J.D. Fortune Thought He Failed His ‘Rock Star: INXS’ Audition

J.D. Fortune, whose life changed when he became INXS’ new singer after winning a TV contest, recalled thinking he’d failed the first audition.

His music career was flailing when he applied for Rock Star: INXS in 2005, along with over 50,000 other hopefuls. In a new interview with Rolling Stone the singer told of how he came close to dropping out long before filming began.

“The first day, my guitar player didn’t show up,” Fortune said. “It was horrific, just brutal. One of the producers of the show had a microphone. He goes, ‘Are you OK up there?’ I went, ‘I’m just going to sing a capella because my guy’s not here.’ And he’s like, ‘You’re gonna sing without a guitar? OK.’”

He continued: “I started singing. Then I said, ‘Have you ever had a nightmare you can’t wake up from?’ And then I put the mic back onto the stand. I walked out the door like everyone else. And I’m not kidding you, I was about 20 feet from my car, and out comes the producer running towards me. He’s got a piece of paper with an invitation to come back the next day for further auditions. He said, ‘Yeah, I have had a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I’ll see you tomorrow.’”

Fortune had to go through a similar experience the following day. “I got up there and they said, ‘Are you going to do this again?’ I said, ‘I don’t have anybody to play guitar.’ [INXS members] Kirk Pengilly and Tim Farriss were in the audience for the audition process. Kirk stood up, walked up to the guy behind me who had an acoustic guitar, and he said, ‘Can I borrow this, mate?’”

After a quick discussion, Fortune and Pengilly performed INXS track “Never Tear Us Apart.” “So there’s Kirk up there playing the song,” Fortune recalled. “I sang it. All I remember is him giving the guy the guitar back, and that guy was looking at me like, ‘Fuck you, man.’ He was so pissed that one of the band members got up and played. I thought, ‘OK, well, that’s a novelty. Maybe he’s doing that for everybody.’ But it turns out that not one band member did that for any of the other 50,000 people that tried out.”

Fortune went on to secure the position of Michael Hutchence’s replacement, although he admitted it wasn’t an easy experience to immediately start work on 2005 album Switch. “I won the show, got into the van, and there was literally a sheet of paper with letterhead on it on the coffee table of this place they rented for me… It was like, ‘Hey, congratulations. We love you. You’re the right choice. You’ll be in the studio tomorrow at 8 a.m.’”

The studio was the first time he found himself alone with his new colleagues. “It was in Westlake Studios, which is where Michael Jackson recorded Thriller. So that was huge. I’m singing in the same booth that Michael Jackson recorded in. … It was just the six of us. It was like a dream come true.”

He added: “They say, ‘Don’t meet your heroes.’ But I’m glad I did, because those guys changed my life for the better. Without them, without that band, I wouldn’t have had any of the exposure that I had, and wouldn’t get to experience what it’s like to co-write with arguably some of the greatest songwriters in the business.”

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