Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Harlan Wells began playing music professionally when he was fifteen years old; by eighteen, he had left home for the road. Thousands of miles of highway, hundreds of small towns, cities, and antiquated hotel rooms (as well as, the sordid characters who inhabited them), left an indelible impression which would later influence years of prolific songwriting. Wells affirms that his youth was abandoned and still lies scattered along the Trans-Canada Highway. Yet, incalculable experience was cultivated playing the Toronto club circuit, including the venerable El Mocambo nightclub and the legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Once, while performing in the renowned Yorkville district, musician Keith Emerson lunged at Wells as he stepped off the stage. He grabbed Wells by his shirt collar, looked him straight in the eye, and not so gently offered some wise, yet gin-soaked advice: “write your own songs.”
In 2003, Gordon Lightfoot’s long-time manager, Barry Harvey, began to represent Harlan Wells. Wells' first full-length record, Songs from the North Country, features the song I Am Here for You which received rotation on radio across Canada and earned Wells the top male singer/songwriter title in TVO’s Songwriter's Competition. Billboard Magazine editor, Larry Leblanc, stated that Wells reminded him of the great Canadian singer/songwriters like Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson.
After a couple of failed negotiation attempts, Harvey was ultimately unsuccessful in securing record label support. Wells lost a good friend and music industry confidant when Harvey passed away suddenly in late 2007. Wells retreated from the music business and spent the following years concentrating on raising his children. However, those years also mark a prolific period of songwriting. In 2012, Wells released Home Recordings which, aptly named, was recorded in his apartment and features Wells playing most of the instruments, as well as, notable engineering and production credits.
In 2015, producer/engineer Peter Hamilton (Blue Rodeo, Leonard Cohen, Steve Earle) brought Wells and friends into Canterbury Studios in Toronto to record an organic, live off-the-floor album of new Harlan Wells songs. Described as Northern Americana, or Canadiana, the latest record, Waiting for June, is a compelling alchemy of cross-genres such as alt-country, folk, roots rock, and blues. Ultimately, it’s a singer/songwriter’s record. This is where Wells displays his greatest strength, his songwriting. Perhaps both Larry Leblanc and Barry Harvey were cognizant of this before anyone else, but the songs from Waiting for June should convince anyone that Wells has assuredly earned his place on the short list of venerable Canadian singer/songwriters.
"Waiting for June" garnered wide radio support and critical praise across North America and Europe (see "Press" page). In 2016, four videos were filmed live at Canterbury Studios and two more acoustic/unplugged videos were filmed by Matt Clayson at the Jam Factory Collective in Toronto (see "video" page).
Harlan Wells is currently in the studio writing and recording new music.