It took a few months for INXS to name J.D. Fortune their new singer on "Rock Star: INXS," but it was actually love at first sight.
"When we first saw him, I thought the guy was an absolute gem," drummer Jon Farriss confessed during a recent studio session for Switch, released Tuesday (see "INXS Insist Finding J.D. Was An 'Organic' Process, Think 'Angels Got Together' ").
Still, Fortune nearly blew it. His performances earned mostly rave reviews, but he more or less became the token reality-show jerk, or at least was portrayed as such.
"Everything there was to worry about, we worried about it," Farriss said when asked about Fortune's attitude. "But as each week unfolded there were sort of different feelings to different singers and some started to grow and some interesting people sort of dropped and just couldn't keep up. But the whole way, J.D. was sort of chug-a-chug [imitating a train], here it comes.
"TV's a funny little world," he added. "I mean, you can cut things to look any way you like."
Although Farriss defends him now, Fortune is the first to admit he was very uncool during the show.
"Really everybody on that show taught me to see things using my peripheral," Fortune explained. "I was very much focused on becoming a part of INXS from the very beginning to the very end and for the rest of life ... so that's where my heart was at, my mind and my body were kind of going, 'Well, maybe I have to do this 'cause there's this guy who does it this way, and she sings like this and he sings like that.' And I had to forget all that and just be myself again. And I was trying to do the 'Oh, I'm in Hollywood, check me out, check me out,' and meanwhile I just needed to be myself."
Now that he's won, Fortune's taken that attitude with him, not trying to change INXS to become something else, but to make honest music together.
"I'm an INXS fan, and I think that the television show was set up perfectly. But let's not forget that this is INXS out here, this is on a global level, live performances connecting with music, and to make those same sort of connections through a record has to be really genuine because people see through B.S.," he explained. "And the reason why INXS is INXS is because they are genuine. And I believe that if you're honest about what you are doing you'll find your own audience or they'll find you, because people love something that's genuine."
Although most of the material was written before he joined the band, Fortune co-wrote three of the 11 tracks on Switch, including first single "Pretty Vegas." The album is a mix of '80s-inspired dance rock and tender ballads dedicated to late singer Michael Hutchence and his daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.
"It's a combination of some really fun songs — 'cause we're about celebrating the good sides of life — with a couple of really very special songs lyrically, very poignant," Farriss said. "I think we're gonna reclaim a lot of stuff that's ours, that combination of some wonderful rhythms, rock fills, a bit of Motown in there and just great melodies."
Switch is INXS' first album since 1997's Elegantly Wasted and first without Hutchence, hence the title.
"INXS has always had a sort of knack for ambiguity and wordplay; I mean the name 'INXS' right there is a wordplay," Farriss said. "And Switch has a few meanings. Clearly we've switched singers and switched into a whole new millennium."
Also released Tuesday is "Rock Star: INXS - The DVD," which features highlights from the show, including Fortune's versions of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'," the Box Tops' "The Letter" and Pink Floyd's "Money," as well as his first concert with INXS, which included "Suicide Blonde," "Need You Tonight," "Never Tear Us Apart," "Don't Change" and "Pretty Vegas." Bonus material includes casting interviews and a too-hot-for-TV section featuring Fortune's birthday bash, where he strolled the house covered only in birthday cake.