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Ray Fulcher headlines Springfield Fall Festival
Ray Fulcher
Ray Fulcher headlines the Springfield Fall Festival on Laurel Street on Nov. 11. (Submitted photo.)

Special to the Herald

Ray Fulcher is the real deal. A Georgia boy, he was born in Harlem and raised a Bulldog. Fulcher is also a chart topper, with another Number One hit under his belt just this week. Fulcher’s inspirational story is underscored with hard work, grit, and “leaning into fear.” His writing partner and friend of ten years, Luke Combs, has taken Nashville by storm. The duo has collaborated on six Number One hits. On Nov. 11, Springfield welcomes Fulcher to headline the 11th annual Fall Festival.

Growing up, Fulcher had two dreams: 1. Play Georgia football and 2. Sing country music. He was an athlete in high school, playing football as a wide receiver and was a star on the baseball diamond. Although his first dream was not actualized, he went on to work directly for Georgia’s Coach Mike Bobo, setting drills and coordinating the QB’s as Bobo’s student assistant.

When talking to Fulcher, he’ll let the sports analogies fly. He applies the lessons he learned on the field to lessons he is learning in Nashville. In sports and in life, he references “determination, diligence, and mental toughness.”

Fulcher recalls gaining a deep appreciation for song writing at an Eric Church performance. Fulcher says, “The way he performed made me want to do it.” Church’s songs weren’t necessarily relatable for the soon-to-be college grad, but the lyrics were transformative, and he was swept up by Church’s ability to pen a song. Little did Fulcher know, in that moment, he was forging a new path.

Fulcher graduated from Georgia with a master’s degree in education. While waiting for a teaching/coaching position to become available, he worked at a variety of places, including selling cars in Augusta. As fate would have it, he did get the teaching job, but on the side, he had formed a band playing in the venues around Augusta. Fulcher was bitten by the entertainment bug.

At 28 years old (late to the game in many respects), Fulcher faced a dilemma -- stay and live a fulfilling life in his hometown or make the big leap to Nashville. He says he made it simple for himself. He couldn’t live with the “what if” factor. He simply had to move to Nashville and try his hand at music.

Chasing a dream can be hard; in fact, the road was rocky. Fulcher wasn’t a prodigy on guitar. He gave up after three guitar lessons and just decided to learn on his own. Fulcher goes so far as to say that he had to work incredibly hard to just be “functional” on the guitar.

What he lacked in “picking and grinning” he made up for in his ability to write lyrics. In school, Fulcher recalls that argumentative-essay writing came easy to him. He says that skill translates, adding that the same elements of essay writing are also found in the lyricism of a song. “The verse leads into the chorus and the hook ties it all together,” he said, essentially wrapping up the narrative.

When asked if he prefers singing to songwriting, the Georgia Bulldog rears his head. He likens song writing to “breaking down film” after the game, reviewing the plays, and creating strategy. In contrast, performing, Fulcher says in an easy, confident manner, “Is just like running through the tunnel and breaking through the banner.” Amen and go Dawgs.

Fulcher shares that he believes his success is a mixture of hustle and blessing. He arrived in Nashville and didn’t know a soul. On his third day in town, he befriends another soon-to-be resident and likeminded entertainer, Luke Combs. Once Combs made the leap to permanently call Nashville home, he immediately reached out to Fulcher. The rest is history.

The singer/songwriter is still buzzing as his newest collaboration with Combs has reached number one. He does find himself riding the ebb and flow of creativity. He says, “Sometimes it comes easily, and everything is a song idea, and other days, not so much.” But this Georgia-native is driven, showing up, doing the work, and “forgetting the word ‘quit’.” You can count on the fact that Fulcher is seeking out and formulating the next great hit.

When asked what he’d like the folks of Effingham to know about him, Fulcher says that he hopes that everyone can find a little bit of themselves in his lyrics. He also expresses gratitude to all who listen to his music and is looking forward to performing in Springfield.

Laurel Street will be bustling on Nov.11. This free, live event will open with Jordan Rowe at 7 p.m. Fulcher and band will hit the stage at 8:15. The downtown Fall Festival is hosted by the City of Springfield. The festival runs from 10 a.m.-10 p.m., so mark your calendars and come on out.