By: Christine Terrisse A young man plugs in his guitar amp and gets ready to play. The acoustics are good in the lobby of the Santora Arts building in downtown Santa Ana. A few of his friends slouch against the wall. He has dressed the part of a stereotypical OC dude: plaid shirt, board shorts and a beanie. Sometimes, he ditches the beanie, and a mass of tawny curls frames his symmetric face.
His voice starts slowly as he plucks a few chords. Then comes the jolt in a piercing raw-edged tenor: "I need this much! I need you, oh/I need you here/I need you right now." That voice belongs to 24-year-old Charles Fullwood, and the lyric is from "This Much," off his five-track EP. In his bedroom studio, he specializes in a sound dubbed soultronica: an aural cocktail combining the neo-soul of Maxwell and the raw energy and synth of a Dirty Mind-era Prince.
A big part of his sound is the Korg Kaoisslator Pro synthesizer, which he dubs "kawesomelater."
"Before, I had just the guitar or bass to play songs with, but when I found the Kaoisslator, I could layer sounds," Fullwood says. "I was able to make the sounds in my head come alive. I was stoked because you can make a song really fast. You can make the drums and bass and all the parts. . . . It made writing quicker."
Fullwood is the rare artist who can merge his diverse influences without falling victim to them. His tastes range from the Temptations to Nirvana, Sade to Jeff Buckley (Fullwood's voice has a Buckleyesque vibrato), Jimmy Gnecco to New Jack Swing artists such as Keith Sweat and Guy. Plus, he has a special affinity for the raspy vocals of T-Boz from TLC.
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As a child growing up in sleepy, surf-oriented San Clemente, Fullwood was surrounded by music. His father, George "Fully" Fullwood was a pioneering bass player and a member of Soul Syndicate, a top reggae session band in 1970s and '80s Kingston, Jamaica, who played for Bob Marley and toured with Peter Tosh. The youngest of six, Fullwood was inspired and challenged by his artistic siblings. Sister Christine is a guitarist and brother John fronts the LA band Kiss and Yell. "John taught me how to play guitar and bass, and then, every day after middle school, I would come home and play every song off Nirvana's Bleach and Silverchair's Frogstomp, and I would listen to the CDs and play all the bass parts," he says. When he was around 11, he formed the band Not Quite Cool with some school friends. Then, in his teenage years, he led Lush Behavior, moving to lead vocals and performing at top venues all over Southern California.
After years of working with a band, he is enjoying the creative freedom of performing as a solo artist. You can sometimes find him at the Night Owl in Fullerton. On Oct. 3, he'll perform on Long Beach City College Radio (KCTY-FM) for College Radio Day, hitting the air at 2 p.m. Despite Fullwood's knack for recording himself in the studio, few things still excite him like hunkering down on a street corner, popping open his guitar case and turning people's heads."I always liked just going out and busking on the street," he says. "I like singing. It feels good just to meet people."
For more info on Charles Fullwood, visit https://www.facebook.com/kawesomelater