The music producer suing Phoebe Bridgers for defamation can no longer pursue a separate defamation claim against singer-songwriter and former Saturday Night Live cast member Noël Wells, a judge has ruled.
Los Angeles County Judge Gregory W. Alarcon dismissed Chris Nelson’s complaint against Wells at a court hearing on Wednesday, ruling that Wells had a free-speech right to warn the indie band Big Thief about alleged “predatory” treatment she experienced while working with Nelson at his Sound Space studio, Rolling Stone has learned.
“Artistic and literary expression are protected by the First Amendment,” Judge Alarcon wrote in his decision adopted at the hearing. In this case, he found, Wells’ comments were made “in the advancement or assistance of the creation of music.”
In her private email to Big Thief — sent after the band solicited feedback about recording studios via an Instagram post that included a photo of singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker at Sound Space — Wells claimed that Nelson unilaterally changed the terms of their working agreement and withheld her music when she didn’t accept them.
“I’m a female artist/musician who also recorded with Chris Nelson. He brought me into his orbit by claiming to let me use his space for free, and over the course of the year, I began to realize that he was slowly changing the terms of our agreements which eventually ended with him trying to pull an incredibly predatory move on me. Once I realized he was making these moves in bad faith, I attempted to end working with him, and he held my music from me for a very long period of time while refusing to communicate at all,” Wells wrote in the email shared in court filings.
In his failed complaint, Nelson claimed Wells’ statements to Big Thief were “false” and an attempt to interfere with his business. He said they also caused him emotional distress. In his ruling, Judge Alarcon wrote that Nelson never submitted his own sworn declaration and failed to provide any evidence of damages.
Nelson originally sued Wells in December 2020. He later sued Bridgers for defamation in September 2021, claiming the “Motion Sickness” singer-songwriter defamed him in an Instagram post alleging she witnessed “grooming, stealing, [and] violence” perpetrated by Nelson against others.
Bridgers has yet to respond to the lawsuit seeking $3.8 million.
Nelson’s legal team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone on Wednesday.