John Fullbright: The Man (And Album) Written In Oklahoma Hailing from just outside Okemah — the birthplace of Woody Guthrie — Fullbright mixes folk, country and blues on his latest album, From the Ground Up.

John Fullbright: The Man (And Album) Written In Oklahoma

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The people of Okemah, Oklahoma, the birthplace of Woody Guthrie, have another musical native son to call their own. His name is John Fullbright.


JOHN FULLBRIGHT: (Singing) Six long days, seventh day he rest. It's said there's one sure way humans can be best; to give them wine and song, fire and lust. When it all goes wrong, I'm the man to trust. And now...

MARTIN: He's all of 24 years old. But he sounds like an old soul, making music with hints of folk, country and the blues. I spoke with John Fullbright recently about his debut studio album. It's called "From the Ground Up." You're listening to the album's first track, "Gawd Above." And on it, Fulbright sings from God's perspective - which he admits is pretty, well...



MARTIN: Bold is the right word, I would say.


FULLBRIGHT: Yeah, it was an interesting song to write. I wanted there to be kind of a sense of humor. You know, it was God with a gold tooth in his smile. You know?


MARTIN: There are a number of tracks on this album with biblical references in the song title or the lyrics. Did you grow up in a particularly religious household?

FULLBRIGHT: Yeah, I did. I grew up with a lot of questions that couldn't really seem to be answered. You know, why we're here; did some higher power make all of this; did he make me? And songwriting is kind of your own voice, your strongest voice, that you can use to ask yourself those questions.


MARTIN: You were born and raised in Okemah, Oklahoma. What's it like there?

FULLBRIGHT: I actually live in - kind of an outskirt of Okemah, in a little town called Bearden. But I went to school in Okemah. And Bearden is too small to have a post office. All my letters say Okemah, and so it's just easier to say that.


FULLBRIGHT: But it's a very, very small place. And the teens, I think, is when dad's side kind of settled there; and had a little farm, about 80 acres. That's where I live now - the little farmhouse that I was raised in until I was about 9. That's where the title for the album came from, "From the Ground Up." It was - every song on this record was written in that house. And I was also kind of written in that house.



MARTIN: So you're just 24 - and I'm sure you've heard this before. But you do sing with this kind of depth that would appear to come from someone who has a few more years under their belt; someone who's kind of lived through a lot of setbacks and heartbreak. Is that you? Have you gone through a lot of that?

FULLBRIGHT: Well, you know, I don't have many friends.


FULLBRIGHT: No, it's -

MARTIN: I don't believe you.

FULLBRIGHT: It comes from locking yourself in a room, and thinking about things for a really long time.


FULLBRIGHT: But I don't know...

MARTIN: Is that what you do? You lock yourself in a room and just - kind of sit for a while?

FULLBRIGHT: I did that. In my teen years, I definitely did that. I locked myself in a room and played the guitar and really, just brooded about it for...


FULLBRIGHT: ...for a really long time. I've been a piano player since I was a child - 5 and 6. And I can remember sitting at a piano, and just kind of figuring out that a minor chord means sad, and an upbeat song means happy. And, you know, you can explain it all without having to really say anything.


MARTIN: John Fullbright - his debut album is called "From the Ground Up." He joined us from member station KUT in Austin, Texas.John, thanks so much for talking with us.

FULLBRIGHT: It was a pleasure talking to you, Rachel. Thank you.


MARTIN: And you can hear more of John Fullbright's music on This is WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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