Justin Bieber is loaded with talent, says the Peterborough-born co-producer of his latest album. But it's the teen pop sensation's work ethic that has made him one of the biggest stars in the world.
"He puts everything into it," said Rob Wells.
"Working with Justin is a treat. He's born to do this and there's never an issue of attitude."
Bieber, 16, from Stratford, Ont., shot to fame in 2008 after his homemade YouTube videos caught the attention of American music producer Scooter Braun. Bieber has since released two CDs, My World in 2009 and My World 2.0 in 2010.
The new disc is called My Worlds Acoustic, and featured reworked "unplugged" versions of his earlier tunes, Wells said.
Wells, 38, is the son of Bill and Judy Wells; his father was the minister at Northminster United Church for years. Wells went to Edmison Heights Public School and Adam Scott Collegiate (he was back in Peterborough recently for the high school's reunion).
It was at Edmison Heights that Wells realized his future would involve music. A teacher named Mr. Thompkins encourage the third grader to write a tune.
"I worked on it and worked on it, and when I played it, the whole class was into it," Wells said. "And I was hooked."
The next several years saw Wells play in a series of bands while also pursuing a career in computer-generated animation, something he did even as he continued to play piano and write songs. He married Tracy and started a family; they live in Mississauga.
His big break came soon after he decided to leave his job in 2003 and try writing music for a living -- a tough decision, he said, but one that came with Tracy's full support.
"I have the most lovely, supportive, beautiful wife I could ever hope for," he said.
Her support, and his work, paid off: He wrote a song called What Went On, which was recorded by a band called Hipjoint and landed in the Canadian Top 20.
"I knew then that I could really do this," he said.
The success of that song led to an offer to write music for Canadian Idol during that program's first season.
"Right place, right time," he said. "I couldn't believe it, but I just kept at it. I was now being taken seriously as a writer and producer, which opened a lot of doors for me."
Next up was a stint working with American singer Nick Lachey, right as Lachey was going through a highly public divorce from singer Jessica Simpson.
"Nick's great," Wells said. "He was the biggest celebrity I had met to date, and this was in the middle of all the tabloid stuff, but he was totally down to earth. We became friends, and we hang out when I'm in L.A."
Wells would move on to work with a singer named Shiloh, where he became friends with her music director, Dan Cantor. Later, Cantor produced an acoustic version of Bieber's song One Time.
"Justin liked what he heard, and he really liked Dan," Wells said. "He asked him to come down to MuchMusic and play guitar on a couple of songs, and Dan pretty much ended up as Justin's musical director."
It was this series of connections that landed Wells in the studio with Bieber earlier this year; he and Cantor are the co-producers of My Worlds Acoustic, which was recorded in September and October at Definitive Sound Studios in Mississauga.
Wells said Bieber is looking to expand his audience by taking a slight detour from the pop sound.
"It's unplugged. It's stripped down. There are no gadgets, no embellishments, just the basics, and his voice."
Beyond the professional relationship, Wells said, he's a big fan of the teen singer.
"He's hugely talented. He plays guitar, bass, piano, and he can sing his butt off. Go back and watch those original YouTube videos and you'll see just how talented he is."
My Worlds Acoustic will be released Nov. 26.
"Working with Justin opened even more doors for me," Wells said. His resume -- already lengthy and loaded with famous names he's worked with -- is about to expand, he said.
But he has no plans to step into the spotlight himself.
"Oh, I like being behind the scenes," he said. "I like the fact that I can go to the grocery store or wherever and not be recognized."