When Billy Joel sang, “Sing us a song/You’re the piano man,” he could easily have been singing about Jon Fuller. The performer’s album, When Did You Get So Damn Scared, is chockfull of (mainly) piano-accompanied songs. Yes, there is also electric guitar on many of these songs, but piano – acoustic piano is the dominant instrument.
One striking exception to this instrumental generalization is “Center Of Gravity,” which kicks off with a winding electric guitar riff. What follows, is a moody piece that borders on becoming psychedelic. The mood is also fairly serious. For instance, “Stepping Stone” explores Fuller’s early experiences in having a crush on another boy. And the record is not all totally serious, either. One called “Gonna Have Fun Today” skips along lightheartedly, as it finds Fuller sounding like easy going fun is being had by one and all.
Fuller sings with the sort of pure, melodic voice one oftentimes find in Broadway vocalists. So, even though “Lie Yourself To Sleep” includes some decidedly edgy percussion sounds, Fuller’s voice remains contrastingly soft and sweet. One of Fuller’s best traits is an ability to consistently create memorable melodies. Everything on the album is propelled by a hum-able melody.
It’s worth noting how Fuller didn’t intentionally set out to make this full-length album. Instead, the artist reached out to producer Dan Kleederman (who has also worked with Grand Kid and Bartess Strange), just to see if he’d be interested working together on a few songs. But, just as some big things oftentimes start out small, these initial songs grew into a full album’s worth.
Another track that stands out is “Burn It Down,” where Fuller can be heard angrily commenting on social and political issues. Fuller sings its words with and urgent cadence; one which may have been inspired by rap music. This one is matched by an equally urgent rhythm and backing instrumentation. It’s only 3:23 long, but Fuller squeezes a ton of words into this short recording space.
What follows, “The Glow,” is as gentle as its predecessor is rough. With little more than Fuller and a piano, this one is sung with a hushed tone. Fuller takes it at an unhurried pace and it is melancholy in tone. The album’s last song is simply titled “I’m.” (Yes, that’s the whole song title). It’s a strange song name, in that it doesn’t even begin to form a sentence. Fuller sings this one with a slightly soulful tone, as it describes the artist’s deeply held beliefs. It’s a fitting way to cap off an album. After all that’s been said via the 11 songs that lead up to this moment, this song asserts who Jon Fuller is.
Smartly, the album starts off with a track called “Voice,” which finds Fuller asking, “Where do you begin?” It’s like a writer with a story to tell, but it seems so large and unwieldly, the starting point is difficult to correctly pinpoint. Fuller was an early 2020 covid-19 infection case, which most certainly affected the creation and tone of these songs. But as is true with many novels and albums, this song story evolved. And once that starting point was established, its sonic evolution led to a highly personal, bravely honest collection of songs.
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