…Another very important bit of advice is to blaze your own trail. A lot of younger musicians try to sound like their musical influences instead of finding their own sound. That was certainly the case with me and I should’ve concerned myself more with my style instead of trying to sound like this person or that person. But it comes with time and fortunately I progressed quickly enough that it didn’t weigh me down. As Miles Davis wrote in his autobiography, one of the hardest things a musician can do is sound like oneself. It’s also a remarkable feeling when you find it.
We had the pleasure to interview Fuller French. Fuller is the Texas born and bred singer, songwriter and pianist known for swooning audiences with romantic lyrics and his debonair demeanor. Mused by the quick-witted banter ensuing one’s innate search for love and beauty, his music conjures memories of a lost love or a golden afternoon sprinkled with languorous decadence. We had the opportunity to speak with French about his love for music and his latest album, and the Southern charmer did not disappoint.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Fuller! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Well, I grew up in west Texas with a family that had a worldly outlook. My upbringing was filled with working on ranches, traveling around the globe and immersing myself in numerous pursuits. It was through these experiences that my parents grounded me while also teaching me to dream big. The one deep love that stuck with me throughout my life, though, was music. I had played the piano since I was a young man of six, and after studying the classic composers such as Chopin and Rachmaninoff branched off into the popular melodies and incredible songs by such greats as Elton John and Burt Bacharach — it was then that I began writing my own music.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to the music industry?
Midland, Texas was a fascinating place filled with a diverse group of people — mainly from the east coast — that all shared a desire to make it big in the oil business. Our house was continually filled with cocktail parties and get-togethers where classic records spun and joyous times glowed like fireflies. Great music from the fifties and sixties from artists such as Herb Alpert, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were the backdrop of so many fantastic memories where music elevated those magnificent nights. Over time I recognized and realized that I wanted to be a part of that magnificence, the part that creates the mood for those special moments.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
After moving to Los Angeles I met and worked with some of those musicians and stars whose music twirled around my family’s hi-fi. While I was recording at Capitol Records I got to spend time with some huge mid-century greats such as Bob Hope, Dinah Shore and Keely Smith. I even worked with the credited founder of the Bossa Nova, Laurindo Almeida, on my song “Brazillian Sunrise.” I needed a nylon string guitar player and asked Laurindo if he’d like to play on the song. Being the gentleman that he was, he graciously agreed and it was possibly the last pop song on which he performed. The memory of sitting at his piano while he played the guitar working out his part is one that I will cherish forever.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Earlier in life I continually tried to get my songs recorded perfectly, even if the only problem with a take was a missed note or slipped timing. I’d re-record the whole song over and over even though the take as a whole might have been incredible and whatever issue there was could be fixed by a punch or an edit. I learned an important lesson from those days: Don’t agonize over tiny errors. My bass player Bob Birch, before he became Elton John’s bassist for more than two decades, gave me that advice and I think it would be helpful for any upcoming artist. Perfection does not exist and sometimes mistakes can be interesting, beautiful… and always surprising.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My first single was an instrumental called Brazilian Sunrise. I rounded out the EP with four additional instrumentals that were all placed in the smooth jazz market. My current album with the single Champagne Rendezvous has vocals and is playing on Adult Contemporary stations. The songs are about romance and adventure and the possibilities that those two elements can produce. The next album is going to be another set of romantic songs similar to Champagne Rendezvous and then I’m going to blow the doors off with a set of pop songs unlike anything the listening public has heard before. I’m very excited about that!
From your personal experience, can you recommend how community/society/the industry can help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
I feel like the music and entertainment industry is quite diverse — at least on the performer side — and a place where any and all issues can be presented and discussed. Art has a magical way of instigating thought based on its very existence and provoking dialogue that just sitting around and arguing about a topic could never do. There is a real power in art and although my songs might not be considered political or deep in the sense of trying to promote cultural change, I feel that there is a purity and truth in them that is saying to people that love really is the only thing that matters.
What are your “Things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
One thing that I wish I had done much more in the early years of trying to break into the music business is playing live. I spent so much time and money recording demos to send to record companies in hopes of getting a deal that I missed out on the possibility of being “discovered” in a club or other venue. The reality is that the companies don’t really listen to unsolicited material and the record people are going to venues regularly looking for talent. They want to see great music, how you are on stage and the interaction you have with your fan base.
Another very important bit of advice is to blaze your own trail. A lot of younger musicians try to sound like their musical influences instead of finding their own sound. That was certainly the case with me and I should’ve concerned myself more with my style instead of trying to sound like this person or that person. But it comes with time and fortunately I progressed quickly enough that it didn’t weigh me down. As Miles Davis wrote in his autobiography, one of the hardest things a musician can do is sound like oneself. It’s also a remarkable feeling when you find it.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In music — as in any other area of life where one might want to succeed — there has to be a great passion for what you’re doing. If you have the passion then it’s fun and the chances of burning out are much smaller. There are always going to be forces working against you but if you’re committed then you can weather any storm. And, choose wisely who you surround yourself with. The best are people that are honest and humble and willing to work hard until the job is done right. And for those over 21, sometimes a little scotch helps.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Well I’m very grateful to all my family and friends who put up with me and also suffered with me through the years. But, it was my mother who forced me in those early years to play the piano when I viewed that as a pain and not very cool and I will always be thankful for that. She gave the recurring encouragement as a child that helped me flourish into the musician I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s a pretty simple one, really, and not original to me. But, don’t take NO for an answer. There are always going to be Debbie Downers that tell you that it’s not right for this reason or that and that no one will like it, it’s not worth pursuing, or any number of negative comments that for an insecure person or someone not used to taking slings and arrows can be intimidating or persuade one to give up. This is true in every aspect of life but especially true in the music business where everyone has an opinion and is more than willing to beat you over the head with it. Look, I’m a perfect example of not giving up and that things happen when they’re supposed to happen. It’s taken me decades to get here but I now have a song in the Top 40. All those people that told me NO along the way can…
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Do you think you could get Dean Martin in a time machine and bring him to me? It’d be real swell to talk to him again now…
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