Newfoundland’s Fortunate Ones stopped by the Cairns Recital Hall in St. Catharines’ new Performing Arts Centre on November 7 to share their fresh energy, and intricate harmonies with an excited audience.
This fresh, indie-folk act breathes new life into the East Coast folk sound with shared vocal duties, eclectic instruments, and a drive for musical exploration.
Over the course of their journey together, music and life partners, Andrew James O’Brien and Catherine Allan have evolved from a small town folk band to an award-winning, chart-topping force. The Fortunate Ones took home a handful of awards at MusicNL earlier this month including “Album of the Year” and “Songwriter of the Year”, and have also been named as Finalists for the inaugural Allan Slaight Juno Masterclass.
The pair’s famous origin story states that O’Brien had heard Allan perform with her brother in downtown St. John’s one night in 2010, and it was in that moment he knew he had to sing with her. He worked up some courage and wrote her a note the next day and within 48 hours, the two were singing together.
O’Brien was originally a solo act, with Allan as part of his backing band on the 2011 album Songs for Searchers. In 2013, the duo decided to record music together, resulting in their newest album The Bliss.
“We released our first album, called The Bliss, in February on Rose Cousins label, Old Farm Pony Records. It’s still not even a year old, so it’s kind of like a baby just learning to walk,” says Allan. “We’re really proud of it and happy about what it’s done since its release. You never know what will happen when you release an album. It could flop, or it could do really well, so I think we’ve found a nice middle ground where people are listening and people are coming out to shows. We’re elated.”
Allan cites “Someday Love” as her favourite song off the album, because of its layers and stylistic difference from other songs on The Bliss, while O’Brien says his favourite is “A Light Will Come”, for its warm sound and the presence of a mellotron keyboard.
When listening to the album, it is clear that a lot of hard work and passion was put into it. Each song oozes with soul and elicits a feeling of connection; I felt like I had known the pair for years after just one listen. It’s as though O’Brien and Allan are letting you in on a personal secret through their music.
The pair received a warm welcome this past Saturday from St. Catharines concert-goers, who provided excited applause and laughs throughout the show.
“This is part of a larger tour of Ontario that we’ve been doing and we’re playing in mostly smaller centres compared to Toronto or Ottawa,” said Allan. “We didn’t know what to expect when we signed on to do the tour and the support from Ontario has been so incredible and shocking in a great way.”
O’Brien added, “The audiences make it pretty impossible not to get uplifted for a show. We’ve been on the road since mid-October, so it’s a long time to be away and living out of the hotels and driving a lot, but it’s never lost on us how amazing this is to do, and how grateful we are for the fans and the audiences that come out. That definitely refuels the tanks every night. We just go out there and throw it all out at them and it’s been great. We’ve sold out in St. Catharines and it’s amazing. We’ve never played here before. It’s super cool and encouraging to be coming to these new towns every night and to see sold out rooms. On the best nights you’re able to go out there and make really meaningful connections with the people that are coming out.”
The second act to play in the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre Cairns Recital Hall, the group’s harmonies echoed beautifully during their performance, a true treat to hear live. As well, the recital hall’s acoustics added an enjoyable layer to the show, as you could perfectly hear each of the different instruments during each song, allowing for an appreciation of the music.
Both Allan and O’Brien actively interacted with the crowd throughout their set, making jokes, and telling anecdotes, truly attesting to their desire for audience connection. This interaction made the concert so intimate, heightening the experience, as it felt like you were hanging out with old friends for a couple hours of music.
On a tour that involves so much travelling, the duo is in a unique position considering that they are not only music partners, but romantic partners as well.
“It’s flawless! Not a hiccup,” quipped O’Brien about life on the road with Allan.
“I think anyone in a relationship can agree that it can be really challenging travelling with your partner, and it is from time to time,” remarked Allan. “Airports are not the most fun place anymore and that can be challenging. Luckily, we work really well together so we’ve learned to compromise. It’s about compromise and about making the other person feel comfortable.”
In the future, Fortunate Ones still have quite a bit of travel and tour dates left to come.
“We’re doing a couple of holiday shows at home in St. John’s on December 10, 11, 12, then we’re doing one in Corner Brook, my hometown, and then coming back to Toronto on December 19 and doing a show put on by Massey Hall called ‘An East Coast Christmas’,” says Allan. “After we’ll take a couple weeks off, and then head back out at the end of January for some more touring.”
If Saturday night’s crowd reaction was any indication, Fortunate Ones can look forward to an exciting year of shows and success. The duo are clearly loved from coast to coast, and their future looks bright.
To all fans of The Fortunate Ones out there, the pair shared some facts about themselves that most people don’t know; Allan is a die-hard Christmas junkie, while O’Brien is not ashamed to admit that he loves Taylor Swift’s most recent album, 1989.
For more information about Fortunate Ones check them out online at fortunateones.ca
Assistant Arts & Life Editor