“I don’t know what country music is anymore” – John Fullbright
He might have only just turned 26, but Oklahoma troubadour John Fullbright already writes songs that feel older, wiser and more elegant than his years. After releasing his acclaimed 2012 album From The Ground Up, Fullbright has worked quickly to follow it up with Songs, which is out on Monday (July 21st). It’s brittle, it’s stripped back, it’s steeped in classic folk and country and it’s wonderful. We spoke to him to find out all about its making…
How was recording Songs? Did it take a long time?
“I never have a real clear plan when I go into the studio. It’s more like we throw a bunch of songs at the wall and see what sticks. But we had time, which was great.”
Did you take lots of tracks into the studio then?
“I go in with everything I’ve got. It’s like having a paper due, you just frantically write the week before."
What’s the main difference between this and From The Ground Up?
“The main difference between this record and From The Ground Up is I’ve found the ability to edit myself. I didn’t do that last time, I wish I had, I like that record fine but there are plenty of things I wish I could change, this time I’d go back in and look at lyrics and go ‘Right, well this is what I actually meant to say’. There’s plenty of that.”
You worked with Wes Sharon again as producer, what does he give you?
“Wes is my biggest fan, he loves these songs. So he’s always on me to make it a little bit better, the quality of these records have so much to do with him, he’s very kind, it’s always ‘John, I love you, but you need to go back and sing that again to make it better’.”
Did you have any bigger names calling you?
“We had a lot of people calling, but don’t fix what’s not broken. This works. I felt like this was going to be similar to the last one, I didn’t need a brass band, I didn’t need big production, this made sense.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“My last record, I like the lyrics, but lots of them are very vague. I think that’s a bit cowardly and I didn’t want to do that again this time, I didn’t want people thinking ‘What’s he even talking about’. If you’re going to take four minutes of someone’s life, they should at least know what you actually mean. There’s also a lot more blood on this album, I want people to have a deeper, stronger connection with this record.”
After the record comes out, what’s your plan for touring?
“I know I’ll be back here at least two more times. I’m excited to tour, I want to play these songs to as many people as I can.”
Country music seems like it has much deeper roots in America than it does in the UK, but there are a lot of artists that have no life outside of that scene. Where do you align yourself?
“I don’t know what country music is anymore. I’m a country music fan, at least I was growing up, it’s what got me into music. But country is not George Jones anymore, it’s not. I much prefer the term Americana, it’s so broad, the most hardcore country goes in there, I’m very happy to be in there.”
Course there’s country rap now…
“Yeah, every time you turn on the radio, that’s where it all seems to be heading. Country is slowly turning into rap, it breaks my heart, Nashville used to be the most melodic city on earth, melodies are getting worse.”
If you were offered a big name collaboration with a rapper, would you take it?
“Oh yeah, I’d take it, I listen to my fair share of rap, I don’t know if I’d be any good at it.”
Who would you love to collaborate with?
“I reckon me and Ludacris would get along real well. I love Southern Hospitality, I heard that and I thought he had such a great sense of humour, he raps like one of those old country guys…”
John Fullbright’s new album Songs is out now in hmv stores all over the UK. Check back later this week to watch him in session for hmv.com live at 363 Oxford Street.