Based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the Fortunate Ones is a band that has known a whirlwind of remarkable success in a comparatively short period of time.
The Juno nominated, Canadian Folk Music Award winning folk-pop duo made up of singer/pianist/accordion player Catherine Allan and singer/guitarist Andrew James O’Brien perform at Fratters on April 22nd.
Their debut CD – Bliss – was released early last year and the accolades are still pouring in.
They grew up on opposite sides of the island of Newfoundland – Mount Pearl and Corner Brook.
It’s been exciting times for the pair, as they received a nomination for a Juno earlier this month and also landed several nominations for the East Coast Music Awards which were held this month as well. Ultimately, they were awarded the 2016 Rising Star Recording of the Year.
As for Bliss, they couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.
“This being our debut album, I think the producer Dan Ledwell had a lot to do with crafting our vision,” explains Allan.
“We knew that our roots were in acoustic music and were really vocal based and narrative based from a really personal point of view,” she added. “In terms of a sound, we didn’t really have one developed yet. When we first talked about recording an album together, we had only been playing for a year or so together. We hadn’t done many shows – so it was definitely a process.
“We were really happy with how it turned out.”
As for Ledwell, who lives just outside of Halifax, Allan and O’Brien learned about him through hearing a friend’s disc that had been produced by him as well.
“Another friend of ours also had his album produced by Dan, and we were just intrigued with the production – it was beautifully done,” she said. “We skyped with Dan, and we both felt really good about working with him. His personality seemed right, which I think has a lot to do with what’s going to happen in the studio. We really meshed with him and thought we would work really well together.”
The CD was essentially finished within a month.
Looking back, it was in St. John’s where the pair met and began to sing together.
One night in 2010, O’Brien heard Allan sing harmony with her brother at a private gathering in downtown St John’s.
“It was in his old apartment. My brother was playing with Andrew in a duo around town. They invited me along to have a drink beforehand.
“After a drink or two, at this point I hadn’t sang in front of too many people but we started jamming. My brother, my friend and I played a song by Grizzly Bear called The Night – a beautiful song. Andrew said, ‘Do you want to be in my band – you are a beautiful singer.’”
Allan said that at the time, she was a reluctant performer – but she agreed. “I’m so glad I did.
“Our voices mesh really well together – I have a pretty low voice so we kind of meet in the middle. It took me a while to get over my stage fright, but once I could really enjoy it I knew that it was something that if we worked really hard at it, hopefully we could do something with it.”
The band was officially launched in 2013.
From a musical family, the Allan home was a constant eclectic flow of instruments, singing and the stereo.
Allan studied classical piano, taught herself guitar in secret and discovered the accordion by chance when her brother brought one home over the Christmas season in 2011.
“My brothers were all musical,” she explains of her own early musical development. “They are all incredible musicians.
“You know how it is growing up – you have siblings and you want to be just like them,” she added with a laugh. “We were all involved in music lessons. And we always had music on. It was always at the centre of my house for sure.”
After moving to St. John’s, Allan’s introduction to the East Coast music scene was rapid – performing with O’Brien, recording and touring extensively with Juno Award-winning songwriter Amelia Curran, and appearing at festivals with Curran and East Coast songwriter Don Brownrigg. It was while working with Curran that, in many ways, Allan’s own dreams of a musical career were really solidified as well.
It was also on a UK tour that they realized the direction their collaboration was taking. The appreciation shown by UK audiences bolstered the pair’s sense of purpose. Their music began to evolve to represent both of their sensibilities, skills and sounds.
“It’s been such a long time coming for me in my life,” explained Allan, considering where she is at in her musical journey these days. “It really excites me getting up on stage every night. I didn’t think I could do it, so to prove to yourself that you can do that is definitely super fulfilling.
“The next thing that’s going to make me really excited is to record a new album. We are in the preliminary stages of preparing for that. But music is not a hard thing to be passionate about – it’s so fulfilling and it’s part of who we are. It’s really part of our DNA.”