John Fullbright Stripped Down for 'Songs'

John Fullbright
Vicki Farmer

The title of John Fullbright's latest album is pretty much says it all – "Songs." In an interview with Billboard, the Grammy-nominated singer says that it all begins and ends with the lyrical content.

"If you don't start with a song, you're not going to end up with much," he admitted. "That's not to say that I haven't gone into a studio and put bells and whistles on stuff, and overproduced before. It just happened to be that with these songs for the record, the more that we scrutinized and looked at it real close, they really didn't need much to get the point across. Even with coming up with the title, that's where our minds were – that we didn't need to wax poetic too much about what we had, because they kind of spoke or themselves," he said.

Fullbright admitted that the simple production methods used on "Songs" really translated well to performing the songs in his stage show. "I always try to record something that I can reproduce live pretty easily. What I record, I want to sound realistic – a bunch of people in a room playing music together, and not an overdubbed madhouse."

His 2012 album "From The Ground Up" netted him a Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album. He told The 615 that the attention from that album helped to give his music a solid stamp of approval. "It's kind of affirming in a way. I've always said that the one good thing the Grammy nod did for me was made me feel confident to carry my guitar through an airport – and not feel silly."

The lead cut from "Songs" is the simply-titled "Happy." Fullbright said that just like the rest of the album, the track is direct and simple. "We really liked the groove of it. I can still listen to that song in particular and nod my head because I feel like it's got a solid foundation."

The track also allowed Fullbright to rekindle his passion for the drums. "I was a drummer in high school for the jazz band and the marching band," he recalled. "I actually kind of had a formal background with it, but I gave it up because I moved on to melodic instruments, but when I need to, I can sit down and work out some of the cobwebs and drum a little bit. It's still fun." 

One of the lyrical masterpieces of "Songs" is the touching "She Knows," which Fullbright says goes against his usual grain, but he enjoyed working on the song nonetheless. "I've tended to stay away from love songs for the longest time because I never thought they were believable. You've got to take advanced classes in songwriting to write a love song that wasn't corny. But, it turned out to be one of my favorite songs on the album."

As a writer, is it easier to talk first-hand – as is the case with "She Knows," or write from someone else's perspective? "It's much easier to look at someone else's story. Basically, the walls that you have to break down in order to stand on stage and tell people about your innermost fears and desires – and do that in front of strangers who may or may not give a damn. Chances are, they could actually care less. I think as a human being, that's one of the greatest fears you can have is to stand in front of people and be that intimate. It's definitely easier to crawl into someone else's head – and write their story out. But, at the end of the day, what does it mean to you? That's where I come from."

The singer will be heading on the road this summer to promote "Songs." "We're going to be doing lots of touring, and I think even 3 UK trips this summer," he says. "I think it's going to pretty much non-stop – similar to the last couple years with the last album, but we're looking forward to it."


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