As tenor singer with the Statler Brothers from 1982-2002, Jimmy Fortune can walk past a plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame with his name and likeness on it. He admits that it's still somewhat of a surreal feeling. "It's still unreal to me because I have to pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it's real," he said of the group's induction in 2008. "It's something that you know is not of your doing, but the good Lord just happened to shine down on you and do you a big favor in your life," he said.
The highly-respected singer has just released his fifth solo album since the Statlers' retirement, "Lessons." Produced by Mike Rogers, Fortune admits that it has somewhat of a different sound than some of his past solo work.
"This album was a labor of love," he said. "Mike and I put the songs together, and if it wasn't right, we went back and re-wrote. We made sure everything fit with what we were doing. We wanted it to be an album that you could put alongside of a disc by Carrie Underwood, and it would sound just as good," he said, pausing a moment and saying "I don't sing as good as her, but that's ok."
One of the highlights of the album is the moving "At Least I'm Feeling Again." Fortune said "It had been written years ago, and when we heard that song, and when it hit the chorus, we just wondered how it fell through anyone's hands. He said 'Everyone has passed on it.' I said 'I'm not. I can tell you that.' Vocally, it's a little challenging, so I could sink my teeth into it."
Believe it or not, Fortune - who penned many of the Statlers' biggest hits of the 80s, didn't write much until he joined the group. "After I was with the Statlers, I had a little time on my hands to write. I remember going to the guys, and saying 'If I wrote a song, would you guys record it?' Harold said 'Yeah, little buddy, if it's good enough.' Then, 'Elizabeth' was the first song I ever wrote. I see where God had his hand on me."
After the Statlers retired, Fortune decided to raise his stakes and move his family to Nashville, where he has made a name for himself as a co-writer. "I knew the talent was here. You can do more by accident in Nashville than you can do anywhere else on purpose."
Fortune has stayed on the road constantly since 2002, and occasionally teams up with bluegrass superduo Dailey & Vincent for concerts. "We have a lot of fun, and hopefully I've helped their career as they have helped mine."
One song that should strike a chord with his fans is "The Family." Taken from the point of view of an unborn child, Fortune admits the song moved him. "Tom played the song for me a few years ago, and I cried when I heard it. It hit me square in the heart. What I love the most about it is that it's not a preachy song, but it's about a couple that made a choice. I cried my eyeballs out because without having those children, we wouldn't have the sounds of them laughing and playing, and life continuing on. It hit home to me, and I think it will for other people. It was a must on my list to put on this album."