When he isn’t in front of a microphone by himself radiating his poignant trials and tribulations for all to see, hear and feel, Fuller also fronts the popular Asheville-based Americana/indie act Gold Rose.
And although the group will be releasing its latest album, “Dust,” at the end of February, Fuller will be taking the songs solo around the region in the coming weeks — to not only strip down and finely tune the melodies, but also to share the world as he interprets it with any and all who will listen.
The Smoky Mountain News recently caught up with Fuller. He spoke at length about his musical influences, how he’s able to project his deepest emotions within a performance, and what it means to be a songwriter nowadays.
Smoky Mountain News: What is it about one person, one instrument and one voice up there — vulnerable to the microphone, the stage, the audience — that pulls from within you?
K.M. Fuller: I’m really just a storyteller — a songwriter at heart. It takes a lot of courage to tell those stories with just a guitar and only me standing up there. For me, it’s therapy, really. I get to sit down in an intimate setting and tell my story. There ain’t anyone up there to protect me.
I think what I’m channeling is raw emotion. I’ve never written songs to tell stories, but I’m telling my story. And it’s for myself. I stand up there to say my feelings out loud.
And I’m grateful when there are people there to witness it. Have you ever just needed to say something aloud and you feel better about it? It’s sort of like that.
SMN: What is it about rock-n-roll and Americana music that speaks to you? Why those styles of music, specifically?
KMF: I grew up on Neil Young. I’d say he invented alt-country. I also grew up on the Grateful Dead. These early rock and roll bands that pulled from all sorts of genres. They’d bring bluegrass elements into their music. They’d sing country songs. And they’d put their own blend of rock and roll texture over it — it’s true American music.
I’ve also become obsessed with country music over the last several years, which has worked its way into my music. I’ve been pulling from the outlaws, such as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. To me, those are the real songwriters. Sad songs that also make you want to dance.
SMN: Lyrically, you pull from very deep and personal subjects and moments within your life. What is that process like, and is there a light at the end of the tunnel of those sensitive topics that you see through songwriting and performance?
KMF: Songwriting, and music in general, has always been a personal thing for me. I use to write songs to write songs. And one day, everything changed for me. I was going through some changes and just needed to say some shit out loud. And that’s when the real songs started to pour out of me.
Also, I think some of my favorite songwriters pull from the most honest and vulnerable moments — things that should be hard to say. The process itself is very emotional. There are times I have to put my guitar down and walk away. Usually some tears involved.
I wouldn’t say there’s ever a light at the end of the tunnel. But, I would say it helps with the weight of the load I carry, especially telling those stories to a roomful of strangers. I have people leave me notes, and share their stories with me, hard experiences for them.
SMN: What is the role of the songwriter, not only in general, but also in terms of the 21st century and the digital age of distraction and disconnection that we currently find ourselves in?
KMF: For me, songwriting isn’t really a form of entertainment. It might be the ways and means. But, I’m writing songs to capture my feelings. I think people connect with that and hear their own stories in mine. At least that’s what I do when I’m listening to other people’s songs.
It’s so damn hard to cut through in today’s media landscape. There’s so many distractions out there. Musicians that pull so many gimmicks. There’s so much disconnect with real music and a majority of our population out there.
But again, that’s why I lean towards doing this for myself and nobody else. If people enjoy it, that’s a bonus for me.
Want to go?
Singer-songwriter/guitarist K.M. Fuller will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Innovation Station in Dillsboro. The show is free and open to the public. www.innovation-brewing.com.
As well, Gold Rose will hold its album release party for “Dust” at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, at The Mothlight in West Asheville. The gig is all ages, with Julia Sanders opening. Tickets are $8. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, visit www.themothlight.com.