CORNER BROOK Growing up in Corner Brook, Catherine Allan kept her love of playing music mostly to herself.
She would play guitar and sing away in the confines of her bedroom, but was not at all compelled to entertain an audience.
Things have certainly changed in the past couple of years. After joining in on a couple of songs during her brother’s band’s jam session, Allan began the transformation into an onstage performer.
Jamming in that band was Andrew James O’Brien. He and Allan have since become a couple that shares their lives both onstage and off.
About a year and a half ago, Allan gave up a rather comfy day job with the federal government to pursue music full time. In addition to performing with O’Brien, she spent last summer touring Canada as background accompaniment for both Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Amelia Curran of St. John’s and Don Brownrigg, a native of Codroy who is now based out of Halifax.
With those acts, Allan helped supply background vocals and also played piano and accordion.
No longer just in the background, Allan and O’Brien have now fortified the musical end of their relationship with the formation of a duo they’ve christened The Fortunate Ones. They recently released a video on YouTube for a song called “Carry On” and plan to begin recording their first full-length album together in February.
“Making the jump to self-employment was super frightening,” Allan said in a recent interview with The Western Star. “Fortunately, it’s been really good for me. I’ve been really busy, which is a great thing.”
Touring with Curran and Brownrigg, Allan got to play some larger folk festivals. She met some well-know artists — Steve Earle, Charles Bradley, Hayden, to name a few — and a whole network of folks whose acquaintance may come in handy as The Fortunate Ones forge a name for themselves.
O’Brien is already fairly well-known locally for the music he has created. Allan is looking forward to being a part of establishing themselves together as The Fortunate Ones.
“It’s not an easy industry to be in,” she said. “Right now, we’re looking for opening slots that would be really ideal for us to get exposure to bigger crowds. There’s a huge amount of competition for that kind of thing.”
There are already some good signs. The Fortunate Ones recently announced three upcoming performances at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s for Feb. 7, 8 and 10 and all three shows sold out in a matter of days. The YouTube version of “Carry On” garnered around 11,000 views in the first few days after it was posted and was closing in on 12,000 after a week.
“I can’t believe the good response we’ve gotten,” said Allan.
Last week, they announced they will be coming to Corner Brook for a show at Swirsky’s on Valentine’s Day. It will be a return for O’Brien too, who kickstarted his own musical career while studying at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University.
Allan and O’Brien hope The Fortunate Ones will create their own good luck after they record their album. Allan said they have around 15 tracks ready to record, even though the tunes will continue to be finely tuned right up until the first day they hit the studio.
In fact, even “Carry On” will be re-recorded when they go to the studio to do the album.
“I feel super confident in our new material,” said Allan.
While the songs are mostly O’Brien’s, Allan has made a lot of contributions in terms of instrumentation, melodies and arrangements of the new material.
“I have written a couple of songs myself, but I’m not satisfied with them enough to put them on the album,” she said. “It just feels good to be able to contribute and seeing the songs taking shape is really fun.”
The Fortunate Ones will be joined by Matthew Byrne and opening the show will be Corner Brook’s own Emma Peckford. Tickets for the feb. 14 show are available at Brewed Awakening and Brewed on Bernard.