Artist spotlight: Touring musician shares thoughts, perspective on music during pandemic

A.J. Fullerton, former Montrose resident, is a touring musician based out of Fort Collins.

A.J. Fullerton, a guitarist and vocalist, and former Montrose resident now based in Fort Collins, has been playing music professionally since the age of 15. When many of his shows for the year were canceled due to the pandemic, it stung, but reminded him why he started performing live in the first place.

“To be cut off immediately made me realize I don't want to stop doing this, I really enjoy it,” Fullerton said.

“When I started shows, I got as much enjoyment out of playing as people there listening did. I miss seeing the people and fans,” he later added.

Fullerton, like many, decided to give online live stream performances a try.

He already figured it would be massively different. But after sitting on the sidelines, so to speak, with no live performances, it was better than nothing.

“It’s something,” Fullerton recalled thinking at the time. It's kind of like one of those better-than-nothing situations. But after a while, it seems like you're just playing to your phone.”

For those first couple performances, Fullerton set up a phone/laptop for a Facebook Live.

It went as expected. Fullerton played, and people tuned in.

It wasn’t long until online performances became saturated, though, with so many on lockdown. Musicians flocked to social networks to play their music, and it was easy to get lost in the noise.

“It lost a lot of the impact it had originally,” said Fullerton, who did note that there is a large audience for virtual performances.

“Everyone is out there doing a livestream, struggling to be heard,” he added. “There’s so much on Facebook and online, it just feels like you're just shouting into the noise of it all.”

There was no opportunity to play with bandmates or play with other musicians, Fullerton said, as it’s difficult due to the digital latency that’s experienced on a live stream.

Also, the sound can change the way someone hears the music while the interactions become non-existent.

“Whenever you're dealing with internet streamed audio or video, the compression and the actual overall quality is significantly lower,” Fullerton said.

"Online performance is limiting because there's not much back and forth interaction between the artist and the audience. There's no artist to artist interaction like in a regular band setting." 

Fullerton said he has kept his spirits high, using the extra time to get more involved with the studio side of music. It was a good opportunity to make records, an area where he has plenty of experience.

“I've always loved recording LPs and CDs,” he said. “That feels pretty rewarding.”

His last run of shows was in late February, the same time his tour in Europe was canceled, marking for a serious stretch without a live performance.

During summer last year, Fullerton was performing seven to eight live shows a week.

As for 2020, he just hopes he can perform at least eight the rest of the year.

“I'm hopeful that maybe we can get a couple dates in the fall,” he said. Maybe in August, September. But for big tours I’m not hopeful until next spring, maybe next summer.”

He said he’s “hanging tight” and is optimistic the fall and winter schedule will look more promising.

The current atmosphere is different for all musicians, he explained.

“Some people are doing the live stream thing, others focus on recording and producing, helping other people make records,” he said. “Recording is the one of the only things you can do right now.”

Fullerton’s livelihood, and those of other musicians, was “disrupted overnight”, forcing an adjustment period that they didn’t expect.

“Everyone is trying to find ways to replace livelihoods,” he said. “I have to reflect on how to develop a pivot strategy to make sure I still have a livelihood.”

Fullerton added that most musicians expect to be out of work for a year or two.

At the moment, there is a wait-and-see approach for the fall and winter schedule, with the hope it will look more promising.

Fullerton, who fronts a band, said he and his band mates will continue to stay optimistic, no matter how long the wait will be till their back on stage.

“We’re all trying to remain hopeful throughout this whole ordeal. “Hopeful that eventually it's going to come back around.”

Josue Perez is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press

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