By Chris Illich
Coming off the heals of three nominations for the Canadian Folk Music Awards, for Emerging Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year, the humble and honest St. John’s Newfoundland act The Fortunate Ones are bringing their pop-folk act to the newly opened First Ontario Performing Arts Centre on November 7.
Just as The Fortunate Ones were finding about these accolades, the group were also told that they were one of three groups selected to take part in the Allan Slaight Juno Master Class – a mentorship program that includes, but is not limited to, a one week intensive mentorship week at Coalition Music in Toronto, a trip to the Juno Awards in Calgary, Alberta and a $10,000 MuchFACT Online Music Video Award.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to know that something you’ve created is resonating with people. I think, more so than the awards or anything else, that it is really an amazing feeling to know you are connecting with people,” explained the singer/guitarist Andrew James O’Brien.
“The cornerstone of what we’re trying to do is to connect with and share the music we’ve made with people. There is a cool form of validation that comes with these recognitions, but for us, the most important thing is getting out there and playing for people and hopefully people respond positively to it.”
The Fortunate Ones, who are comprised of O’Brien and singer/pianist/accordion player Catherine Allen have been performing as The Fortunate Ones since 2013, but the duo have been sharing the stage for much longer.
During a rehearsal for a slot opening up for Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case in 2010, O’Brien asked Allen if she’d like to sing a few songs with him, on just a night’s notice. At the time, they surely didn’t know that they were laying down the framework for one of Canada’s newest and brightest duos.
After that fateful night, Allen joined O’Brien’s solo project, Andrew O’Brien and The Searchers, and performed on his first record Songs for Searchers. It wasn’t until his backing band were unable to able to go out on the road with O’Brien that they began touring as a duo, ultimately leading into the creation of The Fortunate Ones.
Now, five years into their career, their partnership has paid off. They released their debut album Bliss in February, which has garnered a wealth of positive reviews. The 11-song album was recorded at Lake Echo in Nova Scotia and was produced by Daniel Ledwell. The release of the album was handled by Old Farm Pony Records, and Bliss went on to claim a #1 spot on CBC Radio 2, and the lead single “Lay Me Down” had equal success.
With the CBC currently dealing with funding cuts, O’Brien explained that if it wasn’t for the CBC, they might not have reached the audiences and the successes that have been granted to them.
“We owe a huge part of our career to the CBC. We’re big advocates for the services they provide. It’s really hard to hear about the funding cuts,” said O’Brien.
“They’re such an integral part of our culture. You really hope that they aren’t going to be cut off at the knees. All we can do is hope for the best and that the people who make these decisions make good ones.”
With a busy fall around the corner including their mentorship workshop in Toronto, The Fortunate Ones are slated to head out to Vancouver and make the trip down into Ontario, with a variety of shows at festivals, and then an Ontario Arts Centre tour that culminates with a performance at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre in St. Catharines.
O’Brien explained that while they cut their teeth in bars and small venues, he has always had in his mind that The Fortunate Ones were meant to play to intimate soft-seated venues.
“In the early days we were playing a lot of bars and we found that those rooms weren’t really conducive to the style of music that we play. I really enjoy playing the soft-seat venues because it gives us a better opportunity to have a connection with the audience.”
“That being said, I’m really excited to play in St Catharines. That’s where my grandmother and grandfather lived, and my dad grew up in St. Catharines. I’ve only been there a couple of times, so I’m really excited to get back there.”
Ticket information can be found on the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre website firstontariopac.ca