One day when AJ Fullerton was 14 years old, his dad came home and handed him a guitar.
“He said I needed a hobby,” Fullerton said. “It’s kind of funny looking back on it now.”
Fullerton’s father’s instincts quickly proved fruitful as his son began playing small gigs around his hometown of Montrose just a few months after getting the instrument. Then, gigs had to be juggled with school, sports and other obligations. Fullerton said he remembers sometimes running into trouble when he tried to get access to the very bars he was supposed perform a show.
But what began as a hobby has become a full-time career for Fullerton. He has been playing an up-tempo brand of blues — one he describes as infused with the country roots style of finger picking and slide guitar — full-time for the past five years.
Fullerton released his debut album, “Kalamath,” at the end of 2017 and has spent nearly all of his time since touring in support of it — including playing gigs in Germany and Switzerland last fall, as well as most of the United States.
A demanding schedule hasn’t left Fullerton with much time to spend in northern Colorado, where he’s been based since moving to Fort Collins two years ago. But he will be around a little more frequently over the next two weeks as he will give hometown fans a chance to hear some of their favorites hits from “Kalamath” at three-straight Friday shows in Loveland. He is slated to perform all around Colorado in the summer months, including an July gig at Louisville’s Street Faire.
First up is a show tonight at the new 5030 Local restaurant and bar in west Loveland. On May 31, Fullerton will play the opening gig for The Blues Dogs at the first of three Friday blues concerts planned for the central plaza at The Foundry, downtown Loveland’s new mixed-use development space.
Fullerton will be playing tonight’s show with a full four-piece band that will include Jake Friel, a 23-year old from Ohio whom Fullerton considers “one of the best harmonica players in the nation.”
With that full band backing him, Fullerton said he is looking forward to a “high-energy” show that he hopes will provoke the same kind of response as another recent show: the band’s “epic” set at FoCoMX last month.“Honestly, it was a party,” Fullerton said. “Everybody was getting up and dancing.”
Fullerton said he relishes the chance to play for crowds in his adopted home and he credits his Colorado roots for having a significant impact on the direction of his blues sound — a sound he now recognizes as a mixture of the blues, rock, folk and Americana that his family listened to when he was growing up. He said he was also influenced by other genres’ sounds, like the jam-band group, which he was exposed to while living among the Colorado music scene.
He cites a collection of “slide-guitar guys,” including Phil Cooper, Luther Dickinson and Derek Trucks, as being his biggest influences. Though he said the roster of bands he is inspired by is ever changing.
“I try to listen to something different every day,” he said.
After what will have been nearly two straight years of non-stop touring, Fullerton is planning to head back into the studio this fall — and will likely treat those at the Loveland shows to some new material.
“I like to throw something new out there and see what the reaction is,” Fullerton said. “Sometimes I will mention that it is new and sometimes I won’t. It’s kind of like beta testing.”
If you go
What: The A.J. Fullerton BandWhen: 7 p.m. todayWhere: 5030 Local, 1480 Cascade Ave., LovelandCost: Free
When: 6-9:30 p.m. (opening for The Blues Dogs)Where: The Foundry Plaza, downtown LovelandCost: Free
More Colorado dates
May 18 The Lariat, Buena VistaMay 22 Buffalo Rose, GoldenMay 24 Levitt Pavilion, DenverMay 25 The Lariat, Buena VistaMay 26 Restoration Vineyards, PalisadeMay 30 Swallow Hill, DenverMay 31 Loveland Concert SeriesJune 1 Jake’s Brew Bar, LittletonJune 7 Old Mad Dog Cafe, CrawfordJune 8 Berkeley Park Art & Music Festival, DenverJune 8 The Arvada Tavern, ArvadaJune 9-13 The Lariat, Buena VistaJune 14 Berthoud Brewing Company, BerthoudJune 15 Maxline Brewing, Fort CollinsJune 23 Copper Club Brewing Company, FruitaJune 27 Ouray Mountain Air Music Series, OurayJune 27 O’Brien’s Pub & Grill, OurayJuly 3 Fellin Park, OurayJuly 12 Downtown Louisville
More info: ajfullerton.com