Brandon Fulson
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Brandon Fulson

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1999

Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, United States
Established on Jan, 1999
Band Country Americana




"Dark Side of The Mountain: Brandon Fulson Sets Out To Write About The Real Country"

Brandon Fulson knew he wanted depict when he began recording his new album, "Dark Side of the Mountain."

"I always felt like music should reflect where you're from," says Fulson over lunch at Sitar on Kingston Pike. "If it's about country people it should be about what they actually go through, not the stuff they say represents country music. The images on television don't match where I live."

Fulson grew up and still lives in the Cumberland Gap area that borders Tennessee and Kentucky, playing in bands that haunted smoky bars. He's just as likely to write about crystal meth and small town religious hypocrisy as the "traditional values" and pick-up truck paradise depicted on commercial country radio.

"It's not that I want to glamorize the dark side," he says. "I just want to represent the real life."

Fulson's sound is a throwback to the "outlaw" country movement of the 1970s and the modern Southern rock of the Drive-By Truckers. He says the Truckers became a particular inspiration after a man named Gary Lee came up to him after a show and told Fulson his songs sounded like the Truckers. Fulson checked out the band online and they became a favorite.

"I was working at a cookie factory, literally just moving boxes of Oreos all day," says Fulson. "By the end of the day I just had to do something, so I went to the beer store across the border and I'd crank the Truckers up. I think the music did me a lot more good than the beer."

Not only did the comment introduce Fulson to the Truckers, but Lee became a friend and song collaborator with Fulson, co-writing some of his most popular songs, including "Three Dollar Wine" and "Zombie Town."

The dramatic "Middlesborough 1974" (which uses the town's original spelling) comes from a story Fulson's father told him when they were driving back to Cumberland Gap from Knoxville after a show at the Corn Pone Inn on Clinton Highway.

"Back in the mid-'70s he was going through a divorce and was really down and out and him and a cousin went out driving around drinking. Then a deputy got behind them and the deputy was guy my dad went to high school with and couldn't stand. When the guy hit the blue lights, my dad just floored it and they went up Cumberland Avenue in Middlesboro into this area called Hignite and there are really sharp curves."

The cousin began screaming for Fulson's out-of-control dad to slow down.

"He said, 'You'll never make this curve! You're gonna kill both of us!' When my dad said that I just immediately sat up in my seat and said, 'Oh, that's a song!' "

Fulson began writing the song just as work on "Dark Side of the Mountain" was beginning and enlisted buddy and sometime songwriting partner Steve Eisenmenger to help complete the final verse.

"For me, going through a divorce now and hearing his story about it and finding a sort of comical way to say it, I just thought that would be a great place to start a song — two guys about to die!"

Fulson says the new album, recorded at Knoxville's Arbor Studio, is the first time he's felt like he's truly gotten an album the way he wanted it.

"I've always had this sound in my head and I couldn't really capture it. ... It's also the first time I've made a record where I feel like it's finished. Before it was 'Well, it's good enough for now.' But with this one I feel like I really pinned it down."

Fulson lived in Knoxville for a little over two years, but moved back to Cumberland Gap in 2015 to be closer to family. He regularly makes the drive to Knoxville for performances.

"Some of the songs go over better here than they do back home," says Fulson. "Maybe they're just too close to home there. But people who've moved here from small towns will tell me, 'Man, it reminds me so much of where I come from!'"

--- - Knox News

"Essential 8: Brandon Fulson"

When Brandon Fulson writes and sings about the country, he’s talking about the real country: a place where “hillbilly heroin and alcohol,” grifters, hookers and people just generally making bad decisions are more likely to be neighbors than those happy-go-lucky characters.

It’s the place where Fulson grew up and still lives and it permeates his new release, Forgotten Appalachia, the follow-up, and musical companion, to 2016's Dark Side of the Mountain. Here, Fulson answers his Essential 8 where he talks in depth about the album, his favorite "gift," Ray Wylie Hubbard, and more!

Is there a story behind you album's title?
I came up with the title "Forgotten Appalachia" while visiting my childhood home place. I lived in a holler called Beans Fork in Middlesboro, Kentucky and when I went back to see it, I was blown away at how different it looked. I caught myself saying the place looked "forgotten." Since most of my songs are about the area I grew up in I felt Forgotten Appalachia was a good fit.

Why did you choose to anchor the album with the songs you did?
Forgotten Appalachia is a sequel to my 2016 release Dark Side of The Mountain. I felt like the album had to pick up where Dark Side left off and work it's way to the conclusion, so the album pretty much wrote itself. To fully understand the story I'm telling I recommend folks listen to the two albums back to back. Dark Side opens with the preacher preaching and works it's way through the drug epidemic, growing up in a dry county, coal mining, cut throat bars, ghost stories, snake handling preachers and a drunken car chase. Forgotten Appalachia focuses more on my struggles and is more character based with stories about my own family and ends with the song "Lonely Place To Be" which is me coming to my own conclusion about life in Appalachia. That song is me washing my hands.

With any particular song, was there an "a-ha" moment when you knew the song was completed and perfect?
For me, every song I write has an "a-ha" moment and that moment comes when I make my own self laugh. It's as though someone whispers something in my ear and I laugh out loud as the pen hits the paper. If I say "oh no, you can't say that" then I immediately know that's what I must say.

When/where do you your best writing?
As bad as I hate to admit this it's when I'm hungover. It's when Sunday morning is coming down or it's when I'm in a roomful of people or just any place in general and I don't like the vibe. In both cases, it's me trying to escape and get away from the pain. I wrote the song "No Time To Bleed on a Sunday" morning after a long night of drinking and I wrote "Mary Helen's Gold" in a waiting room in a hospital while my Dad was being tested for black lung. In both cases, I just hated where I was and had to escape it.

Who would you love to collaborate with?
Ray Wylie Hubbard. I'm reading his autobiography at the moment and he just seems like a kindred spirit of sorts He's a lyrical guru and I love the way he plays the blues. He's not your typical old white guy trying to show off his chops to bunch of Guitar World reading teenagers. He's a storyteller who's lived it. I have the song idea I'd love to write with him. If it never happens then that idea will die with me.

Do you have a favorite gift from a fan?
I don't think you can all this a "gift" and it sure wasn't from a "fan" but one night I was playing the Starlight Lounge in Jellico, Tennessee around 2005 and the place was packed. This girl made her way through the crowd, came up to the stage, took off one ear ring, threw it at me and flipped me off with both middle fingers. I picked the ear ring up, put in the strap lock of my Les Paul and it's still there to this day. I never saw her before or since but every night I look down and see that ring in my strap and think about her. Did I strike a raw nerve? Did she make it home ok? Did she go on to find love and have kids? The mystery of it all and the "where is she now" is why it's my favorite "gift."

Is there a recent release you can't quit listening to?
The Barstool Romeos "Last Call For Heroes." It came out in March of 2018 and it's still in my rotation. I love honky tonk music and it's honky tonk 101.

Is there a professional "bucket list" item you would love to check off?
Yes, I would love to see a sequel or a prequel to the tv series Justified be made and one of my songs play in the background while Boyd Crowder blows something up. - The Daily Country

"Songwriter Brandon Fulson Showcases a Darker Side of Appalachia"

My buddy Brandon Fulson returns to Blount County on Friday night, taking part in an acoustic in-the-round style performance at the venue that played a role in his forthcoming bluegrass album.

Like most musicians who grew up around these parts, Fulson always has had an appreciation for bluegrass music. Heck, he grew up in Middlesboro, Kentucky, a state that gave its nickname to the genre, and icons like Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Ralph Stanley and Del McCoury were familiar fixtures on the radios around which he was raised.

As he got older, he drifted more toward honky-tonk and Southern rock, albeit with a penchant for penning lifelike characters and vivid descriptions of the burned-out small towns and foreboding hollers that are familiar territory. While playing Barley’s Maryville — the venue to which he returns on Friday — with a group of local musicians a few years ago, he discovered that despite the rock ‘n’ roll foundation, the songs he writes actually are pretty versatile.

“We all got on stage kind of like The Band playing ‘The Last Waltz,’ and we played my song ‘Mary Helen’s Gold’ bluegrass style,” he told me this week. “There were a bunch of us up there, including some of the Knox County Jug Stompers, and I realized, ‘Dang, these songs are flexible. Here’s a different avenue for them.’ A few years ago, I heard Dwight Yoakam’s album ‘Swimming Pools, Movie Stars,’ and he basically redid a lot of his old songs in a bluegrass style. I thought maybe I’d take some of mine and rework them like that, because I like that kind of challenge.

“So we went in (to the Arbor Studio), and I put down guitar, and (studio owner/local guitar ace) John Baker played bass, but then we gave them to (local multi-instrumentalist) Greg Horne. He added fiddle and mandolin, and they just came to life. At first, I thought we would just do a couple of songs, but we got hooked on the sound we were catching and decided to just lay down some more.”

“The Laughing Buddha” is one of two records Fulson hopes to complete by the time he turns 40 in May 2020. The second, “Ramblin’ Kind Revisited,” is a throwback to a collection of demos he put together when he was first getting started, having traded a coon dog (to his father) for his first guitar, teaching himself to play by listening to a Hank Williams record and becoming a convert to electric through Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers Band. He did the cover band circuit for several years, writing his own songs on the side, and after his straight-out-of-high-school marriage went south and a friend committed suicide, Fulson went off the deep end.

He wound up in Blount County’s Peninsula Hospital, got off the drugs and moved to Knoxville two months after getting out. In East Tennessee, he began carving out a niche as an original musician, introducing a slowly expanding fan base to the hard men and put-upon women who populate his songs — the backwoods moonshiners and tent-revival preachers and pill-slinging good ol’ boys who scrape by in parts of Southern Appalachia that can’t seem to catch an economic break.

In 2016, he released “Dark Side of the Mountain,” following it up last year with “Forgotten Appalachia.” The two records are meant as companion pieces, he said, with the former reflecting his Kentucky roots and the latter his time in East Tennessee, before he moved to Cumberland Gap, where he now resides and which straddles Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.

“The song ‘Cumberland Gap,’ to me that was kind of my centerpiece for ‘Forgotten Appalachia,’ and everything kind of evolved around it in my mind,” he said. “‘Dark Side’ fades out with ‘Middlesborough 1974’ and a car chase, and ‘Forgotten Appalachia’ opens with a song about Brushy Mountain. I like to think of them as Season 1 and Season 2 of a TV series.”

For “Ramblin’ Kind Revisited,” he’s revisiting the darker times of his own life, the forgotten nights and bleary mornings that landed him in rehab and the relationships that went off the rails along the way. They feel especially fresh these days, but perspective has given him the ability to sing about them in a way that’s as insightful as it is visceral.

One thing’s for certain: It’s not pop music, and there’s very little levity. He’ll leave that to “The Laughing Buddha,” he said with a chuckle.

“I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and she had this laughing Buddha statue, and one time I picked him up and started looking at him, and I just started laughing,” he said. “His hands were in the air, and he just looked elated. That became the centerpiece of this (bluegrass album), because I’m the guy in the middle, laughing and trying to make sense of it all and become content with it.” - The Daily Times

"Brandon Fulson: Dark Side of The Mountain"

If country music has a function beyond entertainment, in part it's to represent the Southern American experience. But too often New Country songs paint an airbrushed portrait. The "boys round here" are having so much fun in Dixieland, it's indistinguishable from a beer commercial - everybody's beautiful, has plenty of cash to keep the party going, and nobody's in any danger.

But many regions of Appalachia know a different truth. It's a place that knows about struggle. Consider the odd dichotomy of dry counties (and a church on every corner) as the setting for a large number of prescription pill addicts. It's a place Brandon Fulson knows well, as both his actual home (Cumberland Gap, Tenn. ) and songwriting canvas. Yes, visiting the "Dark Side of the Mountain" sounds like a potentially depressing affair. But there's no judgment, and many moments of hilarity and nobility, with Fulson's cast of characters. They reside in "Little Las Vegas," as the first song title goes - where successes aren't big time, but the sinning sure is. The singalong "Three Dollar Wine," about a fleecing prostitute, and "Zombie Town" are winning highlights.

But, on balance, the very best track is "Devil Buys the Groceries." In an instantly likeable melody, it talks about the sacrifices small and large people make to scrape by. Also don't miss the funniest of the more comical first half of the record, "Eating in the Yard," concerning a family's introduction to indoor plumbing. Often pairing with a writing partner, Fulson aims for a direct path to storytelling - there are few descriptions of the way the room smelled, etc. But the listener sure will know what motivates every sinner that comes along in these songs.

Fulson shows on the second half he's got more on his mind - how Vietnam and religion fit into the hearts of his neighbors are deftly handled, sermon-free. Fulson's vocal range isn't spanning up and down the scales, but he does have a good, low Outlaws' tone. There are also some sharp, '90s-flavored alt-guitar licks hidden underneath the folk progressions, a winning combination. The drum machine style percussion could stand to let in more air on its tight timekeeping. It would better fit the less-structured folks that Fulson sings about. But that's one of the tiny quibbles with one of the best independent releases in a very long time. It's high time that country update its romanticized cartoon of the South more into a fuller, panoramic picture - and in Brandon Fulson, we may have found just the guy to work the camera. - Country Standard Time

"Brandon Fulson's Dark Side of The Mountain"

Commercial country tends to look and sound like a cotton candy daydream version of rural small-town life; it’s highly glossy and produced with vocals that now lean more towards the pop tradition; more and more twang evaporates and bigger notes, choruses, and hot licks take over. It tends to focus on the idyllic romantic image of good-looking corn-fed farm boys and girls falling in love by pristine lakes, kissing innocently in truck beds under the stars with light beer buzzes on, maybe having a “wild night” at a honky-tonk with some colorful characters.

Country has become music for a cookout or a first date.

Cumberland Gap songwriter Brandon Fulson explores a slightly more realistic, sardonic and unflinching view of rural life on his new CD Dark Side of the Mountain.

“People in my town don’t look that good standing around bonfires,” he says, laughing.

Songs like “Three Dollar Wine,” “Praise the Lord and Pass the Pills,” “Zombie Town” and “Middlesborough 1974” cover issues of painkiller addiction, trouble with the law and messy relationships between damaged people. The sound ranges from chill Southern rock to gothic outlaw country. Fulson’s vocal tone is reminiscent of Robert Earl Keen, Waylon Jennings, Scott Miller and Jason Isbell. Mostly Dark Side of the Mountain just feels–even in its dark or wild or funny moments–natural and honest.

“A lot of it was just true stories, things I just experienced myself or someone told me,” Fulson says. “There’s a lot of me in there. Places around me, my family, my dad, stories he’s told me he’s lived through.”

The Knoxville Mercury recently published a cover story exploring Knoxville and Appalachia’s prevalent issues with opioid painkiller abuse and addiction. Gray, TN, is embroiled in a controversy over contested plans for a methadone clinic. Cheap papers compiling the week’s mugshots from area jails litter the counters of convenience stores and DUI numbers have risen and have become seemingly a right of passage for many. And in his hometown of Cumberland Gap, TN, just near the border of Kentucky, Fulson says similar issues are at play.

“I’ve often said to people if they’d sell those [pills] at the bar, more people would start coming back out,” Fulson says, laughing. His recording and live foray into Knoville’s scene may be directly related to the decline of a legitimate scene back home. “Around here,” Fulton says of Cumberland Gap, “people aren’t going out because everybody has DUIs so people don’t go out like they used to. I think it’s a different generation. Where I come from there’s not a lot of work to be had and not a whole lot to do, and then they go and numb themselves and they don’t really go out and see music.”

So a few years back in 2010, Fulson briefly moved to Knoxville and started playing open mics, going to Karen Reynolds’ songwriter night, and playing with a country covers band called the Realbillys, which also featured a lot of his original music from previous homemade albums. He had noticed back home that often when he stopped in a cover set to play originals, people would start to glaze over and phase out, so he played around with putting more sensational, sarastic and strange lyrics into his songs to try to catch his crowd off-guard, and to get them thinking.

“I reached a point where I was like ‘ah, they’re not listening anyways, I might as well just be sarcastic. If you can get them to laugh, you can get them to think.”

Eventually he met players like Barry Hannah, and bands like Barstool Romeos, like-minded connoisseurs and purveyors of real, honest country music around town, and began to collaborate. He’s even done some shows with Jesco White, the famous Dancing Outlaw.

His previous releases like Sunday Morning Rain and Old Farts and Jackasses had a more homemade approach and feel, and he’d experimented with professional recording with the Robby Turner-produced single “Writing About Waylon” he did in Nashville, but Fulson says this time around, he was able to more fully realize his musical and artistic vision.

The fuller new sound Fulson envisioned was engendered and fostered by his producer John T. Baker of the Arbor, who also plays in Fulson’s live band, as well as with Heiskell and other groups around town. It was developed with studio guitarist Barry Hannah and drummer Vince Harris, with ace Knoxville sessions musicians like Greg Horne on fiddle and piano and Barstool Romeos’ Andy Pirkle and Mike McGill on harmony vocals.

“Whatever we thought the song called for we just tried it and what we liked we kept,” Fulson says. “For us it was just more about having fun. We was just thinking about how can we make it sound better and how can we have fun doing it. It was loose, but at the same time a lot of thought went into it. Everybody got a long really well and that’s what came through. There was never a time ego got in the way.”

Often the humor that goes over best is self-deprecatory, and Fulson wants his hometown folks to see that it’s just that: he’s in on the joke because he’s often guilty of the same things he talks about.

“I didnt want folks back home to think I am belittling them or exploiting them or trying to look cool,” he says. “If you actually lived with the girl from ‘Three Dollar Wine,’ it would be a sad life. I’ve noticed I’ve played it to people in a town like Knoxville, and someone’s like ‘man, I am from Harlan Kentucky, and that really speaks to what was going on back there.’ If you can get people to laugh, you can get people to think.”

Fulson is having fun playing locally now but says he’d be open to taking the show on the road.

“I’ll see where it leads me,”Fulson says. “I enjoy being on the local scene so I am just anxious to see how it goes.”

Dark Side of the Mountain is available on Spotify, iTunes and soon in local stores. Check out the music video for “Zombie Town” at: - Blank News

"Brandon Fulson: Dark Side of The Mountain"

Brandon Fulson is an Independent American/Country Music artist from Cumberland Gap. This soul filled artist with a bleeding heart started performing at local honky-tonks around the area, and never looked back. After a relentless effort paved the way, he would eventually get discovered by Robby Turner, who was the guitarist for Waylon Jennings, and a believer in Fulson’s sound. Brandon’s first single “Writing about Waylon” was produced by Robby Turner in 2015.

With the winds of momentum at his back, Brandon Fulson would produce his second full length solo album Dark Side of the Mountain, which chronicles the lives of people in small town Appalachia, and was released in June out of the Arbor Studio in Knoxville. With a great sound and a tremendous personality, Brandon finds a way to keep the sound groovy, with a hint of humor. He finds a way to relate his personal life, and implement it into his music very poetically, in a honky-tonk kind of way.

With twelve tracks on the album, Brandon Fulson mixes it up very well. There are no two tracks on the album that have a similar sound, each one brings its own element to the table. Where all of the songs are really deep and remarkable, a couple of songs really stand out.

“Zombie Town” is a song about life in the Tennessee hills with the various people that suffer from addiction, and how it is nearly impossible to escape the void. It is a very real, and thought provoking song. “Mackie Bend” has a rock and roll sound, with a country twist, and it sounds fantastic. It really shows off Brandon Fulson’s musical abilities.

This album is for people that love music. It has all of the elements of a great album. It has poetry, a rocking sound, great vocal, a lot of hidden humor, and most importantly music with soul that will shake people’s bones.

by Adam Beckett

August 24, 2016 - The Pulse


Sunday Morning Rain (2013)

Dark Side of The Mountain (2016)

Forgotten Appalachia (2018)



When Brandon Fulson writes and sings about the country, he’s talking about the real country. It’s not that teenage dream of pick-up trucks, beer and endless parties. It’s a place where “hillbilly heroin and alcohol,” snake handlers, two-bit grifters, hookers and people just generally making bad decisions are more likely to be neighbors as those happy-go-lucky characters who populate modern commercial country radio.

It’s a place where Fulson grew up and still lives. Fulson’s new album, “Dark Side of the Mountain,” should be an eye-opener for anyone who has never visited rural Tennessee and Kentucky. It’s not all dark. Fulson’s song are filled with humor and heart.

“I always felt like music should reflect where you’re from,” says Fulson. “"If it's about country people it should be about what they actually go through, not the stuff they say represents country music. The images on television don't match where I live.”

Fulson was raised in Middlesboro,Ky, just across the border from The Cumberland Gap, Tn, and found his musical legs by performing country and rock covers in rowdy little bars in the area. Along the way, original songs began to slip into the mix alongside the Waylon Jennings and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Sometimes people in the crowd recognized that the songs were about them – an honor that was received with varying degrees of appreciation.

In 2013, during a short stint when Fulson was living in Knoxville, Tenn., Fulson reacted to a Blake Shelton comment deriding classic country and its fans by writing and recording an angry reply called “Old Farts and Jackasses.” The video of Fulson performing the song, posted only a few hours after Fulson first read Shelton’s comment, went viral and earned him the love of fellow fans of classic country music around the world. It was around that same time Fulson began gaining a reputation in the Knoxville music community as one of the region’s best songwriters, appearing on live radio programs, including WDVX’s “Blue Plate Special” and “All Over the Road” shows, the Knoxville festival Waynestock and other events.

Fans of both classic country and rock music will find plenty to love on “Dark Side of the Mountain.” It’s loaded with real life tales and characters – from “Middlesborough 1974,” which was inspired by his father’s late night car chase, to “Three Dollar Wine,” about a former band member’s trouble-magnet girlfriend, to “Eatin’ In the Yard,” about a local family’s lottery win that changed their lives.

Recorded at Knoxville’s Arbor Studios with producer/engineers John T. Baker and Gray Comer, “Dark Side of the Mountain” includes appearances by some of Knoxville’s music greats, including Baker, Comer, Mike McGill and Andy Pirkle of The Barstool Romeos, guitarist Barry “Po” Hannah, multi-instrumentalist Greg Horne and drummer Vince Harris.

There’s nothing phony about Fulson. There’s no cowboy hat, no silly swagger and that accent? It’s real. Maybe it’s a little darker than you’re used to.

“It’s not that I want to glamorize the dark side,” says Fulson. “I just want to represent real life."

Written by Wayne Bledsoe

Band Members