked in and clocked out. I just went to work every day. It was so prolific and I was writing eight songs a day at one stage. I’m always doing a version of that where most of the time I’m running into my home studio for 20 minutes, and writing a quick chorus or a quick verse, and running out back into reality again. I’m up at 3am and I’m constantly writing and constantly creating. 90% of my time is with my writing and focussed on where to next. (laughs) It’s constant man. For me it’s truly a blessing to be able to do it. I just love it. It’s the best thing, this thing called life.

Wesley Dean’s singles Are You Gonna Save My World and This Thing Called Life are available now. Watch the video for This Thing Called Life below:

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