VINTON–Contemporary Christian artists Luke Fortner and the band Relinquish will be releasing a new album on March 15 entitled “Astray.” The band got its start in Vinton and Roanoke. As a ministry, Relinquish sings at churches, festivals, conferences, retreats, and venues throughout the country with the desire to point others to Christ.
Fortner grew up in Vinton where he attended elementary school at Mineral Springs Baptist and then transferred to Parkway Christian Academy in high school. He is now a student at Liberty University.
He started singing at age 3.
“Music formed into my passion at a young age and I began singing in pre-school choir doing solos; then it was just church; then I would travel to families’ churches and before you know it I had sung in about 15 different states by the age of 12,” said Fortner.
He started performing in talent shows when he was seven or eight years old, performing at Vinton Baptist Church to benefit the Vinton Historical Society. He also performed at the Vinton Relay for Life and in Vinton festivals.
“My training starting out at around 7 years old was with Susan Lewis Music Studios,” noted Fortner. “She was, in my opinion and still is, the best around the area. She has a lot of amazing students and several who have come out with careers in music. Susan is actually who helped me get started in the Vinton scene, with Bootie Chewning, and several others.”
“Luke Fortner is an example of every music teacher’s dream student,” responded Susan Lewis. “I had the privilege of helping develop Luke’s musical talent as his voice and piano teacher for eleven years. Music has always been Luke’s artistic vehicle of expression. Early on it was quite evident that the seven year old little boy with a high soprano voice had a drive and passion for his music that was rare indeed. Coupled with the blessing of his natural talent, a formula for success was created.”
Lewis continues, “When other young boys wanted toys for Christmas, Luke was asking for microphones, sound equipment, lighting, and a stage for practicing. For years, Luke was a featured highlight of my recitals, with everyone looking forward to his performances year after year. With each recital, his confidence, stage presence, and musicianship exceeded the previous year.”
“Even at a very young age, Luke has always been dedicated to his music and wanting to one day make it big,” said Chewning. “I would say he is well on his way.”
“I did a lot of solo material when I was 13 to15 traveling all across the east coast, and doing my first album with an amazing producer in Nashville,” said Fortner. He released his first solo album in 2008.
He says he started the band Relinquish at his home church–First Baptist–in Roanoke when he was 15, right after his voice changed.
“I am the lead singer primarily, but I also play guitar, and keys for the band when needed,” said Fortner. “We only have 4 guys in the band, all locally based. One of my favorite guys in the band who has been with me now for almost 5 years is Jacob Kelley who plays drums. I also have Matthew Spano on guitar and Ethan Exline on bass. All of these guys are very special and talented musicians.”
“I wanted to have a group of guys around me who wanted to create positive music for the next generation,” said Fortner.
One of their main purposes has been to write songs.
“I can’t tell you how important it is to anyone who wants to be in the music industry, you need to write music,” said Fortner. “There are a few people who make it that do not write, but for the most part writing is so crucial. I am so thankful for the guys I have written with the last couple of years. Right now I am writing with several people at Liberty University, and working with a couple of people in Nashville, and I am also trying to work with a writer on a few choir arrangements.”
“I grew up singing Christian music my entire life,” says Fortner. “Contemporary Christian Music has formed into my passion. My main goal is I want to see people impacted by our songs.”
Fortner says that the songs the band writes are about problems they see either happening in our country, or that have impacted them in a personal manner. They normally tell how they ended up writing each song during the course of their concerts.
The first album by Relinquish, “You Are My Fortress,” has taken the band all over the country, opening for national Christian artists.
They played a lot of local shows to begin with; now they only play locally once or twice a year.
“Right now we average around 60-75 shows a year with all being full time college students, and some even having full time jobs,” said Fortner. “We do have amazing opportunities and we have worked with amazing artists in the industry.”
“A lot of people have no idea the life of being on the road, and having families,” explains Fortner. “We will be gone some times for 3 to 7 days, finishing loading up at midnight, going to hotels, and we will be back on the road again at 3 a.m. to load into the next show.”
“I am very thankful to have an amazing band and an amazing team that serves everywhere else,” adds Fortner. “We have a Management Team, Audio Team, and Social Media/ Website Design that just work so well with us, and we couldn’t be happier with the end results.”
As for their goals, “As a band we want to influence and be a light to the next generation, influencing them through music. Our entire platform and message is to reach the lost, and next, generation.”
“If we do not take a stand in the world we live in, I don’t know what will be in store for my grandkids,” said Fortner. “As a band we really have put everything we have into this next project ‘Astray,’ which has been accepted very well.”
Fortner says their new album is “by far our best yet, and has already been chosen by several radio stations throughout the country to begin playing in their weekly rotation.”
“It is no wonder or surprise that Luke has become such an inspirational and professional singer, musician, and songwriter,” said Susan Lewis. “His character plays a strong role in his road to success. To those of us who have made an impact in his life, he always finds time for a hug and an update when our paths occasionally cross. I am beyond proud of his ongoing accomplishments, and look forward with anticipation and excitement to what lies ahead.”
“We love the town of Vinton, and we are proud to say that we began in Vinton,” said Fortner. “All of our family, friends, and our fans first supported us here, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them, or without God’s love and provision watching us and guiding us.”