Since competing for and winning the coveted spot as INXS’ vocalist on Rock Star: INXS (2005), JD Fortune’s bumpy journey has been chronicled by the media, for better or worse. Through it all, his fans have supported his work, matching his dedication, loyalty, and faith with their own. Now with a new band, he spoke with me about where he’s been, what he’s learned, and where he’s headed with the members of Fortune.
Good to talk to you. I’d like to focus on your work with Fortune and not so much on INXS.
Who’s that? (Laughs)
I remember when you won Rock Star: INXS and were glad you won. Admittedly, you were filling some huge shoes. Does it feel like a lifetime since you were on the show?
No, because I just have not stopped. I mean, I really haven’t stopped. There was a two year period where I didn’t even hear from the band. I just kept writing. It feels sort of like I was never even in INXS. It feels like I’ve been with Fortune the whole time because we all get along so well. We had a conference call last night and were talking about how much we miss each other and the vibe about just playing together. When we play we really play and make the songs the stars. We just have fun with it and I said if we make the songs the stars, they’ll be our passport to hopefully connecting with people all over the world.
In terms of your past and present situations, where are you, creatively and personally speaking?
There’s a certain freedom that any artist will tell you comes when you get to play what’s inside of you. Although I did write INXS’ last platinum hit, “Pretty Vegas,” I felt in my heart that they weren’t going to give me another opportunity to write, especially because the best they did was to put out four records of previous hits, you know what I mean?
The next four albums they did after the Switch record were releases of four albums of stuff people already had. To me, that’s a bit narrow in vision, near-sighted. I was trying to get my songs together and work them into some of the band’s stuff because they had some world class writers like Andrew Ferris. But I think what had happened was unbeknownst to me Andrew was writing with the current guy that’s in the band (I don’t know his name). So when I was writing stuff he’d just keep putting me off, saying “Yeah, next week, yeah yeah.” And then it just never happened.
So a lot of songs on this record are to do with that journey I went on, not only with myself but with the departure from the band. Then finding, getting along with, and falling in love with the band I’m with now. I met this guy, Luther Mallory, who is the bass player, and he co-wrote a couple of the tracks, “Painfully Perfect” and “Bullet,” which will be our first single. From there we met the guitar player and drummer and people started falling into place.
The band’s only three months old and we sound like we’ve been together 20 years. It’s amazing. I think if a previous fan of what I’d done with INXS was to come to this concert they’d see a really seamless transition. First of all, this show has 10 times the amount of energy that an INXS concert had. My bass player in this band is 31 years younger than the bass player in that band. So there’s a huge difference there. Not only in how hungry they are but also in how real they are. They’ve never been catered to or treated like the massive talents that they are. They’re just completely humble and the nicest bunch of assassins I’ve ever met!
It sounds like you’re in a place with some kindred spirits now, even if you’ve only been together for three months.
Yeah, and I dare anybody to say this band is not sound. We have a record together and are hitting the road, which was pretty much what I was expecting to do after Switch and that tour. I thought we were going to go back into the studio, write, and put out another record. For all intents and purposes, if we were still a band we’d probably be on the third record right now and everything would be copasetic but everything’s a blessing in disguise.
Things didn’t work out with INXS, but at least you weren’t spinning your wheels.
There’s a certain freedom that I feel that I never felt with INXS. There was a certain lack of respect I think, too. [Pauses] Instead of saying anything bad about INXS, let me tell you what the difference is here: In this band I’d come down with bronchitis during a recording session and basically we were a family and everybody was asking me how I was feeling. Prior to that my experience would have been, “Yeah whatever, mate. We all get sick so suck it up.”
This time around, these guys are the real prize of this whole experience. The guys I’m working with now are just total rock stars and they’re great. There’s a sense of realness to it now. Before, we came off the show, to a platinum record, to a hugely successful tour to kind of cricket, cricket, cricket. So INXS had 11 or 12 studio records to fall back on but I wasn’t ready to go. I was really chomping at the bit and nothing was happening. At that time, I believed in INXS so much and felt I had an obligation to not jam with anybody else. I would have felt really awkward if I’d woken up one morning and INXS had a new singer which, ironically, they did. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m nobody’s sports car that, whenever they feel like pulling the tarp back on, they can take for a ride. This is full-time commitment for me. It’s not a video for me; this is my fucking life.
And your music has been featured on some TV spots and you have a dedicated following. So that must mean a lot as well.
Yeah. A lot of times on my Twitter page I try to post positive statements and inspirational quotes. If it weren’t for my fans that have supported me throughout all of this and my journey with INXS—they’ve put up with a lot. Basically I’m here to protect the integrity of their experience, what they signed up for. Like, they didn’t sign up to go through this weird Ferris wheel of a trip here. They signed up to get entertained and, as the man said, “Some dance to remember and some dance to forget.” Basically, the band I’m in now understands what we’re doing is a privilege. In the other band, they thought it was a right. Know what I mean?
Is that inevitable in some way for a very successful band?
Well, this experience for me has taught me that it’s okay to trust people right off the top and it’s okay to trust people that have belief in what they’re doing. If you believe in what you’re doing, then everything is pure. If there’s an ulterior motive or a hatched plan—like we’re going to do a charity event just so we can get some publicity—to me that’s gross. I do it because I love it. I do it because I really love connecting with people and I think I’ve been blessed with the ability to hear a stranger say the most beautiful and profound four or five words together, even though they don’t realize they’ve even said it. I’ll write it down in a notebook and it becomes the start of a song.
You had some lyrics posted on your website that you found scribbled down when you woke up one morning. What was that about? Do you keep a dream journal?
Oh there’s been a couple. I do keep a dream journal. Last night was a weird one. I dreamt I was at a dinner table and everyone was wearing baseball caps and the queen came and sat down—maybe that’s because of all of this Jubilee stuff that’s been happening—and nobody took off their hats but I took mine off. Then everybody else did too, except for two people at the table. I can’t be sure, but I think (laughs) one of the people who didn’t take off his hat was the Kurt Russell character from Big Trouble In Little China, honest to God. And I think the other person was Lil Wayne. So that was quite an eclectic dream, I had to write it down. I also wrote a song called “After Midnight” just the other day, all about getting down after midnight, this sultry, sexy kind of thing.
Are you coherent while you’re writing your dreams down or are you scribbling in your sleep?
I’m a very light sleeper so when I get up it’s like laser accuracy within 30 seconds. If I don’t write it down throughout the course of the day I’ll forget all about it, which is why I started keeping the journal.
I had a dream that Ted Poley from Danger Danger would only allow me to interview him if I was high and the pill I had to take was called a BRNG pill. I have no idea…
Oh nice! Are you high right now?
No, no, I’m not! And I’ve never interviewed Ted Poley. I don’t put a lot of weight in odd dreams. They’re strange but sometimes easy to interpret.
You know, it might just be the smallest thing you see, like in your peripheral vision, like a kid tripping in the mall or something and you don’t even pay attention to it. Then a month later you wonder why you’ve dreamt about a kid tripping in a mall. I think that’s the joke, right? That when you die it’s all been a big dream phase.
Fortune will be at The Stone Pony on July 10. For more information, go to jdfortune.com or check him out on Twitter @jdfortunemayhem.