They’re currently sitting at number 2 on the CBC Radio 2 Top Twenty and are mid-tour promoting their debut album, The Bliss. I had the opportunity to sit with Newfoundlanders Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan of Fortunate Ones before their amazing and packed show at Petit Campus on March 5. Here are some highlights of our conversation and some thoughts on the show.
Stephanie Weiner (SW): Tell me about yourselves, your musical background, your name.
Catherine Allan (CA): We met about five years ago, through my brothers who were very involved in the music scene in Corner Brook, where I’m from. That’s where Andrew went to school. I sang a duet with one of my brothers and he asked me to be in a band.
Andrew James O’Brien (AJO): Fortunate Ones is a lot newer than that story. We were playing in the band about 5 years ago and then Fortunate Ones came into being about two years ago. We’d been touring as a duo and wanted to kind of unify two artists under one name. It felt like a more compelling kind of thing to have us both under one name. It added a strength.
CA: I also think there’s a nicer ring to it!
SW: With all the touring and performing you do, what was it like to make time for and create your album, The Bliss?
CA: While we were touring, we were actually playing some of the songs that are now on the album so it was really high on our priority list to get into the studio. Because, you know, touring without an album to offer people and playing songs that people can’t actually listen to on their own time proved difficult. We talked to a couple of different people, we had a Skype date with Dan (Daniel Ledwell), and we hit it off. He seemed super relaxed and excited at the same time. Our sensibilities had kinda been geared toward a more acoustic sound and Dan has great sensibilities around kinda keyboards and different reverb sounds, so we thought that would be a really cool combination. We recorded the album over maybe six weeks or so last year in his studio in Lake Echo, Nova Scotia. We were gonna put it out last Spring actually, but we decided to wait at a friends’ suggestion, to put some infrastructure in place and prolong the life of the album. It just came out almost a month ago now.
SW: Being on tour, what would you say are the biggest “hoorah” moments and on the other side, the biggest speed bumps?
CA: The best moments are getting to know people and connecting with people through the songs we’ve created. It’s something really special every night. One of the difficult things is our gear. Unpacking our gear. That proves to be a challenge at times when there’s no elevator, for example.
AJO: We’ve just had little early career milestones that have been happening over the past few weeks. For example, over the past number of shows, seeing people sing along with songs that are brand new, that’s, I mean, I don’t think any artist in the world doesn’t think that’s cool. It’s unreal to hear people singing your songs, that has been amazing. And just getting to make these great new connections with people who are taking a chance on your show. Other little milestones, like selling out rooms that we’ve been playing for the first time, and being number one on CBC Radio 2, we love that station. But mostly, I’m happy to be in Montreal because I love smoked meat. One of the bummer things is that you never get to spend enough time in any one place. Like Montreal, it’s the greatest city in the world!
It bears mentioning, Andrew is a true blue Habs fan, too!
SW: What’s next for Fortunate Ones?
AJO: Well, we’ve still got a bunch of dates left on the tour. And then we’re gonna go home for a little bit. The East Coast Music Awards are happening in our home town this year, so that’ll be good, we’ll be really busy during that time. Then we’re gonna head out West for the Spring, and then summer festivals. We’re gonna play as much as humanly possible.
Now I can say that I’ve seen them play and they were absolutely fantastic. Their chemistry and artistry were electric, charged with power and grounded with tenderness. The stories they shared about themselves and their songs were charming, personable and inspired one audience member to whisper: “Aww, they’re so cute!” Congratulations are in order, the pair got engaged over the holidays!
We were treated to many of the songs from The Bliss, as well as some from Andrew’s solo album Songs for Searchers that featured Catherine. With just the two of them up there, it was clear how talented they are as musicians- moving seamlessly within a tune from accordion to keyboard, guitar to drum. And the vocals! Their harmonies were sweet, satisfying, and built up to some chords that resolved and made the whole audience sigh. Tunes like The Bliss and La La La made you tap your feet and sway to the rhythm. While Solitary Sparks and Without a Name were more pensive, reflective and soulful. Their blend of acoustic melodies, foot tapping rhythms and genuine charm make for a really wonderful live show. The rest of Canada has seen how great these two are, it’s time Montreal got on board. My advice: check them out anytime you can and get their album, stat.