By now, you’ve probably heard Fort Wayne has a goal to be a Top 10 “Music City” in the U.S. (courtesy of Greater Fort Wayne Inc.’s Allen County Together (ACT) economic development plan).
But what does it mean to be a “Music City,” and what can musicians teach us about growing Fort Wayne’s art scene in practical, organic ways?
If you ask indie songwriter/rapper Max Wells, who grew up here, moved away, and then moved back in 2021, he’ll tell you he didn’t always believe his hometown could support the arts like other places he’s lived and worked across the U.S.
Now, Wells is preparing to release his latest album in Fort Wayne on June 1. (After dropping his last six-song project “caterpillAr” in 2020, he reached 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.) And his experience navigating the national music industry has given him a unique perspective on living and working in Fort Wayne as an artist.
Wells started making music as young as middle school and began performing at local venues in his late teens about 10 years ago. But as a young rapper here, he had a hard time finding opportunities and growing a following around his art.
“I felt very restricted in terms of what I could do back then,” Wells says. “I was doing shows with J. Tubbs at Columbia Street West, and there would be decent crowds, but that was about all there was at the time. There were no big rappers performing in the city to open for.”
So when Wells’s mom agreed to let him leave college at Ivy Tech to try pursuing his rap career for one year, he went all in, making music 24/7 in his basement and building a following online to the point that he got asked to go on an underground artist tour across the Southern states.
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