During a year without live music and festivals, Montrose-based bluesman AJ Fullerton is sharing some of his signature sounds in the form of his sophomore album, “The Forgiver and The Runaway,” which is set to be released March 26 from VizzTone Label Group.
The first single off “The Forgiver and The Runaway” will be available Friday across various streaming platforms.
The album, which was recorded in Toronto in December 2019, features 12 tracks of Fullerton’s blues-drenched guitar playing and singing mixed with elements of Americana and roots music, as well as several prominent Canadian musicians, including harmonica player Paul Reddick and Jesse O’Brien on keys.
A follow-up to 2017’s “Kalamath,” Fullerton explained “The Forgiver and The Runaway” could trace its origins back to his love of current Canadian musicians like Reddick, Keith Hallet and Garrett Mason.
“There are some roots, blues and Americana artists out of Canada that I think are really killing it,” he said.
He reached out to some friends in Ontario and connected with multi-instrumentalist Steve Marriner, who produced the new record. Traveling to a city and country he’s never visited before to play with musicians he’s never met made for a unique experience, Fullerton said, but also contributed to the tone of the album.
“I just showed up, met these very famous session players up there and just went to work,” he explained, adding he had upwards of 20 songs prepared before heading into the studio. “ … It developed its own personality.”
When asked if there was any one theme or muse in mind when writing “The Forgiver and The Runaway,” Fullerton paused.
“I talk a lot with my songwriter friends and we’ve come to the conclusion that we write songs and we don’t even know what their about until later on. It’s a process of self-discovery as much as it is active creation,” he said.
The record is dedicated to Fullerton’s father, David, who passed away last summer. The elder Fullerton and his young son would travel down to Telluride for the annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival each September. It was there where Fullerton, a music lover and guitarist, took in the tones of B.B. King, Derek Trucks and Jimmie Vaughan.
“I was there with my dad and I remember going home and thinking, ‘I have to do that someday. I want to play music.’ Their festival had an influence on me from a young age,” he said.
Fullerton entered the festival’s amateur competition when he was 18 and has performed at several festivals over the years. SBG Productions, organizers of Blues & Brews and the Durango Blues Train, are thanked in the album’s liner notes.
Though his dad isn’t here for the release of “The Forgiver and The Runaway,” Fullerton knows he’s still listening.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the debut of the record a year, but Fullerton, 25, is excited to finally release it into the world — his first since signing with VizzTone.
“We were planning to release it March of 2020. We were really excited about getting it out. Everyone thought it was going to be this big breakout moment. When everything hit, I had tours canceling left and right, festivals canceled, everything I had to make it this big breakout, rollout year just got swept under the rug,” he explained. “We talked about it and talked about, and we decided to give it some time to see what happens, but once 2021 rolled out, we said, ‘Let’s just do it. There’s no use just waiting indefinitely.’
“I’ve been wanting to share this with my friends and family, and all these people who have been with me along my artistic journey all these years. The hardest part has just been waiting, keeping this thing on the backburner and knowing it’s done and it’s something I can be proud of.”
Fullerton already has a lot to be proud of. At the beginning of last year, Fullerton, who has won 16 Colorado Blues Society awards, supported blues guitarist Samantha Fish, including a show at Club Red, and even had plans to tour Europe and the Pacific Northwest last March. He recalled receiving a phone call from an associate the night before flying abroad.
“I got this phone call from one of my friends in Europe who was helping me coordinate the tour, and it was the last night in February. She called me at 11:30 p.m. and said, ‘You know, don’t get on the plane tomorrow morning,’” he explained, as the coronavirus began to spread within the continent before becoming more prevalent stateside.
As a “habitual creator,” Fullerton has focused on other aspects of music within the past year, including producing.
“I have this tendency to just take on more and more projects,” he said.
He’s also recently collaborated with Fort Collins band Ghost Dog, which is fronted by guitarist Cary Morin, a musician Fullerton has looked up to since picking up the instrument. The group released a new single, “TRUST,” this week.
As Fullerton, and his fans, hope live performances return sometime in 2021, the past year has taught him a lot.
“There’s a lot of ways to look at it. For lack of a better term, the last year has been a big year of changes, both in my business and my personal life,” he said. “I think being flexible and adaptive has been crucial.”