John Fullbright caps off Songwriter Series at the Chief
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Guitarist, pianist and singer-songwriter John Fullbright takes the stage at the Chief Theater on Friday, April 5, to play the last Songwriter Series show of the 2019 season.
Fullbright began playing piano at 5 years old and took up guitar soon after. By high school, he was playing gigs in and around his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma.
In 2012, Fullbright released his studio debut album, “From the Ground Up” and, in a whirlwind six months later, was nominated for Americana Album of the Year. Though Fullbright didn’t win the award, he did play “Gawd Above” at the awards ceremony.
“To get that much attention right out the gate was awesome, but terrifying, too,” Fullbright said. “It was a roller coaster for sure, of emotions and expectations.”
That same year, Fullbright won ASCAP’s Harold Adamson Award for the lyrics of his song “Moving.” NPR named Fullbright one of “10 Artists You Should Have Known in 2012” and placed Fullbright’s song “Happy” as No. 2 in a 2014 “Heavy Rotation: 10 Songs Public Radio Can’t Stop Playing.”
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Throughout his career, Fullbright has toggled back and forth between focusing on guitar and piano.
“I connect with piano more than any other tool in my tool bag,” Fullbright said. “I wouldn’t play it for anyone, and not on stage, for a while — it was too intimidating. With guitar, I got to be this rockstar character and strum really loud and sing really loud.”
When Fullbright decided he was ready to go public with his piano playing, he resolved to not touch his guitar for a year. It worked.
What: Songwriter Series presents John Fullbright
When: Doors, bar open at 6 p.m.; show starts at 7 p.m. Friday, April 5
Where: Chief Theater, 813 Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $20 at chieftheater.com
“Then, I couldn’t write on the guitar again, for a while,” he chuckled. “But being able to marry the two identities together feels the most honest.”
In 2014, Fullbright was honored with the Rising Star Award by the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and released his sophomore album, “Songs.” He also performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”
Fullbright has played several sets at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, or WoodyFest — held in Okehmah, Fullbright’s hometown. He’s toured across the U.S. and U.K. and produced American Aquarium’s newest album, “Things Change.”
1. “When You’re Here”
2. “Gawd Above”
His music has been a point of connection for many.
“If I’m really feeling something in my mind or my heart and I’ve put it down on tape, oftentimes I’m thinking I’m the only person in the world who thought that way. But that’s never the case, and someone always connects with it somehow, and says, ‘I felt that too,'” Fullbright said. “That’s my favorite takeaway someone can have.”
In the next few months, Fullbright is hoping to take some time off and work on a record featuring his keyboard playing with several Oklahoma-based bands, including jam bands, honky-tonk style and more.
“I think our audience will enjoy the subtlety and craftsmanship of John Fullbright’s lyrics,” said Songwriter Series organizer Arty Smith. “I also think they’ll enjoy his witty presentation. John Fullbright is quite young and vibrant and has the promise of a great career ahead of him.
“Perhaps, someday, we might say, ‘Wow, I saw John Fullbright at the Chief Theater,'” Smith added.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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