Phoebe Bridgers isn’t the only musician being sued for defamation by producer Chris Nelson. The Sound Space studio owner filed a similar lawsuit against actress and singer-songwriter Noël Wells last December — and now Wells is fighting back, claiming the First Amendment protected her right to warn indie rock band Big Thief against working with him.
In new court paperwork filed Thursday, Wells and her lawyer are asking a Los Angeles County judge to dismiss Nelson’s lawsuit at an upcoming Nov. 12 hearing. They claim Wells sent her cautionary email to Big Thief’s manager last year in a protected effort to “assist” the band with its right to hire — or not hire — anyone it chooses in the furtherance of its exercise of artistic free speech, namely the creation of music.
Wells sent the email on Jul. 16, 2020, after noticing Big Thief posted a photo online showing the band recording at Nelson’s studio in downtown Los Angeles.
“I am taking a big swing sending this email, and not knowing the current relationship you have toward that studio space, I feel it’s important as a creative to let you know about that recording environment and what happened to me in case it informs your recording situation in the future,” Wells wrote in the email to Big Thief’s manager, Tom Wironen.
Wells, 34, went on to claim that Nelson, 38, tried “to pull an incredibly predatory move” on her after she used his studio to record several songs. In court filings, she says Nelson attempted to change their working agreement to receive 50% of the lyric and publishing credits to the songs she wrote herself and 50% of any royalties on her masters. When she refused and ended their working relationship, Nelson stopped talking to her and withheld her recorded songs for three months, she claims.
In his lawsuit filed last December, Nelson said Wells’ statements to Wironen were “false, defamatory, and misleading” and that Wells intended to damage his business and working relationship with the music manager.
“The statements made by defendant Wells were false. Plaintiff has not abused women, engaged in predatory behavior, or taken advantage of numerous people. To the contrary, Plaintiff intentionally seeks to work with people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community on music projects in order to provide equal opportunities to all musicians regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation,” his complaint states.
Nelson gained international headlines when he sued Bridgers Sept. 28 in the same Los Angeles County courthouse with similar claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims Bridgers defamed him on Instagram by saying she witnessed “grooming, stealing, (and) violence” perpetrated by Nelson against others.
Bridgers has yet to respond to the lawsuit seeking $3.8 million. Nelson alleges in his paperwork that he previously was in a “consensual sexual relationship” with the Grammy-nominated “Kyoto” musician and his former girlfriend, Emily Bannon. A case management conference has been set for Feb. 25.
Lawyers for Nelson did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment Friday.