The name John Fullbright may not ring a bell for many of you.
A master songwriter and musical savant, Fullbright hasn’t released music of his own since his 2014 album Songs. His highly regarded 2012 project From the Ground Up may have received a Grammy nomination, but unless you were super plugged into the Red Dirt, non-mainstream music scene at the time, or were living in or around Oklahoma, chances are you weren’t, and probably still aren’t, familiar with Fullbright’s name.
If you’re listening to good music, though, I’d bet you’re familiar with some of his work.
A native of Okemah, Oklahoma, the same hometown as Evan Felker, Fullbright began his musical career as a member of the Turnpike Troubadours. While he didn’t stick with the band long, he has remained fairly involved over the years.
Aside from joining Turnpike at select pre-hiatus performances and sitting in to help out in various ways during several recording sessions, Fullbright has co-written quite a few songs with Felker, including popular Turnpike tunes like “Every Girl,” “Pay No Rent,” “Evangeline,” and “Time of Day,” to name a few.
Moreover, he has been featured on songs recorded by Amy Speace and Shovels & Rope, and perhaps most notably, he helped produce American Aquarium’s 2018 album Things Change that included songs like “Tough Folks” and “The World is on Fire.”
You may also be familiar with his original song “Satan & St. Paul.” While it was originally released on his live album Live at the Blue Door in 2009, and later included on 2012’s From the Ground Up, the tune has been covered by younger artists Austin Meade (2018) and Giovannie and the Hired Guns (2019).
Nevertheless, Fullbright has largely managed to remain out of the spotlight since he last released music in 2014, playing very few shows under his own name, especially outside of the Tulsa music scene, and refraining from putting out more music of his own.
But now, eight years after the release of his most recent album, Fullbright has announced his third album Liar is on the way, and he dropped the lead single “Paranoid Heart” this past Friday, July 22.
In the time spent out of the public’s eye, Fullbright has changed the way he approaches his music, and that’ll be on full display in The Liar.
“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.”
Featuring help from notable Okie musicians like Jesse Aycock, Aaron Boehler, Paul Wilkes, Stephen Lee, and Paddy Ryan, The Liar was recorded at Steve and Charlene Ripley’s farm-to-studio compound in northeastern Oklahoma. Alongside engineer Jason Weinheimer, they recorded the album in just four days.
“It was such a collaborative thing with some really cool voices. It’s just like playing music in Tulsa. Everybody kind of does whatever they do, and it works.”
The album is a mixture of some old songs, some new song, and some unfinished songs that called on the help of other songwriters to finish. But the end result is a much more creative, yet much less polished finished product for Fullbright who in years past had treated the process like a science.
“What rules didn’t I have? 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.”