Like so much classic literature, art, and poetry, 24-year-old GRAN BEL FISHER?s circuitous journey from rural Sabina, Ohio to Los Angeles, California begins with something essential and ultimately inexplicable: life, love and death. These themes are movingly explored on his Hollywood Records debut album FULL MOON CIGARETTE and based wholly on personal experience.
The Littleton Funeral Home has been in my family since 1905, explains GRAN BEL FISHER, who has grown accustomed to the barrage of questions about the family business. Our attitude was that it was a very normal occupation. Working there gave me a different perspective on things: I realized early on that everyone has the same reaction to death. Ultimately, I think working there made me more sensitive to life.
Indeed FULL MOON CIGARETTE finds GBFs unique, life-affirming perspective fueled by his powerful and mellifluous voice, passionate songwriting, and consummate musicianship. Witness the title track, which opens with GRAN BEL playing a single piano note suddenly transformed into a complex piano fugue before exploding into a full-throttle rock groove with his gorgeous, soaring baritone. The song is a reflection of my life, he explains. I started thinking about how I see everything: life, love and death and those themes embody this entire album. The songs are inspired by my everyday realizations of life.
FULL MOON CIGARETTE is also about GRAN BEL FISHERs utterly original songs and brilliant voice, which transcend fleeting fashions and simple categorization.
Baring this out are soul-stirring tracks like Edible, with its melodically-addictive chorus and GRAN BEL FISHERs multi-octave voice, Far Crys emotive expression of dislocation and alienation, and Moment, which builds from a gentle Delta-blues croon to a ferocious, primal roar. Elsewhere, the gorgeous ballad Bound by Love explores the tension and release of heartache and solace while the anthemic Crash and Burn showcases GBFs accomplished piano playing while simultaneously burning the whole place down.
To understand GRAN BEL FISHERs multi-faceted references, one has to go back to Sabina, Ohio (est. population: 2,827), a single-stop light town and farming community nicknamed the Eden of Ohio. His idyllic childhood was filled with music as GBFs mother and father (a gifted pianist) introduced him and his three siblings to music. Beginning in second grade we all took piano lessons, he recalls. Thus began an eclectic music education where everyone from Beethoven to Tom Waits (my dad does the craziest impression), Duke Ellington to Pink Floyd, and Glenn Miller to Janis Joplin found their way into GBFs musical collection. By fifth grade the budding musician had written his first song, soloed in the church choir, and first heard--or rather misheard--his moniker. My Great, Great Grandfather Granville Fisher Littleton founded the Littleton Funeral Home. I always thought my Aunt had said his name was Gran Bel Fisher and it stuck with me. Something about it just clicked and it created a special connection between my music and my roots.
By high school, GBF had taught himself guitar and was recording original songs. In addition to acts like Led Zeppelin and Ben Folds further informing his music purview, leading roles in two musicals (The Music Man and Brigadoon) helped him realize how much he enjoyed performing before audiences. It was apparent, however, the wunderkind?s 80-person high school class couldn?t contain or nurture his growing music talents. With his parents? blessing, GBF transferred to Cincinnati?s School for the Creative & Performing Arts. It was like Fame, he says. I was living on my own in downtown Cincinnati, playing open-mics, recording on an 8-track, and my songwriting was evolving.
With overwhelmingly positive feedback, GRAN BEL FISHER left school to pursue music full-time, working in a restaurant and woodshedding dozens and dozens of new songs. I know this part is going to sound silly, but I swear its true he says sheepishly, One night I had this dream that I had to go to New York City. I told my dad about it the next day and he was like, You gotta go with your gut. GBF contacted a friend of friend who worked in the music industry. I showed up at their office with my guitar and started playing. And, what usually happens when GRAN BEL FISHER performs live happened: people were blown-away. This led to a cross-country move to Los Angeles and a life-changing introduction.
I met [producer and songwriter] Dave Bassett at a party and the next day I went to his house, GBF recalls. I played a few measures and he started playing along. I stopped mid-song and said, You?re the guy! In that moment I just knew. We had this unspoken musical chemistry I?ve never had with anybody else.
Within days, Bassett and GRAN BEL FISHER recorded demo versions of Edible, Moment, and Do We Say Bye. Demo in hand, GBF played exactly one showcase at L.A.?s famed Viper Room before signing with Hollywood Records.
GRAN BEL FISHER signed his contract on November 12th and by November 14th he went into the studio collaborating with Joey Waronker and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who also play with Beck). Tracking then began at the legendary Sunset Sound, where seminal bands like Led Zeppelin and the Doors recorded. One night I opened up this hidden room behind a wall where Jim Morrison did his vocals, GBF explains. It was very haunting.
The bulk of FULL MOON CIGARETTE was made in Los Angeles and mixed in New York with Michael Brauer (Coldplay, My Morning Jacket) and the preliminary reactions have been astonishing. Lyrically and musically this is the record Ive always wanted to make, GBF says. The journey of making this album, even with some hard times and problems I ran into along the way, was really just a blessing in disguise. And with one listen to FULL MOON CIGARETTE, youll understand exactly what he means.