EMSU Media had the pleasure of chatting with Jacksonville rockers Fortune Child about their music and their thoughts and stories about their journey so far. Listen to and read the entire interview with vocalist Christian Powers, bassist Jon Ward, guitarist Buddy Crump, and drummer Melanie Jo below.
EM: Starting off with a couple typical press questions, so first one – what’s the story behind your band name? You started off as Danger Bird and decided to change it to a better name after your producer mentioned changing it. (I laughed when I heard the Neil Young tribute band joke he made.) But what exactly made you decide on Fortune Child?
Buddy: Well, the name Danger Bird was going to have to be changed because our producer said there was going to be a problem. There’s a lot of new young cover bands named Danger Bird, so we bounced a couple names back and forth for about a month. The name Fortune Child, I thought about that one because there’s some hidden meanings in there. But, really, it’s just a universal, positive name…something uplifting.
EM: I can agree with that one, for sure.
Buddy: Yeah, ‘cause the music is so raw, and it’s a lot of hard, heavy rock and roll stuff. So the oxymoron with the name is a cool thing.
EM: Another typical one here…I know you guys have listed Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice in Chains, and The Black Crowes before as influences. Give us a few more artists that were most fundamental to each of you as budding musicians/the sound of the band overall. Who ignited the spark that made you know this was what you wanted to do with your life?
Christian: There’s a lot of things. I think we kind of have I would say a mix of old, vintage stuff like the bands that you mentioned mixed with some more modern stuff that we grew up with. For me, in addition to those old bands, it was the early 2000s rock like Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine, Tool, stuff like that. The Mars Volta was a big one for me – Mel, too. This was all part of our desire to blend those two sounds of old rock mixed with early 2000s sound.
EM: What kinds of other instruments or musical training do you each have in your backgrounds, if any?
Christian: I think three of us (me less than the other two) have jazz backgrounds a little bit. I know obviously John Melville. I played in the jazz band in high school. I started on drums; drums is my first instrument. I migrated from drums to guitar. I sang my whole life, and this is the first band that I was a frontman without an instrument. That was a bit of a leap and learning curve for me, but I’m really enjoying it. I think a lot of the background does help. There are a lot of cool nuances and things you can pull out of other genres of music to create what we’re doing right now.
Jon: For me, I went to college for jazz trumpet. (I made a little bit of a detour.) I studied classical music and jazz for years in high school and college. And I still play some of that stuff on gigs, but that whole time I also have this love for more visceral music and for rock, stuff like that. So, for me, I’ve always had those two sides – that music that is more nerdy/school-inspired, but that doesn’t totally do it for me. I always have to come back to the straight-up rock and roll. That’s what lets me get everything out.
EM: I already know that you guys met mostly through networking online. Christian and John, you knew each other in person already, correct?
Jon: Yeah, we had been in a previous band together a few years ago…really, up until 2020. So it was only about a year after that Christian brought me into this.
EM: Awesome. So, since navigating a new band dynamic is hard enough when there isn’t a whole lot of craziness and unusual circumstances going on in the world like there has been the last couple years, what would you guys say have been the biggest challenges or pleasant surprises you’ve discovered through this process?
Melanie: I kind of think, in an odd way, the pandemic helped this a little bit because, while everyone was locked up, I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and then I ended up here [Jacksonville] because L.A. locked down. We had this time to get everything together, and I think, if it wasn’t for the fact that everything was shut down, we couldn’t have had that time to practice and write out the songs. That’s how me and Buddy met was because we were both locked down and we started writing songs. We found John and Christian, so it was this quiet time to get together and focus.
Christian: For me, John and I were in Capacity (the band prior to Fortune Child), and that ended the very first weekend everything shut down. (It was actually St. Patrick’s Day – two years ago today, basically.) We had just released an EP, had an awesome show, and then everything was gone. So we, basically, stopped playing in that band. Everyone figured out what they were going to do from there since we weren’t really playing music.
Then Buddy hit me up in December of last year or the year before, I guess , and he was like, “Hey! Let’s get together; I want to get together and start writing. I’ve heard you sing before. I think you would be perfect. Mel and I have all these ideas.” It was the perfect opportunity for at least me, at the time. Like I was itching to be back in a band. If I had been in a normal circumstance, like how I was normally gigging at the time, I might have been like “Oh, I don’t know if I have the time to really dive into something like that.” So it really was a blessing in disguise.
EM: Melanie, I know your parents live there in Jacksonville; you were living in LA pre-pandemic and working with some awesome names in rock as a hired musician (Slash, Nancy Wilson, Billy Gibbons, and Robert Randolph to list a few). Could you give us a comparison of your experiences living and working in both places? How has each place complemented your lifestyle and aspirations?
Melanie: L.A. has a really great rock scene. A lot of people think rock is dead and rock music is dying. But, if you go to L.A., it’s like rock scenes all over the place. You can go to any bar on the Strip, and there’s always a great rock and roll band playing. But the interesting part is now, when you come down south, it’s kind of similar. I think a lot of people don’t know about what’s going on down here because we’ve got bands like The Georgia Thunderbolts in Georgia, and then you have Them Dirty Roses up in Nashville. So there’s also this cool thing down in the south going on.
As far as a comparison, I love living in L.A. I thought the music scene was great. It gave me lots of opportunities. If I never went to L.A., I probably would have never worked with Billy or Slash or Nancy; so that’s a really great thing about Los Angeles. But, because of the shutdown, a lot of musicians that were in L.A. slowly started moving to Nashville because everyone was out of work, and no one had anything to do. So that’s why it started creating this whole other thing that is happening in Nashville where a lot of rock musicians are working in Nashville. Both areas are great. I love Los Angeles; I love the mountains, the beach, the ocean…there is so much to do. But I also love it here in Jax, and I never would have met Buddy or John or Christian if the lockdown didn’t happen. I’m thankful for living in both places.
EM: You touched on something, too, because I was about to ask if you have run into issues where you have not had many like-minded/like-genre acts to network with so far in the south. But it sounds like that hasn’t been such a problem.
Melanie: Yeah, no. I think the south is cool because it does venture into southern rock (especially in Jacksonville). So Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers are definitely a staple here. But all that music is great. There is also a great jam band scene down south, which is really cool. As far as like-mindedness, I think you find it in both areas; it’s just finding people who like the same music you do and that you vibe well with.
EM: Earlier I mentioned your debut album producer, and that’s Kevin Elson. Europe – “The Final Countdown”, Journey – “Frontiers”, Mr. Big – “Lean into It” ---- those are significant album credentials. Tell us the story of how you got that collaboration opportunity and your experience together.
Buddy: We cut a demo at a studio called NFS Jon Ward hooked us up with – phenomenal studio. I mean, we got a great-sounding demo, and we were just starting to cut our teeth on recording music. And our manager Brandon, a huge, significant role in our decision-making and stuff like that – we just really sat down and talked about “We need someone significant to come in and really help us out.” We reached out to a guy named David Frangioni (that’s the CEO of a magazine called Modern Drummer), and he really liked it. It’s just a blessing that that guy even responded to us. So he liked it and sent it right over to Kevin. He was like “Hey, man. Kevin’s going to call you in a little bit.” We were like, “Oh, wow! Can we meet up with him and talk about what we’re going for and stuff?” And we surely did a week later.
He is just the most down-to-earth guy, super musical and inspirational – someone you just want on your side as far as music. He thinks about the consumer. He thinks about more than just what your average listener wants, which is something beautiful. I mean, that’s what he’s done his whole career; he’s made a living off that. His track record is amazing, he has so much history. He was on the Skynyrd plane crash and survived that. The knowledge, the history, and just the vibe of him is super inspirational. If you’re a musician and want to be inspired, Kevin Elson is the guy who’s really done it all as far as music. We’re blessed that he likes us and likes the band. The album, we mixed it at Dave Frangioni’s place in south Florida. Those guys are on our team, and it’s a miracle.
EM: Talk to us about your songwriting and recording process since every band does it differently. Is it an equally whole band collaboration, or are there usually a couple key players who take the reins? Any keys/arrangements that are go-tos, lyrical themes you particularly enjoy experimenting with, etc.?
Christian: Basically, the process is as such: we show up to practice, Buddy has four riffs (he is the riff factory), and Mel and Buddy will essentially have the drums and guitar mapped out. So we all get together and it’s like, “Okay, let’s check this one out.” He’ll play one, play another one, play another one, and we’ll kind of pick “Oh, yeah. We actually like that one the best.” From there, Jon steps in. They start throwing down bass lines.
For me, depending on whichever one we hear and we like, I’ll just have them play it over and over and over again, and I write lyrics on the spot. I’m not much of an at home, journal kind of guy. I like to hear it and let that influence me – like however my day is going or whatever’s going on outside or inside the jam room, that’s what helps me come up with lyrical content. I like the fact that it’s real in that moment. It’s right in that moment, and it captures something very real to me lyrically and just musically. It really makes for a cool combo.
That’s basically the writing process for us, and it happens fairly quickly…a lot faster than any other band I’ve been in, which is really neat. So we’ve just been pumping out songs. I mean, we just released the album a while ago, but we’re already on our way to another one. We haven’t touched or scratched the surface of getting into the studio right now or anything yet, so it’s pretty neat. It’s definitely special; it’s a lightning in a bottle situation, so we’re trying not to mess it up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’re just going to continue on this path.
EM: You must describe your band to someone discovering you in five words. What would your response be?
Christian: I would call it vintage modern, or like modern classic rock.
Jon [to Christian]: Five.
Christian: Hard-hitting modern classic rock. There you go!
EM: You get to go out on a dream run with three other modern rock bands who are also keeping the rock torch alive. Who would you bring with you and why? No oldies!
Jon: I would have to say Dirty Honey. I like Rival Sons a lot.
Christian: I think both of those are good.
Melanie: Greta [Van Fleet]?
Christian: Greta would be cool for the draw. Greta would be cool because we’d get to play arenas.
Buddy: Those kids have so much great stuff. I just really appreciate everything they’ve done.
Jon: They kind of broke it open.
Buddy: They broke it open, and all these bands came flooding in. There’s just some amazing bands out there – Joyous Wolf…Wolfmother is actually a badass one. A lot of bands in this new wave market of rock, it is a throwback. Nowadays, if anything is vintage, it’s considered cool, which is a dream for me. There’s another great band called Goodbye June. Blacktop Mojo is a fantastic rock band.
EM: I was going to ask if there is anything cool coming up music-wise, but it sounds like you guys are working toward that second album and not quite there yet. Is there anything else coming up for you guys that you can talk about?
Christian: Yeah, that’s on the back burner for sure. What we’re doing right now is just focusing on shows. We’ve got one this weekend [March 19, 2022]. We actually won a slot through Planet Radio and iHeartRadio to play The Great Atlantic Southern Rock Revival, and that’s happening in Jacksonville. That’s happening Saturday, March 19, and The Georgia Thunderbolts are headlining. We’ve been lucky enough to be in touch with those guys. They are big fans of our music, which is really cool. They are really excited to play a show with us, and we’re definitely very excited to play a show with them.
Then I think we’ve got four shows coming up in April. One’s happening in Jacksonville, one’s happening in Orlando, one in Gainesville. Another one might be in North Florida or could be in Georgia, too. We have to work some things out, but definitely trying to get out there and break in new crowds because I think that’s where we do best. The transparency and authenticity of this band is what really keeps the wheels turning, so I think that, when we get in front of people, it’s awesome. We do great with followers after that, we sell a lot of merch. So trying to roll that route, see how that goes.
Jon: I think we’re hoping to do some touring later this year. Dates aren’t solidified yet, but that’s our goal for the second half of the year is to be on the road as much as we can.
EM: Promote yourself before we go. Tell everybody where they can find you to listen to your music and say hi!
Christian: Check us out on Spotify, Apple Music, any streaming digital platforms. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter – fortunechildmusic is where you can find all that. Definitely give us a “follow”, a “like”, subscribe on YouTube. We’ve got a music video out for “Don’t Shoot Me Down”. Incredible video that we shot in the space that we write all of our music in, which is really, really cool. Definitely check that out on YouTube. Trying to get those follows up and get people on the train! That’s all we’re trying to do.
EM: Thanks so much for taking the time out, guys. Hopefully I'll be able to talk to you again soon when album number two rolls around!
Thank you so much! Absolutely, sounds good.