MONTREAL - On the eve of his debut performance as a solo artist after parting ways with Aussie rockers INXS, an emotional J.D. Fortune is looking to put the past behind him.

"It's time to sort of get beyond where we left off and start something new," he told The Canadian Press ahead of his scheduled gig at Saturday's Denim and Diamonds cancer fundraiser.

"What I'm trying to do is embrace INXS with all my heart because they are my favourite band and they are responsible for some of the most amazing experiences in my life, but at the same time, everything changes."

The singer was back in the headlines earlier this year when reports emerged that INXS had unceremoniously fired him at a Hong Kong airport after a 23-month tour.

At a meet-and-greet with cancer sufferers Friday, Fortune was reluctant to discuss the band that made him famous after he won the television reality contest "Rock Star: INXS" in 2005.

"Please do me a favour. Let's talk about (my solo album) 'Death of a Motivational Speaker,' let's talk about Denim and Diamonds, let's talk about why I am here today. Not where I was yesterday. Why I'm here today. Please," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"We made an agreement that we were going to tour the world. We did that. It was amazing. We had so much fun. But that tour ended and everybody's moving on."

Fortune said he was misquoted about the nature of the band's breakup and insisted they're "all friends."

"If they had another record coming out, I'd be the first guy in line obviously," he said, noting there's no plans for a reunion and that his former bandmates have given him their blessing for his new record.

The Mississauga-born rocker, who says he kicked a cocaine habit three years ago, is now working on "Death of a Motivational Speaker" and trying to line up gigs on the summer festival circuit.

Fortune, 35, admits making it as a solo performer will be a challenge.

"I can't rest, I have to keep working as an artist," said the heavily-tattooed singer, who spent much of his childhood in New Glasgow, N.S.

He said his new record, which will get a "soft release" through his website a few songs at a time, will show his more "gritty" side.

"It's about letting go of being a 'yes' person. Giving more lamp oil than you have so you can't find your own way home," he said.

It's also a chance to step back from the glitz and hype of rock stardom and be the artist he truly wants to be.

"You get to a point where you play in front of 85,000 people and you see where that cusp is, and then you get to that point where (you) play for eight people in a room with a guitar and you see the connection and somewhere in between that is the rest of your career," he said.

"Within those corridors there's a narrow space where you can say, 'Am I going to come out and be that guy in the silver pants and the sunglasses?' or you can come out and say 'I'm gonna be myself."'

As for the support he received, when he'd apparently hit rock bottom, from fellow "Rock Star" contest winner Lukas Rossi who won the lead singer job for the band Supernova in the show's second season, Fortune hadn't heard anything about it.

In February, the Torontonian sympathized with Fortune's situation in a blog post and invited him to stay at his place in California.

"Oh that guy," he said, at first not even recognizing Rossi's name.

"We were touring the world when they were making, what's the name of the band... the Supernova, so I never really had a chance to see it."

INXS had a string of hits in the 1980s and '90s including "Need You Tonight," "Devil Inside," and "Never Tear Us Apart." In 1997, the band's frontman, Michael Hutchence, hanged himself in a hotel room.

The band has since gone through a series of lead singers, including Terence Trent D'Arby and Jon Stevens.

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