Jobe Fortner. Determined.

When I first arrived at the 2022 Frank Brown Songwriters' Festival, I had to reset my bearings. Like stepping onto a massive sailing ship. The layout of the rebuilt Flora-Bama is a huge funhouse without mirrors but lots more staircases. And bars. And stages. I was heading in the general direction of upstairs when I heard a guitar and a voice and a good PA and by the time I'd wandered in and out of enough rooms the singer was just finishing up a fine tune. Based on what I'd been hearing, what I saw when I walked in was not what I was expecting. I fished out a camera and started recording.

Later, after I'd found my friends, the singer–who I now knew as Jobe Fortner–was still playing on Flora-Bama's Dome Stage. It's a party room compared to The Main Room, double-deckered with a balcony-style arena surrounding the stage and main floor. It can be intimidating, as the crowd is on three sides and three levels: down on the floor, over in the booths, up in the rafters past the bras, so you have to really throw your energy. We stood in the balcony looking down and listening to Jobe, and my accomplished songwriting friend leaned over and said, "He's paying his dues, boy. Bein' able to do that right there is how you make it in this business."

When a songwriter doesn't just want, but needs to put their gift out there, that's a power no one can deny. Jobe Fortner's performance speaks to that. And the song itself, even with the natural muddy reverb only an empty room can offer, makes it even clearer. Watch this one till the end and see if you too aren't convinced that Jobe Fortner is just doing what he has to: singing what he believes.

And for you readers, here's a great songwriter story written by none other than grammy-winner Rodney Crowell himself, from the current issue of Oxford American.

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