Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan, now best known as Fortunate Ones, are returning to Corner Brook this weekend to open for Matt Mays at the GCSU Backlot on Saturday night. I had a chance to ask them a few quick questions before they came to town.
Where are you from?
Catherine is from Corner Brook. Andrew is from Mount Pearl
How’d you meet?
Andrew: Catherine’s brother, Mark, Gerald Coleman and I were playing as a trio back in late 2009. We were rehearsing to open for Sherman Downey’s album release show. That night, Catherine came by and on a break in the rehearsal they started singing a song together with awesome three part harmony. When they stopped singing I asked Catherine if she wanted to learn the songs and join us for the show. Two days later we were on stage at the Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook in front of a sold out crowd. We’ve been playing together since then.
How have your early roots influenced your music today? Does Corner Brook factor in at all?
Andrew: Corner Brook was instrumental in my early development as a musician and a songwriter. When I graduated from Grenfell in 2007 I started playing with Kevin Hamilton and he was leaps and bounds ahead of me as a guitarist and songwriter so it was sink or swim for me to keep up with him. We were playing regularly around Corner Brook and played a lot with Louis and Mike McDonald, Sherman Downey and many other great players. It was a real learning experience for me. I played about 200 times a year for three years and real came into my own in the bars of Corner Brook. It was an awesome place to develop and I am extremely grateful for that time. I look back on it often.
What bands/ genres do you think have defined your sound thus far?
Andrew: Our music is based in an acoustic, roots, folk pop sound. I try to put an emphasis on lyric and narrative so my influences in that way would be artists like Paul Simon, Ron Sexsmith and Ron Hynes, for example. We’re heavily influenced by our peers as well. I’d love to write a few foot stompers like Sherman’s!
Have you succeeded yet, in your opinion? Or is there more to go? Where do you hope to be in the next couple years?
Andrew: We’re a work in progress. Success is relative. I don’t think anyone is completely satisfied with what they’ve done. I suspect it’d be a pretty boring feeling. Onward and upward!
As a sort of side question, Great Big Sea frontman Alan Doyle once said you’re the next big thing to come out of Newfoundland. Have you ever felt any pressure to kind of, live up to that? What’s it like touring with those guys during their 20th year?
Andrew: I’m grateful to Alan, Sean and Bob for all they’ve done for Cat and I so far in our career. They have given us some great opportunities and advice. We’ve struck up a friendship with these guys and learn from them all the time. I don’t feel pressure from Alan’s endorsement. We are trying to make a career in a difficult business and are thankful for his support. GBS are huge supporters of Newfoundland’s music scene and we hope to help out those who come after us. Touring with them is fantastic. We got to play in front of huge, supportive audiences who seemed to really enjoy our music. It was an unforgettable experience.
When was the last time you performed in CB? What do you like about the area, and playing in it?
Cat: We played at the Whitehorse last summer. Kev Buckle is a good friend and his bar is so much fun to play. It’s always a good feeling to get back home and play for old friends.
What’s your favourite colour? Why?
Cat: Mine is purple and Andrew’s is Fuschia, yellow, green, brown and blue. He says he can’t narrow it down. And purple because it’s just girly enough… You know?
Of the songs you’ve written, is there a personal favourite? Why?
Andrew: There’s a newer song that will be on the first Fortunate Ones record called Wherever You Go. I wrote it for Cat’s brother Mark shortly after he moved to Calgary for work. He’s been there two and a half years now. It’s about remembering who you were before you set out to do what you had to do. Following your heart in the face of certain realities that life throws at you sometimes. Mark is an incredibly gifted musician and was a huge contributor to our bands sound before he left. He is one of my best friends and we miss him a lot.
Here’s a link to a video we did for the song:
If you could have any theme song, what would it be?
Andrew: Oddly enough, I think Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea would be a great theme song. Through the ups and downs of this career it’s important to remind ourselves that we’re okay, doing well and getting by. That song always gives me perspective on where I am. The boys really hit on a universal theme of perseverance and being content with what you have and where you are. It’s been one of my favourite songs since I was a little kid. I try not to remind them how little I was when that song came out. Haha…
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Cat: Half full! Always! There’s always someone worse off than you… Also some people better off… Nevertheless, half full.
What’s a motivational quote that’s gotten you through a rough time?
Cat: “Giv’er.” -Confucius
With that in mind, is there anything you’d like to say to new & returning grenfell students?
Andrew: Enjoy your time in school. It goes by so quickly. Take risks, learn as much as you can about more than just your focus area. Have fun and take it all in. Time goes by so fast. I’ve been graduated since 2007 and it feels like yesterday. It’s a surreal feeling.
Check out Fortunate Ones at the GCSU Backlot when they open for Matt Mays on Saturday night. Tickets are on sale now for $27 advance, $32 at the door.