Tonight's launch of INXS's world tour behind their new album, Switch, in Vancouver, is quite literally a dream come true for Canadian singer JD Fortune, who landed the gig fronting the veteran, multi-platinum Australian rockers by winning the reality TV show Rock Star: INXS in September.
Just days before Fortune headed off to Los Angeles from Toronto to take part in the series — one of fifteen original contestants from around the globe — he told this reporter of a dream he had many years ago that he would one day front his favorite band, INXS.
There was no swaying the guy that he might not get to succeed the dynamic Michael Hutchence, INXS's late frontman. Reminded now of that conversation, Fortune says, "In my heart, to be honest, I knew. I just needed to get my mind and my body going in the same direction."
When he first appeared on the television show, his confidence bordered on arrogance, his strategies seemed devious, and even his onstage mannerisms were over the top — including rock & roll no-no Number One: crotch-grabbing. Of course, Fortune never got to see or hear of how his antics came across. "We had no TV, no phones, no newspapers, no radio," he explains.
"I must say that in the early stages of the series, I hated him," laughs INXS guitarist/saxophonist Kirk Pengilly. "I thought, 'There's no way that guy's gonna be our frontperson!' But we discovered that he's not really like that."
The turning point for Fortune was his bold denouncement of a song he was supposed to work on with two other contestants but did not like the direction it was heading. Instead, he left the clinic and wrote a little number called "Pretty Vegas," with guitarist/keyboardist Andrew Farriss, which was eventually selected as the first single from Switch and has become a hit.
The day after an emotional Fortune fell to his knees before the televised audience when told he was "right" for INXS, the singer began working on the new album, which had been scheduled for an immoveable street date of November 29th.
While he had been holed up in a Hollywood mansion with the rest of the hopefuls during the series taping, the surviving members of INXS — rounded out by guitarist Tim Farriss, drummer Jon Farriss, and bassist Garry Beers — were tracking the album with producer Guy Chambers (Robbie Williams, Andrea Bocelli) at L.A.'s Westlake Studios, the same intimate facility seen on the TV show.
Fortune ended up co-writing three tracks for Switch — "Pretty Vegas," "Devil's Party" (another co-write with Andrew) and "Never Let You Go" (with Jon).
"JD's participation in the songwriting is amazing, considering that we had very little time to record the album," says Andrew. "We knew that whoever was going to front INXS would need to be somebody who was not only a great singer but an entertainer, a communicator, somebody who could reach out to people and touch people, and JD is doing that."