Ben Fuller: Wholehearted Tahoe Songwriter

Ben Fuller

Wednesdays | 1 p.m. | 22 Bistro | Olympic Valley
2nd & 4th Thursdays | 6 p.m. | CB’s Bistro | Carnelian Bay
Fridays | 5:30 p.m. | Six Peaks Grille | Olympic Valley

When Truckee musician Ben Fuller sits down to write music, it comes from somewhere deep inside his soul.

“I think it’s a way for me to release trauma or express myself in ways I otherwise can’t,” he says. “A lot of times I don’t know what it is I need to get out. For me, it’s about being open to it coming. Music is my conduit to bringing what’s inside out.”

Born in Southern California, Fuller grew up in Philadelphia and first discovered music through his older brother and sister.

“My brother was a huge Grateful Dead fan,” he says. “I got into the jam band Phish through him. He was a guitar player and singer and his bedroom was next to mine growing up. Most nights I’d fall asleep to him singing and playing songs. I always knew I wanted to get into music. I just didn’t know how at that point.”

Fuller started out playing hand drums and little bit of piano before landing on guitar. When his father retired to Incline Village, Nev., Fuller came to Incline High School for his senior year. By then he was playing, singing and writing his own songs.

“In Tahoe, it’s probably easier than a lot of places because it’s a tourist town and there are lots of places to play. In general, it’s tough making a living as a musician. You really have to hustle.”     –Ben Fuller

After graduation, he moved to Missoula to attend University of Montana where he met his future wife, Tanya. By the end of first semester, they ditched school, came to Tahoe for the winter to ski and traveled to Alaska where they lived in a treehouse nearby Alyeska Resort. They bought a school bus and tried to drive to the East Coast, but it broke down in South Dakota.

So, they rented a U-Haul and made it to Vermont where Fuller worked at Stowe and attended Johnson State College. A year later, they moved back to Missoula where Fuller earned a degree in geography. He formed a local band called Midside Stereo that played on a spectrum somewhere between alt-country and bluegrass.

On a trip to Austin City Limits, he saw Colin Meloy perform with The Decemberists. He was a University of Montana alumni who found musical success in Portland, so Fuller followed his lead, moved to The City of Roses and started a band called Lucky U. He and Tanya had their first child and moved to Tahoe in 2008 to be closer to his family.

Back home, Fuller joined up with the guys from Mama’s Cookin’, a band originally from Crested Butte, Colo., that had relocated to the North Shore. With Steve LaBella on bass, Mike Adamo on drums and Eric Matlock on keys, Fuller toured California and the Pacific Northwest. He released his first EP, “Aquarian Son,” in 2010 followed by LP “Little Siberia” in 2013. His latest EP, “In Service to the Stars,” came out in 2019.

In between tours, Fuller plays weekly gigs at various venues around the lake.

“In Tahoe, it’s probably easier than a lot of places because it’s a tourist town and there are lots of places to play,” he says. “In general, it’s tough making a living as a musician. You really have to hustle. In summertime, I like being able to play outside. It’s beautiful. I like that are lots of tourists. All different people from around the world get to hear my music. And I love living here.”

Fuller is currently mixing a new album he recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, with David Bowie bassist Tim Lefebvre and Los Angeles producer Scott Fisher, which he hopes to release later this year. He lives in Truckee with Tanya and their three children and has recently been exploring breathwork at men’s retreats in Sedona, Ariz.

“I think it’s helped with my music,” he says. “It brings these things up. Once it comes to the surface, it’s a lot easier to write or to sing about. It’s the idea that what you fix on the inside is going to fix the rest of the world.” |