Chris Jenkins Interviews Eli Fortner

eli fortnerTo find the living definition of “real”, “genuine”, “anointed”, or “servant”, I would look no further than a family from the small Eastern Tennessee town of Clinton. They are a family, who since the late 50’s have been traveling the world over delivering the message of the love and power of God to people of every generation, The McKameys!

The latest generation of the McKameys is a young man who’s talent and skill far exceeds his age. Eli Fortner, son of Roger and Connie has been on the road with his family his whole life. Eli is a multi-talented guitarist and musician for the McKameys, standing alongside his father who is one of the most sought after studio musicians in Christian music. In 2015, both Roger and Eli were honored guests at the Little Walter Tube Amps Endorsee Jam, performing along with Brent Mason, Vince Gill, and Paul Franklin. Music and family bloodline are not the only things Eli and Roger share. In 2007, Roger donated his kidney to his son for a kidney transplant that was needed for Eli. In the end, Eli is careful to give God the praise for the talents and abilities in his life.

I caught up with Eli a couple of months ago and asked him a few questions. Here is what Eli had to say:

1. How did you first discover Southern Gospel?

I never discovered it. I was literally born into it. It’s the world I’ve lived in my entire life.

2. What is playing right now in your car or iPod?

These days it’s some old McKameys projects.. some before my time… Any other day my answer would be completely different but these days they’re helping me see light in a dark world.

3. Who are some of your musical mentors/heroes?

Mentors would totally be my Mom and Pop. The list of hero’s would go on for days. My earliest musical influence was ToTo I have to say. Still my all time favorite band.

4. If you could make your own all-star band, who would the members be?

Wow. I could really go crazy with that one.. I know I wouldn’t be a part of it cause I’d just wanna sit back and watch.

5. What’s the top album every SG fan should have?

McKameys “Gone to Meetin’.” I’m not bias, I just dig that raw, live energy that’s missing from SG records today.

6. Where have you always wanted to perform and why do you hope to get to someday?

Honestly I’ve never thought about it. I’ve played everything from stadiums to the smallest church in East Tennessee. I guess the Hollywood Bowl would be something I’d like to check off my bucket list. I’ve been there but never played it.

7. If Christian music wasn’t in the picture, what would you see yourself doing as your career?

I’d probably be working in construction like my brother. When I’m home I’ll go out with him sometimes. It’s funny cause I consider it fun and a stress relief. He don’t understand it at all. Haha

8. How do you feel about the direction of Southern Gospel music? What would you change if you could?

I wish there was more originality. I watch the stuff from the old days like the jubilee and notice how nobody sounded like the other or acted like the other. Everybody had their own thing and wasn’t trying to cop the other. I see a lot of copy cats and wannabes now. Just be yourself and let God lead you. After all I’ve never known Him to make one person just like the other!

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Chris Jenkins
Contributing Writer at Absolutely Gospel