Wes Nelson’s fast start in the music business would have been hard to predict. With over 1.2 billion global streams, hits in 10 countries and co-signs from a host of respected names in the artist fraternity, the TV-star turned singer-songwriter has truly made his first two years count.
Though he may have only started making music in 2020, it’s been a part of Wes’s life since he was a baby. Drawn towards singing after being bought a bright red plastic karaoke machine as a three-year-old, Wes would summon his family each Friday night to make them watch him sing along to the day’s hits on Top Of The Pops. Too shy to perform to his peers at school and with other interests taking precedent, a teenage Wes enjoyed a stint as a semi-professional footballer and an undefeated Muay Thai kickboxer. He doesn’t come from a musical family, but discipline is certainly in his DNA. His uncle is a six-time world champion kickboxer, his Mechanical Engineer dad was a National kickboxer, his brother is a professional footballer for Cardiff City and two of Wes’s cousins are Olympians. “Everyone in my family strives for perfection. Okay, you can never be perfect, but we do our best to get close,” he says.
As well as a gifted sportsperson who loved singing in the shower, Wes also shone in academia: he received 14 GCSEs and four A-Levels, before going onto become a Nuclear System Design Engineer. In 2018, in the middle of his first at year at university and with a rising social media presence of 30,000 followers (thanks to being Stoke-Upon-Trent’s resident handsome champion kickboxer), Wes was approached about being on ITV’s reality dating show sensation Love Island. Attracted by the idea of a new challenge, he signed up and life changed immediately. Thanks to Love Island, his social media following grew exponentially; Wes currently has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and 830,000 followers on TikTok, with brands signing Wes up to front campaigns.
As one of the show’s most popular characters, Wes quickly became known for brightening up the villa with his upbeat personality and impromptu singing. When he was approached by The X Factor: Celebrity in 2019 to be part of a Love Island supergroup, he was keen to feature as a solo artist but nevertheless saw it as an opportunity to showcase his vocals and drew widespread acclaim for his ability to both sing and rap. After the show, Simon Cowell was keen to sign Wes but his primary focus at the time was to develop his song-writing skills ahead of signing any record deal.
After The X Factor and becoming financially comfortable, Wes wisely began investing in properties in his late teens, and he committed thousands of pounds to studio time, where he would spend hours each day learning the art of song-writing and producing, pestering engineers to show him the basics of Pro-Tools and Logic. In March 2020, Covid-19 interrupted the world, and lockdown provided Wes with the time and space to really consider his future. He knew music was his first love and his greatest ambition and he saw quarantine as an opportunity to really push his artistic ambitions. While everyone else was baking banana bread and binge watching Selling Sunset, Wes took the discipline he learnt from Muay Thai and applied it to music.
After splitting from his partner, Wes moved into his friend’s very small spare room, he set up a makeshift studio and spent weeks on YouTube teaching himself to write songs and produce. “I didn’t leave the house for two months. I was working for 20 hours straight, getting four hours sleep, a bit of breakfast and back to it again. I was determined to teach myself as much as I could. One of my biggest fears in life is having regrets. If I fail, that’s ok, but I have to know I’ve put everything into it.”
“See Nobody” was the very first track that Wes self-recorded and it came together quickly, in less than two hours, with Wes receiving direction over facetime from producer Ayo Beatz. After Wes sent the song round to several friends and respected peers the reactions showed him he was onto something. Word spread about the quality of the song after rapper Krept tweeted how surprised he was by the quality of an unnamed Love Islander’s song and talent, and labels started reaching out.
After a bidding war, EMI Records signed Wes on the strength of “See Nobody” and other unreleased songs. The collaborations with Hardy Caprio – See Nobody (UK platinum single, #3 in the chart), Yxng Bane – Nice To Meet Ya (top 10 in 3 countries, over 100M Spotify streams) and Clean Bandit – Drive (UK top 20, over 100M Spotify streams) followed while Wes continues to work with a host of exciting producers on forthcoming music. “The one consistent throughout my life is a love of singing. I didn’t have the confidence before, but now I realise I’ve got a real shot at this.”
Although the UK is his priority, Wes also has his sights set on the US. He has the desire – and potential – to be one of the UK’s most successful Pop-R&B singers of all time. He not only has the talent, but the focus, drive and discipline that such ambition takes. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight, but consistency is key. The best artists are the ones who stay true to themselves; authenticity is everything to me and that’s what will take me all the way.” Turning down hundreds of thousands of pounds in prospective brand and TV deals, Wes’s main focus is on making and performing music. “I’ve done a lot in 24 years,” he says. “Music is the only thing that’s really resonated. This is the one thing I really want to do. This is not a passion project or a whim or a gimmick. I’m in this for the long haul.”