John Fullbright was the well-beloved songwriting wunderkind nominated for a Grammy who we all thought was the bright future of Americana, who then turned elusive performer only a few knew exactly what happened to. But now the early member of the Turnpike Troubadours is back after an eight year hiatus of releasing songs and touring significantly under the “John Fullbright” name with a new release coming September 30th called Liar.
Though John Fullbright has been a favorite subject of “Where Are They Now?” inquiries, he hasn’t been completely in hibernation. Just ask the folks in the Tulsa, Oklahoma music scene, where Fullbright has been lugging around an electric piano from stages small to smaller, playing sometimes under his own name, and performing regularly in the bands of others, finding his musical muse decidedly outside of the national spotlight, and just having fun singing and performing songs no matter who wrote them.
But he couldn’t stay out of the national spotlight forever, so he’s finally re-emerging, but with a very Tulsa-centric approach since that’s where he’s found his musical comfort zone. The new album was recorded at Steve and Charlene Ripley’s farm-to-studio compound in northeastern Oklahoma shortly after Steve’s passing, with Fullbright and Charlene acting as producers. They also brought in famous Tulsa musicians Jesse Aycock, Aaron Boehler, Paul Wilkes, Stephen Lee, and Paddy Ryan as the album’s wrecking crew.
“It was such a collaborative thing with some really cool voices,” says Fullbright. “It’s just like playing music in Tulsa. Everybody kind of does whatever they do, and it works … It’s been a process of learning how to be in a community of musicians and less focusing on the lone, depressed songwriter … just playing something that has a beat and is really fun. That’s not to say there are no songs on this record where I depart from that, because there are, but there’s also a band with an opinion. And that part is new to me.”
John Fullbright’s last album Songs from 2014 most certainly had its moments, but you could tell the songwriting process had gotten into his head a bit. Sometimes early success—like Fullbright enjoyed with his 2012 album From The Ground Up—is not the slingshot for a career, but can scuttle things, especially for songwriters who want to remain grounded, and are keenly self-aware.
“What rules didn’t I have?” Fullbright says about his former songwriting self. “Even like, how many syllables were in a line, I had arbitrary rules for. So much of that has gone out the door, and I’m so much happier. It’s really just the idea that you don’t have to do this by yourself. It’s so much more fun to collaborate.”
You can hear that newfound freedom in the opening single for the album “Paranoid Heart.” It starts off like a sweet acoustic singer/songwriter tune, but blossoms into a full-blown folk rock song. Those who have seen John Fullbright perform during the last eight years can attest to the passion and soul he brings to performances. He’s no coffee shop songwriter, at least not anymore.
Liar will come highly anticipated by John Fullbright fans old an new, and is now available for pre-order.
1. Bearden, 1645
2. Paranoid Heart
4. The Liar
5. Unlocked Doors
6. Where We Belong
7. Social Skills
10. Poster Child
11. Safe To Say