Her, Lindsay Fuller:
How a Seattle Recluse Broke out of Home and Americana
Start by assuming Lindsay Fuller is smarter than her surroundings. Her official bio, for example, is pretty melodramatic for a gal who grew up in a wealthy suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. The new You, Anniversary, we’re told, is Lindsay making “her peace with the Christ-haunted South by writing songs about the one thing that makes us equal and honest.” That thing is supposed to be Death, by the way. Fuller is also stuck with a new overblown video for “One More Song,” where she sings a perfectly creepy tune while backwards church folk are revealed to be terribly hypocritical with all their boozing and gambling and whoring around.
Fuller certainly deserves better than to be marketing as a second tier Brandi Carlile sporting the Oliver Twist clothing line. Fortunately, You, Anniversary should launch her from all those burdensome trappings. Fuller has made a huge leap forward by going retro as a pre-punk Goth pop star. Reliable critics will reach for Nick Cave references, but her mellow sounds are as radio-friendly as Gordon Lightfoot or Stevie Nicks – which may surprise audiences who’ve already embraced her as a reliable folkie.
“I don’t know if I have to worry about my audience so much,” Fuller considers from her Seattle home. “I mean, I’m relatively unknown outside of the Pacific Northwest. My concerts are more like a rock show than they used to be, but most of the people have been pretty open to the new songs. I was definitely trying to move away from the Americana sound, for sure. I love Americana, but I feel like this is the place where I’ve wanted to be. If I try to think about who it’s for – well, that’s not a good place for me to go. I’ll leave that to the ATO people.”
It’s nice that Fuller has people now. She’s chosen a smart crowd, too. You, Anniversary – with its title lifted from a W.S. Merwin poem – is on a record label that loves to skirt around genres. Fuller has ATO labelmates like 311, Drive-By Truckers, Gomez and Widespread Panic. She sounds a little baffled about how she got there.
“I guess Dave Matthews got hold of my music,” she explains, “and that must be how it all got started. He sent the album I did before this one to ATO, and there was a little back and forth before they decided that they didn’t want to put it out. So I ended up just moving ahead and making You, Anniversary on my own. They heard it and decided to put that one out. I definitely wasn’t trying to make some kind of career move. I was just on a mission to write all these songs. Then a friend of mine introduced me to Paul Bryan, who just took it into a different world.”
Paul Bryan certainly did a fine job producing You, Anniversary. There wasn’t any dramatic makeover, though. Fuller knocked out the album over three days out in Los Angeles. You Anniversary is a fortunate meeting between a gal creating a new sound and somebody who could decipher what she was doing.
“He just had a vision where he wasn’t trying to make the songs anything special,” Fuller explains. “A song like ‘Circa Never’ is exactly how I wrote it on acoustic guitar, with all those breaks and weird time signatures. He told me that was my dabbling in prog-rock, because I had a 5/4 time signature. I didn’t even know what prog-rock was. He made me listen to King Crimson. Have you ever heard In the Court of the Crimson King? That’s a great album.”
It’s certainly believable that Fuller has stumbled onto all her greatness. She didn’t head to Seattle to take advantage of any scene. She was mostly just trying to get out of that Christ-haunted (or SUV-stocked) South.
“I went to school in Birmingham,” Fuller explains, “which has all that civil rights garbage, and then I went on to more lameness at Baylor, which is a Baptist university in Waco, so everyone just thinks of David Koresh. I wanted to go to a city with a good reputation. Then I got to Seattle and just shut down and didn’t do anything for the first six years. I was playing alone in my house, but I didn’t go out to do shows until 2009. I guess I got to the point where I couldn’t keep it to myself, and made three albums in three years.”
Those first three albums scored some nice acclaim for such modest affairs. Fuller would finally break out when she put together a backing back billed as the Cheap Dates. Now she has an impressive new touring group, but Fuller isn’t feeling like any kind of a big deal.
“I don’t know any famous people,” she notes, “and I still don’t associate with anyone. I’m just honored to be touring with incredible musicians. My drummer is Mark Pickerel, who’s a great songwriter and the original Screaming Trees drummer, but none of these Seattle guys have any ego. I’m really excited that John Roderick from the Long Winters is in my music video, but I only got to meet him through Paul Bryan. Amy Ray is a good friend, and she’s asked me to open some shows, but I only met her because I sent her a copy of one of my albums to let her know she was a huge influence on me. She’s the reason I get really distraught if I’ve written bad lyrics.”
At least all of Fuller’s procrastination and alienation has paid off. She sat out a particularly dull stretch of Americana, and has chosen a fine time to define the genre for herself.
“I’m 32 years old,” Fuller agrees, “and I think I’m benefitting from that. If I’d had any kind of success in my twenties, I’m sure I’d have done some things that I would’ve regretted big-time. All I’m hoping for now is to sound like myself and nobody else. That’d be awesome.”
Photo by Caitlan Van Horn.