Friday, April 25th @ Minstrel Cafe in Kelowna
Fortunate Ones are Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan. Their earnest blend of acoustic folk/pop and roots, bare-bones arrangements and delicately precise harmony allows for the intimate musical conversations that make their performances so special.
Most Canadian music fans are aware of St. John’s, and the hyperactive pub scene that has produced so much music and theatre over the past two decades.
Less known is Corner Brook, Newfoundland’s other city, the sturdy west coast blue-collar mill town situated at the base of a breath-taking fjord. It is a city of contrasts – the town and economy is built around a huge paper mill, there are no colourful row houses or winding lanes, and it is rarely featured in the province’s popular tourist ads. On the other hand, it boasts a site rich in natural beauty, and it is the gateway to Gros Morne Park, the Island’s natural treasure. In winter it becomes a city of skiers and snowboarders filling the surrounding pine-hills and valleys with the energy of outdoor sports. And above the city sits the Grenfell campus of Memorial University, home to the province’s school of Fine Arts. In the past decade, this school has become a wellspring for artistic creativity, and now Corner Brook’s millwrights and lumbermen have been joined by a growing population of dreamers.
It is this city that gave birth to the Fortunate Ones.
“During my first semester I began writing songs and performing them live,” Andrew says. “Through the course of my four years, acting took a significant backseat to music. I became more and more self-conscious as an actor and had trouble believing anything I was doing or saying. Conversely, my songwriting gave me an opportunity to be entirely honest, and left me with no choice but to believe in what I was saying.”
In 2010, Andrew recorded and released his debut indie album, Songs For Searchers. Intensely autobiographical, the album is a deeply personal expression that was masterfully written with lightness and beautiful melody. Somehow it managed to capture the timelessness of Newfoundland’s west coast while sounding utterly contemporary. The album was an instant local sensation. Andrew began touring heavily, drawing on the skills he learned playing in Newfoundland’s rowdy pubs. He has also become a cult favorite in the UK, recently supporting acts like Sharon Shannon and Paul Brady.
Meanwhile, his future partner and Corner Brook native, Cat, was also finding her own voice. A member of a musical family, her natural diffidence had kept her offstage while she pursued her college degree.
“I’ve always loved playing music, but for the longest time it was just something I kept to myself,” she says. “I would quietly play keyboard and guitar in my bedroom and learn songs by The Beatles, Hawksley Workman, Feist, etc. I really enjoyed playing, and particularly enjoyed singing, but the idea of doing that in public terrified me. When I met Andrew, he had formed a band with my brother and some childhood friends, and one night while hanging out I sang along with a couple of songs they were playing. Two days later, I sang with the band at the Ship Pub in St. John’s.”
Gradually, Andrew and Cat’s artistic relationship blossomed into an off-stage romance, and now they make their music together under the name ‘Fortunate Ones.’ It is an apt name, as their music is what brought them together. Now it’s not just a part of their lives – it is their lives.
Cat finds that their music has offered her the chance to become something she had never envisioned.
“Performing always used to frighten the hell out of me, and still does at times. But sometimes the things that scare you the most are the things that you need to challenge yourself with and will eventually make you grow as a person.
Just as he does in his songs, when it comes to discussing music, Andrew wears his heart on his sleeve.
“For me, music is the one unwavering constant in my life. As a medium, it is transcendental and innately powerful,” Andrew explains. “It was the first drug I ever took and the most powerful I’ve tried. One of my favorite elements of listening to great music is the physical feeling of hearing something amazing; a great lyric, a beautiful melody, the cadence of instruments blending perfectly provides a joyful pang, goose bumps, tears, sweat, laughter. It is physically all encompassing. It is a feeling I live for and have lived for since I was very little.”
Now recording and making songs together, the duo will be releasing a new album later this year.