John Forte
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shadow of the Fugees and he was in the shadow of coming from the folk music world of  (Ben’s father) James Taylor and Carly Simon. One day he invited me home in Martha’s Vineyard. Carly embraced me as soon as I walked in—I think that spiritually she never let go. They are nothing short of family to me. Carly put a lot of her time and money on the line and was one of a handful of people who made my bail possible. I didn’t have those resources.

EBONY: You endured so much emotionally—prison isn’t meant to be easy. Who comprised your community of support?

JF: While I was inside? My mom and my immediate family came to see me as often as they could. Carly, Sally (Carly’s daughter) and Ben would come to visit. I had a few friends who would just pop in from time to time. Strangely enough, perhaps my greatest support was from strangers. I received mail every single day I was away, mostly from people I didn’t know. I could wake up feeling low about myself and my situation, then I’d go to Mail Call and get a postcard from someone in Japan saying how much they loved a song off of I, John. Or “we love How Could I?” which was a song I did with Esthero. Or “I just want you to know that you’re missed and you’re loved.”

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Forté gets a text from Prazwell, The Fugees’ Prazwell. It reads, “Get at me! Before you get all Hollywood on me!” There is uneasy laughter. “Did Wyclef, Lauryn or Praz contact you while you were in prison?” I ask.

His response is quick and without eye contact, “Not one."

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EBONY: So now here you are, the king of Le Castle. How did this new business come about? 

Le Castle is my baby. Le Castle is a company I started with Christophe Charlier almost at the end of our tour in Russia. We had dinner one night and he was like “Man, I’m having the time of my life!” I’m thinking, “You are? I’m stressing out. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown! This is the biggest endeavor I’ve ever undertaken.” He said “Let’s just do this, let’s make good art.” And the idea is really simple. We have a 50-50 partnership, where I have complete creative control. He is the Chairman and I am the CEO. Our relationship is predicated on respect, history and trust.

EBONY: What’s next for Le Castle and John Forté?

It’s mind-blowing. We have people pitching scripts to us, theater and music ideas. It’s nice to be seen as a reputable home. ‘Cause I’m not doing this to walk away as one of the fat cats. I’m doing this because I believe in opportunity, and that when you get like-spirited people together, magic happens.