HOME'S SWEET SOUND
BY LUCINDA BREEDING
Chris Bullard lived in Denton for seven years. He played gigs, committed to making music. Then the Ardmore, Oklahoma, native went to Nashville five years ago with an EP’s worth of music.
“The talent level between me and the talent level in Nashville weren’t matching,” Bullard said. “On my first writer’s night here, I had a buddy in the audience and I asked him to give me feedback. He said, ‘You sounded great, but the songs weren’t there.’”
Bullard spent the next three years writing music. But he still wasn’t happy with what he’d made.
“I had to come to Texas and Oklahoma to visit some familiar places and hang out with some old friends,” Bullard said. “Being in Nashville, you can be so excited and ambitious that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get you there. I kinda lost myself to the game. I had to rediscover my roots.”
After some time at home, Bullard crafted songs about living on the line between discontentment and fulfillment, want and waste, anger and passion. Those are the songs that made it onto It’s Me, his new record.
Bullard’s lyrics reflect the musicians hard times — his father’s death when Bullard was 9, and his 11-year-marriage, which has weathered ups and downs.
The music seems to perch between Red Dirt rock and country. Bullard’s guitar is influenced by the Delta blues and towering Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan, so in “Give It a Shot,” a song about liquid courage standing in where insecurity and past wounds shrink away, the guitar occasionally sounds like a keening Appalachian fiddle.
Bullard said his years singing in a church choir fed the album as much as his love for the blues did.
“The polished sheen is definitely intended for that Nashville shine,” he said. “We tracked [the album] live. I wanted it to have a mojo, a life to it. A soul. For some reason, I kept going back to those records from Muscle Shoals in the 1960s. You can tell it has something to it. You hear it as soon as you hit play.”
Bullard plays Rockin’ Rodeo on Friday night. Though the album won’t come out officially until February, he’ll have CDs at the show. The first 50 patrons will get a free copy.
“Why now in Denton and Ardmore? Those are the two cities who made me who I am right now,” Bullard said. “I wanted to come back and give something back to both those cities.”
NASHVILLE SINGER COMING HOME
BY JESSICA BRUHA
Ardmore native Chris Bullard will be returning to his hometown Saturday for a free CD release show from 6 to 10 p.m. at Paradise Alley Food Truck Park with special guest, Aaron Newman.
Bullard, now a resident of Nashville, said a lot of people asked him why he decided to come back to Ardmore for a CD release show, but the answer, for him, was simple.
“I’m coming back to Ardmore because, Number One, it’s my hometown. Number Two, my hometown has made me who I am,” Bullard said. “I feel like I owe it to my hometown, my people, to come back and let them in on something that I’m not releasing until February.”
Bullard said he wanted to give his family and friends a piece of what’s about to come because they made him who he is today.
“I’m just excited to just have a good time with friends and family and play songs that tell my story and to laugh and to jam out, rock out, and to have a good time. And to deliver a message of hope, of circumstances that people may be going through. Because this record, it’s more than just songs, it’s about life. It’s about people’s lives,” he said.
The Nashville artist said his overall hope is that listeners will find themselves in the lyrics of these songs, which may be easy for southern Oklahomans.
Bullard spent the first seven years of his life in Healdton, primarily because of his father’s oil business. Being raised on the oil fields, he said there’s a lot of songs on the records about the experience and having a “red dirt palace.”
Music ran in his family and he started playing guitar at the age of 8, later singing in the school choir at Plainview. While he went to Southeastern Oklahoma State University for a few years and “gave it the ‘ole college try,” Bullard said he decided it just wasn’t for him.
He decided to put school aside and start pursuing a music career. He played stages in Texas and Oklahoma for awhile before making the move to Nashville.
“I knew that I had something and I had a gift,” Bullard said, but starting out in Music City is rarely an easy task.
Bullard played his first writer’s night, inviting a friend who had been living in Nashville for awhile and asked for his honest opinion. Honesty is what he got.
“He said, ‘you sounded great and you’ve got something, but you’re just not there yet,’” Bullard remembered. “Five years ago my skin wasn’t as tough. It was really hard to hear.”
He did some thinking and some praying, but ultimately he knew this was something he needed to keep pushing for, and he did. Eventually, he said he knew he was getting up to par with what he was hearing out of Nashville and ended up making friends who helped him develop his craft.
When he began writing for this record, he said he wanted to create something that was from the heart. Something that was real, that was about him.
“It was one of those things where I didn’t want to chase the radio,” Bullard said.
So he went back home to Texas, where he lived for seven years, and Oklahoma to rediscover his roots. On his trip home he realized the stuff he was writing was unlike anything he had ever tapped into before and unlike anything that he’d heard from his friends or other writers.
“It couldn’t be more me,” he said. “I wrote this record from a place of stories that I was hearing and conversations that I was having with friends, family and other people.”
Getting together with friends and family, talking, throwing stories around, Bullard said he realized no matter where you are, no matter what walk of life you come from, you end up finding out you are all kind of in the same place.
“You find out we’re all in the same place and so I knew when I went back and started writing this record that I wasn’t just writing this record just to tell my story, no. I was telling my buddy Jimbo’s story, I was telling my brother Collin’s story. I was telling people’s stories alongside, running parallel to mine, and I think that’s what songs should do,” Bullard said.
“People should be able to find themselves in the lyric and to be able to put themselves in the song. That’s what gives songs so much power.”
Before Bullard takes the stage Saturday night, Newman will kick things off at 7 p.m. Food and beverages will be available for purchase at the show from The Grateful Bread Sandwich Co., It’s All Good Street Food and Red Dirt Brewhouse.
THIS OKIE IS MORE THAN OK. HE'S GOT COUNTRY MUSIC IN HIS JEANS, UM GENES.
BY ROBYN COLLINS
CountryCommon caught up with Oklahoma-born, Nashville-based country artist Chris Bullard and got some inside scoop.
Bullard, who writes his own music, plays guitar, bass, banjo, piano and lap steel. For his latest EP he recorded some of his own songs, but also cut some from outside writers.
The slow-drawling Okie says that he knew he was cut out for country music, from spending time with his country singing Grandpa Jack. “As a boy, I used to sit up in his lap while he and my Grandmother sang everything from Cash to Haggard. Hell, they’d even break into a chorus of “Amazing Grace” if the moment hit ’em right. Once I picked up a guitar, at the age of 7, my fate was pretty much sealed.
He credits Garth Brooks’ Ropin the Wind with starting his love affair with country music. Watching this country guy rock a stadium like he did, inspired the would-be artist.
His first gig was at 9, while his family was vacationing in Colorado. The hotel had a bar called “The Star Lounge,” and a young Bullard took the stage for some karaoke. He sang “Papa Loves Mama” and he tells Country Common, “When I finished the song the bar began to cheer and clap for more. It was a feeling I’ve never forgotten and I’ve been chasing after it ever since.”
Selling out the “Mother Church of Country Music,” a.k.a. The Ryman auditorium is a big dream for the boy from Oklahoma. If determination, drive and sheer talent are the recipe, we have a good feeling about this guy.
As for his pre-game ritual, Bullard says, “Praying helps me relax and allows me to focus on delivering the music to the fans with the clearest frame of mind.”