Fortunate Ones start N.B. tour tonight

A lot has happened to the St. John's duo Fortunate Ones in the past year. It's been a busy, but fruitful one, which culminated in the release of their debut, The Bliss this month. The pair are on tour, and bring their acoustic folk-pop to the province this week for a series of shows. I caught up with them just as they were ready to head out, on the day the album was launched.

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"Oh excited, oh man," gushes Andrew O'Brien. "It's kinda crazy, obviously we're super excited about it, but the amount of work that goes in to it is incredible. If we could quantify it, it's like climbing a mountain getting here." His partner in Fortunate Ones is Catherine Allan, who covers the keyboards and accordion and does co-vocals. She remembers that it wasn't long ago when the pair had no idea how to get to this point. "This time last year, we were definitely confused as to what the best course would be for our career," she explains. We didn't know the path of what we could do. We just recorded this song, Carry On, made a video for it, and put it out. And then there was such a huge response, we found out things looked a lot brighter than we thought they did. We sold out three nights at the LSPU Hall (in St. John's)."

O'Brien had already had his own album debut, with a solo release in 2011 that earned him an ECMA nomination. After hearing Allan perform one night, he approached her to sing with him on stage, something that developed first into a backing role, and then a full partnership. They also found some big supporters, including Great Big Sea's Alan Doyle, and Rose Cousins, who was so taken with them, she signed them to her label, Old Farm Pony Records. But they were still looking for a direction for their songs. It was another couple who provided that advice, including the eventual album producer, Daniel Ledwell. "Dan and his wife, Jenn Grant, said maybe you should step back and let this record get the life it deserves," says O'Brien. "So we took a year and put our team together. We got out and played as much as we could." Allan agrees patience was the key. "A lot of the work you do takes months to pay off. We recorded a lot of this almost a year ago. I think Dan's guidance made this the record it is. Dan has a lot of experience as a touring musician as well, and so does Jenn. So it's great to pick their brains about what to expect, and waiting and heeding their advice. We were going to put it out two months after we recorded it, but learning from them was very important."

So here they are, ready to make a splash on a launch tour that takes them to important clubs through the East Coast, Quebec and Ontario. Working with Ledwell saw them stretch out of their comfort zone, adding sounds and textures to the music on disc, and live as well. "Acoustic folk pop is what we call it," says Allan. I would never have called myself a lead singer before, and one of my strengths since we recorded is that it's a lot more equal now. When you only have two people, you gotta make the most of what you can!" They've already faced some big, and picky audiences too. We did a quick swing last year with Great Big Sea, and some of those shows were massive, outdoor things," says O'Brien. "So we wanted to make sure our duo wasn't lost in that crowd. That's when we started adding these other elements, like the kick drum, and other percussive elements." Ledwell's famed effects have made the transition to stage as well. "Daniel introduced me to my first-ever pedal, on my keyboard," chuckles Allan.

The album is getting strong reviews, with its pleasing, warm sound the highlight. Lyrically, there's a warmth too, and some significant wisdom as well, especially for a couple of relative youngsters. The title cut, The Bliss, holds the key to their outlook. "It's a pep talk, that song," says O'Brien. "I've always felt that I'm on a journey to find happiness," adds Allan. "What The Bliss has taught me is that you always have to be searching for it." Says O'Brien, "A lot of this is autobiographical. Part of what The Bliss is about is living in the moment, and the other part is appreciating where you are, looking for the good where you are."

You can find the good where you are starting tonight, Tuesday, Feb. 24, as Plan B in Moncton hosts Fortunate Ones, along with guest Del Barber. Wednesday the show moves to the Vogue Theatre in Miramichi, and Thursday it's the Magnolia Cafe in Saint John.

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About Bob Mersereau

Rockin' BobBob Mersereau has been covering music, and the East Coast Music Scene since 1985 for CBC. He's a veteran scene-maker at the ECMA's, knows where the best shows and right parties are happening, and more importantly, has survived to tell the tales. His weekly East Coast music column is heard on Shift on Radio 1 in New Brunswick each Wednesday at 4'45. He's also the author of two national best-selling books, The Top 100 Canadian Albums (2007) and The Top 100 Canadian Singles (2010).

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