In 2010 Fort Atlantic began as an experiment by Jon Black. After his small Athens, GA label closed their doors in 2009, Jon was left with a question: How can he continue to do what he loves in the current musical climate?
“Most artists I know just open a Kickstarter account and ask for money so someone else can help them make a record. I felt like it was foolish to ignore the advances in technology that allow records to be made for relatively little money. Why couldn’t I learn to make a record on my own?” says Black. With that DIY-attitude and all of his savings, Black built a modest home studio and worked for countless hours learning the in’s & out’s of producing.
From 2009 to 2011 he recorded over 30 songs and released three EPs under his name. Keeping with the DIY mentality, Black played a wide variety of instruments himself. “The idea of making a record myself wasn’t to hire someone for every instrument and then put my guitar and vocals on it. While I did ask friends to play on the record I was more interested in pushing my creative limits. If I didn’t know how to play something and had access to it, I would learn.”
In November of 2011 Black finished recording and took the record to New York to work with Grammy-winning mixer and producer Tom Schick (Wilco, Ryan Adams, Mavis Staples, She & Him, Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainwright). They mixed songs, new and old, for five days in Studio A at Magic Shop (Coldplay, Arcade Fire, David Bowie) and became friends through the process. “The songs on this record are instant classics. Jon has an impressive voice and crafts beautiful songs with many great twists and turns. I love this record,” says Schick.
On the record you’ll find a blend of analog and digital representing the current state of human existence. “We balance between heartbeats and hard drives. Our art will reflect that when this era is studied in the future,” Black says. Whether it’s the one-take troubadour folk song of suburban escape “New York Lights” or the nine-minute Bladerunner meets Gibson Guitars movement of “I’m Wrong”, Fort Atlantic’s debut truly stretches the divide of the digital landscape. From that ethos breathed an internet and social media experiment to include more voices on the song “Let Your Heart Hold Fast”.
“I was curious what would happen if I asked people to sing on my record from where they lived,” says Black. “In the past you’d have to have someone come to the studio to sing but now, thanks to technology, someone can record a vocal take on their iPhone during their lunch break.” The result is a virtual choir which elevates the song and is indicative of the outside-the-box approach Black has to creating and marketing his music.
Black has made his home in Birmingham, AL for the past six years and is relocating to Portland, OR in the summer of 2012. “Birmingham has been a great place for me. It’s shaped me as an artist and as a person. I’ve felt isolated enough from the music business to escape the pressures and really fine-tune what my sound is and what my songs are. I’m excited to see the role Portland plays in my artistic journey,” says Black.
In 2011 he was voted the Best Local Musician by The Birmingham News and well- respected industry tastemakers have embraced him including Scott Register (the Nationally syndicated radio host and CIMS). “Recently at my 15th Anniversary Concert for Reg’s Coffee House, we snuck the new Fort Atlantic on the PA between sets. Immediately, I started receiving tweets and texts from audience members asking me what was playing in the hall. It was awesome and has me even more eager to start spinning the record on my shows and Birmingham Mountain Radio,” says Scott Register.
The past few years have been crucial to laying the groundwork for Fort Atlantic’s debut LP. Several songs have been licensed by film/tv including Private Practice (ABC), 90210 (CW), United States of Tara (Showtime) and the hit video game, Rock Band. He’s toured with The Civil Wars, he’s opened for cred acts such as Jack White, Alejandro Escovedo, Mark Kozolek (Sun Kil Moon), and The Whigs among others, and was asked to play the first and second years of the Hangout Music Festival. Dualtone Music Group (The Lumineers, Colour Revolt, Brett Dennen, Guy Clark) became interested in his work after the first EP released and they teamed up immediately to release a full length. After completion of the album, it was clear a change was needed. Black says, “I’ve evolved over the past two years and feel like my name doesn’t represent the music well. It’s much bigger than a singer/songwriter project. It’s much bigger than a guy and a guitar. This album is a monster patiently waiting in the shadows.” Thus, Fort Atlantic was born. It’s a place for refuge and place for fighting.