Gospel artist James Fortune has had some rich life experiences. He is a living example of faith and resilience during difficult times. He has created music that music fans have coined as, “Pure genius”… “Simply amazing”…, and “Unbelievably awesome”. Yet, based on the difficulty he has had to overcome, it is only fitting that James has emerged as a success, and as an influential force in the Gospel music world. His life is proof that no matter what hardships life brings, even homelessness, you can LIVE THROUGH IT, if you trust God.
Recent Oscar Award winner Lupita Nyong’o stated it best when she said, “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” As a 2-time Grammy nominee, 3-time Stellar Award winner and 6-time ASCAP Award winner, James Fortune is a living testimony to this truth. His story, which began when he was a seven-year-old boy, drumming at his father’s church in a small town outside Houston (Richmond, Texas), proves anything is possible! From that time until now, James has discovered what it really means to triumph over failure, to see his musical dreams come to fruition.
Despite being an award-winning artist, James loves to worship God. Ministry is embedded in his heart and soul. A preacher’s kid, James’ desire to serve God evolved out of the intimate relationship he developed in his youth.
Most people know James as the front man of the group James Fortune & FIYA. They also know him as the colorful narrator, and a dynamic communicator on stage… who is well-beloved by his fans. He has turned out some successful Gospel albums: YOU SURVIVED, THE TRANSFORMATION, ENCORE, IDENTITY…, and now a new album, LIVE THROUGH IT.
Few know; however, that away from the stage and the crowds, James Fortune lives a normal family life as a husband and father five days a week, joining forces with his wife Cheryl in managing family responsibilities. With James’ schedule, and four children ages 8 – 16, he and wife Cheryl know about the cost and the calling of being in ministry, and their family understand it, so all of the children make sacrifices to ensure everything is covered.
During an ordinary week, James helps to get the children off to school by 8am each morning. From that time until around 2pm, he works together with his wife Cheryl to schedule meetings, conference calls, tour dates and travel plans for his group James Fortune & FIYA… as well as handle the business aspects of his new record label FIYA WORLD MUSIC. At 3pm, he travels to pick the kids up from school. Then, he strives to get in as much quality time with the entire family as possible, before heading to the radio station, from 6pm to 10pm, to host his nationally syndicated radio show, THE JAMES FORTUNE SHOW.
So how does he do it all? “Time-management,” he says. As a performer, songwriter, producer, arranger and nationally-syndicated radio host, James now has full clarity in the use of his gifts. He tries to make sure he gets the needed rest required to maintain a healthy voice for ministry on weekends… and he is sincere about making sure he balances his time in order to be a dedicated husband to wife Cheryl, outside the demands of the music business.
The past two years have been exceptional for James. After releasing another successful album, IDENTITY and a holiday set GRACE GIFT in 2012, James headlined the six week United As One Tour featuring Kierra Sheard, VaShawn Mitchell and Zacardi Cortez.
Yet, James’ path to musical success has not been one without setbacks. For seven months in 2007, after losing his job, his house and both cars, he and the family – his pregnant wife and two children who were ages two and one at the time – were homeless and had to move from one hotel to another, just to have some place to sleep. The family survived off James’ income as part-time minister of music at Higher Dimension Church in Houston, but it was not enough money for the family to pay the bills. It was a dry season, and James wondered how he was going to provide for his family. “It was the hardest time in my life, and it felt like a personal failure,” he admits.
Nevertheless, James and the family prevailed because they continued to pray, and faithfully believed God would deliver them. Soon, James was promoted to a full-time position at Higher Dimension Church, Cheryl found a job with benefits… the family recovered from homelessness, and James was once again able to focus on his music.
James’ music reflects every season of his life, with probably none more poignant than creating “I Trust You” from his 2008 sophomore release THE TRANSFORMATION. Crafted during a time when his back was against the wall, James recalls one of the longest running #1 gospel singles,
“[My music] allows me to encourage other people who are going through. I’ve been there and know what it’s like to not be able to provide for your family or have a place to stay. It was a season because you never know how God is going to work through this trial.” As the trials provided the foundation for growth, James reveals, “It’s not just about the success but the sacrifice that allows me to have songs that connect with people right where they are.”
When the time came to begin work on his current album, LIVE THROUGH IT, which was recently released, James sat down and strategized with producers Ayron Lewis and Terence Vaughn, and to help him develop the sound. “I wanted this album to have praise and worship songs that could be sung in church, he said. So far, the project has been well received, and is receiving positive feedback from the Gospel community. Especially the Billboard Top 10 first single, “Live Through It,” which was produced by Terence Vaughn, and co-written alongside James & Cheryl. The song bolsters an airy piano opening as the lyrics speak to living, growing, getting, breaking and praying through it all…, because God is invested in our success, even when our faith is being tested. Inspired by Psalm 118:17, in creating the track James recalls, “It reminded me that some things we’re simply going to go through and I’m not necessarily going to go through it, but grow through it, if I just pray,” James admits.
Desiring LIVE THROUGH IT to be the vessel upon which his message is conveyed, James continues to strengthen other people through his own life. “God is able and His love is unconditional. That’s what our ministry likes to do and what we want to convey,” he confidently explains. And as their platform continues to expand, James Fortune & FIYA will continue to devote their ministry to God.