“I don’t know what’s special about me, I just want people to dig what I’m doing,” says nineteen-year-old singer Robert Fortune. Coming from a blues background—his mentor is venerable Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top—his Robert Fortune Band is a distinct form of the harder, rockier side of the blues. Jack White may have cornered the market with his project The Dead Weather, but Fortune has the goods to be viable. Fortune Band bassist Zach O’Rourke exclaims emphatically, “Rob has this thing, when he picks up a guitar whether it’s in a recording studio or hanging with friends, people immediately stop and they listen. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just something about the way he plays. People listen and they want to hear it.”
The blues as a genre at large has struggled to connect with modern audiences unless tinged with a spark of contemporary alternative sound. Its curious absence from our culture not withstanding, even though he doesn’t consider himself a blues musician, the appeal of the style isn’t lost on Fortune. He states, “I guess that people are so much used to sonically how good music sounds nowadays. I don’t know if they can grasp old recordings—I mean I love that stuff. I would love to show people Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Lightning Hopkins, I love all those guys.” But now Fortune strives for a harder sound explaining, ” I used to play these records as I learned, and gradually got into rock, newer stuff. I’m really big into White Stripes right now and Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been getting into The Dead Weather a lot, Them Crooked Vultures, Stereophonics actually. They’re from the U.K.”
In addition to bassist O’Rourke, the trio is rounded out by drummer Mike Snyder. While Fortune’s mentor may be Gibbons, Snyder says he has one too but that it’s one a little removed from him personally. He says, “Not [one] that I personally know. We’re all musicians in one way shape or form, we’re all thieves. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. There is a drummer called Will Hunt that I adore—that guy’s awesome—he plays for Evanescence. I would consider that guy my mentor right now.”
Digging further into their influences reveals much of their affinity for heavier music. O’Rourke details, “I grew up listening to either The Beatles or AC/DC. When I wasn’t listening to The Beatles I was listening to AC/DC. When I wasn’t listening to AC/DC I was listening to The Beatles. Pantera is my favorite band of all time. I absolutely adore Pantera. Alice Cooper too.”
Fortune may still be pre-twenty years of age, but he’s no stranger to gigs, having played SXSW three times already. Has the age difference ever been a challenge trying to break into music? Fortune says, “It is a little intimidating seeing all these bands out here. ‘What makes us so special?’ It’s very intimidating, but you just gotta look past it. Everyone’s thinking the same thing, you got to have the right mindset I guess.”
The three members all have a chipper enthusiasm in their presence. Each seems eager to explain their viewpoint and personal musical philosophy. There’s an unpretentious nature and down-to-Earth friendliness about them that is refreshing. It’s a nuance that is apparent in their music as well.
For now, as they continue to tour around the US and build up their fanbase their plan is to complete full-length material. Fortune finishes by saying, “We’re trying to write more material. We’re going to release a single. We’re going to release an album in the end of June sometime.”