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The one thing

TelevisionMichael HutchenceCBS Corp.Television Industry

For three months, guitarist Tim Farriss and his bandmates searched for the right person to front the mutliplatinum INXS in front of millions of TV viewers.

Holding auditions on the CBS summer reality show "Rock Star: INXS" drew criticism from angry fans who felt the late Michael Hutchence could never be replaced. But other fans around the world tuned in to watch the talented rockers who graced the stage each week.

In the end, Farriss congratulated Canadian J.D. Fortune, 32, who landed the gig of a lifetime. But a week into the band's nearly sold-out tour, our interview with J.D. was cancelled when he began cutting back on interviews to rest his voice. Instead, we touched base with the man who told the singer he was right for the band.

Why was J.D. your guy?
We heard his writing abilities, particularly when he composed ... "Pretty Vegas." But it was like I said on the show, it really was about who was right for our band. When they all have great individual talent, it was who works best with us. He was a bit of a lad, a naughty boy. That was somewhat endearing to us. [Laughs]

When did you know he was the one?
Sometimes you have to listen to other people because you can't continually look from the inside. You have to ... stand back and have a look. But we knew prior to the finale it was going to be J.D.; I'll say that.

Was it hard knowing some fans were genuinely upset by the idea of replacing Michael Hutchence?
There was a lot of negative reaction, in general, to even the process we went about choosing a singer during a television show. But, at the end of the day, all those critics seemed to have somewhat evaporated. And I think the integrity we had during the show and our whole philosophy of keeping it really honest and using the best talent available really showed through. It became obvious that we weren't really pretending to be anything we weren't or hiding anything. I feel pretty good about it all.

What's it like performing your back catalog--plus the tracks off your latest album, "Switch"--with J.D.?
We're playing about half a dozen [new] songs at this point. But they just seem to meld right in with the others. And it's amazing to watch the audience sing along to all the new songs. In a way, it all just feels right. It doesn't feel like the new and the old so much.

You guys are seasoned rockers. How's it working out with this new, young guy?
It works out great. I think he takes years off us, and we're adding years on him. [Laughs] In more ways than one, too, I think, as far as experience. His learning curve at the moment is pretty awesome, and he's changing almost daily. Unfortunately, J.D. didn't get the 20 years of touring behind him like we have, but we're also able to share that experience with him. I think that's why [he's] so intense. And we're all having fun, which is the main thing, and I think it shows on stage.

Karen Budell is the metromix nightlife producer.Originally published Feb. 2, 2006.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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