Georgia boy Jobe Fortner talks new music and getting his start in the biz
By Derek Pastore
Staff Writer and one and done cliff jumper
Addictive, like a Friday night buzz. Top shelf songwriting. Smooth as Tennessee Whiskey voice and innovative lyrics. When conversing, he’s soft-spoken. On stage, a powerhouse. If you listen to Jobe Fortner, you will be hooked for life.
Raised Rowdy: Tell us about growing up back in Georgia. How did your family and hometown help guide you to life as a musician?
Jobe Fortner: I grew up in a church singing along to hymns. My grandmother and cousins would play and sing on stage, and it was just one of those things everyone did. You didn’t have to be good and it didn’t matter if you were bad. I think everyone just feeling the environment, room, music and love… that’s really what translates directly to what I do today! That inspired me even if I didn’t know it yet! Music is something that’s always lived in me and my family. My mom was a gospel singer, and when I was growing up she was a lot of my inspiration as a singer. I grew up listening to Dixie Chicks, Rascal Flats, Travis Tritt, The Eagles, Lynryd Skynyrd and a lot of gospel. So I come from that soulful, sing your ass off kinda stuff. Originally I’m from Dahlonega, GA but we end up moving to Monroe, GA for my step father’s job. There, it’s a little different from North GA, where blue grass and buck dancing is replaced with 95.5 the Beat and Football. I spent a lot of my life chasing the dream of being a football player and kinda lost the music. I didn’t pick it back up until I got into high school where I learned how to play guitar from my English teacher Mr. Mansour. I was really into John Mayer at the time… not like “Your Body is a Wonderland” John Mayer, but “Vultures”, “In Your Atmosphere”, “I Don’t Trust My Self” John Mayer. Really into the blues and that kinda got me into attempting to writing my first songs. I love how JM can use metaphors to explain things. Still I was chasing the football dream though. After playing four years at Monroe Area High school I earned a scholarship to play football in Emory, Virginia. I was there for about two years and met a lot of really good friends, friends that I still keep in touch with now. Those friends are the ones that are the reason I’m here doing music in Nashville today. They heard me sing for the first time and became true fans! Always telling me I need to chase my true dream… do music! I wrote some of my first songs in college and every practice, day at work, moments when I shoulda been studying I was now thinking about music. I played in a tiny dorm room almost every Saturday that was packed with students and that is what made me love it. To see people have so much fun and enjoy it… that is what made it feel not like work or anything but something I was passionate about, and so I made the choice to do it.
RR: You just signed a management deal with Make Wake. How did that come about, and what made them a great fit for you.
JF: I believe Make Wake has been a dream of Chris Kappys for a while now! I’ve known Kappy since the very first day he met Luke. My first peachtree entertainment show was with Luke and that’s the night Kappy was introduced as well. So from there I got to know Luke better and Kappy more, eventually going on the road with both of them for a year or more! Of course being on the road is not always the easiest thing but it sure does help you build relationships with those guys and I truly grew to respect Kappy and trust him. He began to mentor me from the day I moved to Nashville. I think working with Make Wake was always the place for me. It felt like home! I’ve know all the folks there sense I’ve been in this business. I’ve seen them tested, I’ve seen them achieve goals, and truly work there ass off! That’s what we do! #MakeWake
RR: Tell those that do not know about how you got your start performing live back in Georgia
JF: My very first show was in Dahlonega, GA October 18th 2014 on Gold Rush weekend. It was with Bad Habitats, a band my mom and dad grew up watching (and kinda family friends). So I met this fella from Athens named Chase Brown. Chase, a little younger than me but experienced in music business took a huge interest in me and wanted to help/play guitar! I was green as you could be – no idea how to really sing, play, entertain a crowd, nothing! After that show we started playing everywhere and anywhere for anything! Didn’t know what I was doing just knew playing a bunch of shows wasn’t the wrong thing to do. About a few months after doing that I found out about Peachtree Entertainment and was told that’s who you need to work with if you wanna take it to the next level. So me and chase started going to every single show they put on. Getting a feel for the music scene at the time in Athens, Jon Langston and Jordan Rager were the big dogs then playing the 40 Watt and other Georgia bars. They started building a platform and a fan base, so I felt I needed to do the same! After going to many, many shows shaking hands with these guys, giving them music I still couldn’t get on a show, I went up to Bradly Jordan (Peachtree Ent.) and asked him for just a chance to sing in front of him. He said yes, “be at my house Wednesday night”. So me and chase just wrote this song called “Georgia” and were super pumped about it! I probably practiced what I was gonna sing for him 100 times. So we go and I sing it and Bradley is floored by the song! He says I have a new kid coming into town his name is Luke Combs and I’m gonna put you on that show.! That’s where it really started to go from I’m gonna try this to I’m gonna make this happen. In the months to follow I would tour with Luke, opening for him every weekend watching him grow from playing for the bar tenders to playing for thousands! After a few months of that I moved to Nashville and began to try and build my name.
RR: Your new self-titled EP just released recently. Tell us about that and how you picked these songs to give to country music fans.
JF: I’ve been wanting to get music out for a long time but never really had the songs or the money to get the proper recoding done. After being in Nashville for two years now I’ve been co-writing and starting to get a feel for song writing! I was writing songs that I was happy with and that I believed represented me as an artist but I just needed to find someone that would record them and not twist it into something that the industry or whoever wanted to hear. I finally crossed paths with Grady Saxman who had a studio east of Nashville. Grady and I did some demo work together and he as really digging my style and music so after he watched me and the band live a few times we both felt inspired and ready to record the right music! So after a few months in the studio my debut EP was Born.
RR: Who is in your core group of songwriters? How did you meet them?
JF: My core group of songwriters are definitely my close friends because it is definitely more difficult to write with people if you are not comfortable with them, at least for me it is. I like to get to know people I write with so the first few times we write, I don’t want us to feel pressure to write a song, just get to know one another. If I had to list them off though my favorite co-writers are Ryan Nelson, Jordan Fletcher, Alex Maxwell, Matt Bell, Ray Fulcher, Rob Williford, Drew Parker, and Rob Snyder. I met most of these guys just from living in Nashville and being involved in the singer/songwriter scene in Midtown. The day I moved to Nashville there was a show at The Listening Room Called The Movement and my buddy Bradley Jordan said there was a fella I needed to meet and he could help me get involved in town and boy was he right. That fella was Ray Fulcher, one of the nicest most genuine people I’ve ever met. When I met Ray it was true “Big Music City” got a whole lot smaller and I felt like I knew everyone in a matter of weeks.
RR: Say someone is sending you a drink up to stage while you are performing. What is your drink of choice?
JF: Any bourbon from Bardstown, KY on the rocks.
RR: Who do you see as your biggest inspirations in country music both long term and recently?
JF: Long term inspiration: Kenny Chesney
I grew up with my mom taking me to watch Kenny every year and he always put on the best show. I love his music and all but really the live show is what inspired me the most today. I strive to do what he does!
Recent inspiration: Muscadine Bloodline
The Muscadine fellas absolutely amaze me. I have so much respect for them and what they do. They have got to be one of the hardest working teams in the business currently. I love that they stay true to themselves and the music which is something that usually gets tossed after success.
Can’t wait see what the future holds in store for them!!
RR: We know you have been going out on tour with some great acts from the start. Tell us about your shows with Whiskey Myers. How was the fan engagement out west?
JF: The west coast tour with Whiskey Myers was absolutely life changing for me. We drove 9,000 miles in a dodge mini-van with five guys across the entire country and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it my first time any other way! It would not have been possible though without Whiskey Myers and their team. They treated us like family and at the time I had some very serious family issues back home in Georgia which they had my back on the whole time, and that really meant the world to me. I could never thank them enough. The fans were on a different level then I have ever experienced before! The fans accepted us and some loved us. After shows there would be folks lined up to get a picture and an autograph or just chat, they were all so invested! I think people on the west coast respect original, new, real music and when a new artist walks on stage they don’t know they would actually listen and not want to just hear their favorite cover song but what we actually had to say! Much respect for the west coast!
RR: Give us some songs from other artists that you can’t stop listening to right now.
JF: “Lightning Bugs and Rain”- Whiskey Myers
“Numb”- Gary Clark Jr.
“Slow Burn”- Kacey Musgraves
“Pushing Up Daisies”- Brothers Osborne
RR: Give us a hidden gem or must hit spot when you come to visit music city and also one in Monroe or Atlanta
JF: Hidden gem in Nashville is Ryan Nelsons Fire Show
Hidden gem in Monroe is not a certain place necessarily but a certain route of back roads I always ride when I’m home. Takes me past some beautiful pieces of water, down some dirt roads and past some spots I raised hell in growing up, just to always remind me where I come from.
We’ve been blessed to have met, and spent some time with Jobe around town. This future star has a heart of gold and deserves everything that is inevitably coming to him. A big thanks to Jobe for sharing these experiences. Keep up with Jobe below!