CALL OF THE WAVES
By Mitch Hurst
By Mitch Hurst
Tom Fuller didn’t know where he was. A native of the west suburbs and a resident of Geneva at the time, the singer and songwriter was filming a music video for his song “One-PlusOne” when he turned to the producer and asked, “Where am I?”
Turns out, Fuller was in Lake Bluff. Coming from Geneva, he hadn’t been informed of the location of the shoot, which commenced after dark, but he had a sense of feeling, of being near the water. A boatman’s call. It wouldn’t be long before he bought a lot along the lake in Lake Forest and resettled.
“It was 2 a.m. and we walked to the lake, and I could hear the waves and I told the director, ‘I’m supposed to live here’,” Fuller says. “I got these intuitive vibes that I never question. Within a week I was obsessed with scouring Lake Forest, and I found a vacant, two-acre parcel with a beach.”
Fuller built a beach house and bonded with his new Lake Forest neighbors. Having grown up in Hinsdale, Fuller says living in Lake Forest is bit like Hinsdale with a beach.
“It’s just a whole new world up here on Lake Michigan, really an eye opener,” he says. “People from the west or south suburbs don’t have a clue what it’s really like. It’s just wonderful.”
For the uninitiated, Tom Fuller is something of a music legend. Known less in the United States than in Europe, he has recorded songs that have charted on Billboard and toured with Little Feet, Soul Asylum, Blues Traveler, and Robin Trower. With his heart and home now in Lake Forest, Fuller will be performing a live show at the Gorton Center on October 20.
Fuller first picked up a guitar when he was 9 or 10. His parents listened to WLS radio, the iconic Chicago pop music radio station back in the day. The Beatles caught his ear, and he enlisted an elderly gentleman to teach him how to play it.
“Here’s this 9-year-old who doesn’t know anything about music and Ernie, this 99-year-old guy would spend 20 minutes playing the guitar and I just sat there and didn’t have a clue,” Fuller says. “He taught me how to play ‘Greensleeves’, a world-renowned tune, and it was cool but not really what I wanted to do.”
What Fuller really wanted to do was rock out. First, though, there was the little matter of making some money. With 100 bucks, the minimum to incorporate a small business in Illinois, Fuller started a marketing company that would eventually grow to earn revenues of $30 million per year.
“I was doing the corporate CEO thing and traveling the world, primarily in Asia, and a decade into doing that, I started hearing these melodies and these tunes in my head and they wouldn’t go away,” he says. “I hadn’t played the guitar in many years, but I picked it up again.”
Fuller credits much of his success, both as a CEO and now a musician, to spirituality. It also helped him kick an addiction to alcohol. He hasn’t touched a drink in 25 years and based on some advice from a mentor in Nashville long ago, he quit smoking to preserve his voice.
“I wanted to live. It was all about wanting to live. I just did whatever I had to do,” he says. “I was able to take those bad feelings and put them into a song and once I did that the desire to drink was gone.”
Like so many other creative projects, Fuller’s new album was birthed during the COVID shutdown. With time on his hands, he reflected on his past catalogue and re-recorded some songs, stripping them down to their essentials. He also added some new tunes.
“One of the cool things about this house that I built is I have a sound-proof, elite studio and it’s just mind-boggling,” he says. “I had a couple of guitar guys over the other night that I’m going to perform with just to see it and they were blown away.”
Fuller is thrilled to be playing the new tunes, and some old ones, at the Gorton Center in October. You can sense in his voice he’s caught a local vibe from his new, adopted community in Lake Forest.
“I want to express my gratitude to the Gorton Center for having me. After COVID I got a thing inside of me that I want to come out of my shell; I want to embrace my new community,” Fuller says. “I’m sticking my neck out because I never really played in hometowns before, but I’m playing at the Gorton Center, and I can’t believe it.”
Tom Fuller plays the Gorton Center on October 20. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit tomfuller.rocks.