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Okemah, Okla. — the birthplace of Woody Guthrie — has another musical native son to call its own. John Fullbright's recordings mix folk, country and blues, and his lyrics often tackle big-picture topics.
"I grew up with a lot of questions that couldn't really seem to be answered," Fullbright tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "Why are we 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."
Fullbright explores another voice in his song "Gawd Above." Sung from God's perspective, the song is rooted in biblical wit.
"It was an interesting song to write," Fullbright says. "I wanted there to be a sense of humor — God with a gold tooth in his smile."
Fullbright technically grew up in Bearden, a town on the outskirts of Okemah that's too small for its own post office. Fullbright still lives on his family's farm, which has an Okemah zip code, and it was there that he found much of the inspiration for his latest album, From the Ground Up.
"[My family] 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 came from," Fullbright says. "Every song on this record was written in that house, and I was kind of written in that house."
Though only 24, Fullbright sings like an old soul — someone with years of setbacks and heartbreak behind him. He says that soulful, experienced sound comes from '"years spent locked in his room thinking about things" and a knowledge of music's natural cues and tones.
"I've been a piano player since I was a child, 5 or 6," Fullbright says. "And I can remember sitting at a piano and figuring out that a minor chord means sad, and an upbeat song means happy, and you can explain it all without having to really say anything."