It’s a story that seems more likely to be written by Cameron Crowe than witnessed in reality. a story so fantastic you want to question the validity of every point.
Every bit, however, is true. “I’m kind of still in shock about it,” robert Fortune, guitar player and lead vocalist for the robert Fortune band, said when discussing the whirlwind career he experienced all before turning 18-years-old. “i didn’t even play the guitar until i was around 13-years old…i didn’t know why people liked us so much.”
While attending Mandeville Junior High School, Fortune was not dreaming of a rock star lifestyle. He was just a fun loving kid who was propelled toward it after a very unfortunate accident. an accident that now seems fated.
“i was at a Halloween party,” he recalled. “i remember my friends and i ran outside and i shut the sliding glass door behind me, but i forgot that i did that at the time. i turned around and went running back to the door, and went straight through the plate glass window.”
For two months he was confined to a hospital bed due to that moment. When his recovery time began so too did he unknowingly begin a career in music. That’s due to a visit from a family friend who came by to visit with a gift that would end up changing his life.
“Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top, guitar player] is like my Godfather and he had given me a guitar right around the same time the accident happened,” Fortune explained. “He brought the guitar to the hospital and told me not to play video games all day, but to learn how to play it instead.
“i didn’t put it down the whole time i was in the hospital,” he added. “Then, after i recovered, i just didn’t stop. i stared a band with my buddies in middle school and began writing songs. By the time i was 15-years-old, i was signed by interscope-Geffen records.”
just two years after he picked up a guitar for the first time in his life, Fortune was scouted by two record labels, eventually signing with Geffen. Every contract comes with a little bonus attached, however, the one that appealed most to Fortune wasn’t the one given out by record execs.
“mMy dad told me that if i got signed before i got to high school, i didn’t have to go and could be home schooled instead. i hated school at the time,” Fortune said with a laugh. “it was a couple months before i was about to start high school and that’s when he made the deal with me. i’m sure he thought that it would never happen, but then all of a sudden it did, and there was even a little bidding war because Warner Brother was interested in us, too.”
Within a year, the robert Fortune Band was recording an album, touring across the nation, and doing all the things for which most musicians only dream. fortune first starteD WritinG Music in MiDDle scHool...by tHe tiMe He Was 15, He Was siGneD to a MaJor label.
“i remember thinking ‘why is this happening to me?’ But it was awesome!” Shortly after signing with the label, in 2007, Fortune’s family connection to ZZ Top afforded him the opportunity of a lifetime.
“When ZZ Top was inducted to the Grammy chapter in austin, Texas, we played a couple songs for that,” Fortune recalled with an “oh by the way” tone. “We had to play a couple of ZZ Top songs in front of ZZ Top! my drummer was throwing up back stage. it was the most nerve wracking thing i’ve ever had to do.” keep in mind that he was only 16-years-old at the time.
“We have video recorded of it, actually, but i can’t even watch it,” he added with a laugh.
The performance was enough to gain major attention from the band. The robert Fortune Band was then recruited as the opening act for a three month tour with ZZ Top.
They performed each night to sold out arenas across the nation.
“it freaks me out still because i was just in shock the whole time,” Fortune, who is genuinely humble and does not flaunt the experience in any sort of way, recalled. “it’s crazy because i try to remember back to that and it feels like forever ago.”
But with every great rise comes a fall. not long after hype over the band became notable, Geffen records dropped The robert Fortune Band. Since then, the three piece rock group has witnessed more than one rotation of members. The current lineup, however, is one that seems the most solid since its formation.
“Everything fell into place, almost,” he said about the current roster. “it just feels right.
You can tell we’re all feeling it.”
The robert Fortune Band is completed by Zach O’rourke (bass) and Garrett Whitlock (drums). Because Whitlock is a former member returned, O’rourke is the newest recruit, having joined a little over a year ago. Originally from Canada, O’rourke decided to take on the project and make new Orleans his permanent home.
“Our old roadie was touring with the band L.a. Guns in Toronto, and he became friends with Zack, who was playing in a band that was opening for them,” Fortune recalled. “When we started looking for a new bass player, Cody, our old roadie, brought Zack’s name up.
“i would have never in a million years thought about having a Canadian bass player,” he added. “i just gave him a call and he was the nicest guy. He came down here and tried out, and as soon as he started playing it was like, ‘yeah, this is the guy.’” Whitlock is also a transplant. Based originally in Orlando, Florida, he joined the group after being suggested to Fortune through a music producer for which they were mutually acquainted.
“He was super hesitant at first,” Fortune said. “He had just gotten out of a major band that broke up, so he wasn’t too interested in joining another. We sent him one of our songs and he really liked it and then decided to come try out.”
After joining the band, Whitlock left for a short period, but recently returned.
“We left on good terms the first time, and now it’s almost like a new beginning.”
Starting fresh seems to be the key to the current phase in the robert Fortune Band’s saga. just weeks ago the band set out for nashville to record an independently produced EP.
“it’s a seven song EP, and we’re calling it ‘Seven.’ We’re going to sell it for $7,” Fortune detailed when explaining the new EP. “We’re working with this new producer Bryan Virtue [Deftones, Chevelle, 30 Seconds to mars, audio Slave]. He’s amazing.
“We’re shooting to release it in november,” he added. “it’s a lot more bluesy than our old stuff. i would say it’s more alternative blues.”
Until the album drops, the robert Fortune Band will continue pushing along to make more strides in the music industry. as if starting brand new, the young band is taking on the challenges of the current status of the music industry as if they’re seasoned pros.