Will Porter: From Ardmore to Austin
By Sean Claes
Six years ago, a friend of mine named Trevor Lane and I came up with a crazy idea to throw a music festival outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma (where he lives). It took a year of planning to unleash the dream, but in 2008 we held the first ever Backwoods Bash Music and Camping Festival at a place out in the sticks. We brought in several area musicians and some from as far as Austin (Full Service played that inaugural year). It was a hot mess... luckily the people who attended didn't know we were holding the thing together by its shoestrings. We kept the mantra "The only reason to have a First Ever is to have a Second Annual."
We learned and continued to make adjustments, and I am please to say that the 2012 marks the 5th Annual Backwoods Bash.
Why am I telling you this story when I'm introducing an interview with new Austinite Will Porter? Well, this was where I met Porter. He kicked the festival off and his track, "Songwriters Manifesto" was the official theme song for that first year.
Will Porter is an amazing singer. He is one of those players that walks into a bar and looks like he's the bouncer, not the entertainment. But, when he opens his mouth and sings, wow. I liken his journey to that of local celebrity Nakia, as his charisma, talent and voice (the only things that SHOULD matter) are encased within a non-stereotypical singer physique.
Porter recently relocated from Ardmore, Oklahoma to Austin, Texas after a car accident made him realize that life is finite and he needed to follow that dream to the Live Music Capitol of the World.
He's been hitting up a few open mic nights, but his first Austin show will come at the Red Eyed Fly on Monday April 2, 2012. If you're in the area at 11p, please wander in and give him a good Austin welcome.
I've not seen him in five years, so I thought I'd look him up and introduce him to everyone the only way I know how.
Sean Claes: How did you end up taking the stage and becoming a performer when you were 15?
Will Porter: I was in Show Choir at the time. After singing a solo for an assembly for our entire school I found my purpose in singing and performing after hearing the reaction of my classmates and teachers. Shortly after that I started playing guitar and writing songs beginning my musical journey.
Claes: You grew up in Oklahoma and, until recently, lived in Ardmore. How did that help you formulate your music and songs?
Porter: I was born and raised in Marietta about 20 min south of Ardmore. I think Love County contributed 'cause there isn't anything to do so I would just sing, play guitar and write all the time. Well, that, and play video games!
Claes: You turn 30 this August, and you made the move to Austin in February. What prompted your move from Oklahoma to Austin?
Porter: Long story short I had a blow out coming home from a gig, lost control of my vehicle and hit a steel fence going about 60mph. Luckily I was alright but my car was messed up obviously. It helped me realize that life can be over in an instant so I better get off my ass and do I was born to do. I'm ready and it was time
Claes: In the early 2000s you we a part of a band called Cardinal Trait as the bassist and backup singer. You ended up signed to an indie label. And through them released You Ought To Know in 2004. How was that ride?
Porter: Those were some of the best worst years of my life. I hated working with that label but it did afford us some wonderful opportunities. Ultimately I'm thankful for learning more about the awfulness of the music industry, becoming a better musician jamming with great players and the friendships
Claes: You penned “Songwriters Manifesto” the theme song for the 2008 Backwoods Bash, an annual music and camping festival that takes place outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The song is pretty telling, as it begins “I’m not where I wanted to be ten years ago.” How well does that track describe you?
Porter: It was an honor to be the theme song for Backwoods Bash! I wrote the song when I was 25, exactly 10 years after I started music seriously. At the time it said everything I wanted to say and still does. I do it ‘cause I love the music! I do it ‘cause I love to sing! And I just hope I make you feel like I feel! I'm very proud to have written something that honest and heartfelt.
Claes: In 2009 you formed PorterHouse with drummer Walton McMurry and released an EP in 2010. How did that collaboration go? Is it still a viable partnership, or did moving to Austin end the band?
Porter: PorterHouse was a blast and I still keep in contact with Walton. He's back in OK gigging and about to complete his masters at UCO in percussion. We got to open up for Colt Ford, Saving Abel, Aranda and Cody Canida. I hope we get to work again in the future but regardless we're homies.
Claes: You also released at least one “solo” album in PorterHouse Radio where you made it a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek radio show. Tell me a little about that album.
Porter: I figured if I couldn't be played on the radio then I would make it sound like I was. Just a diff want way to present my songs than the standard album. I went to audio engineering school and learned how to record and produce. PorterHouse Radio was my first album. I played, recorded, wrote, and mixed every track. I learned a lot thru the process.
Claes: Last year you collaborated with a rapper by the name of Big Savage on a track called “I Never Imagined” How’d that come about?
Porter: Savage found me after I opened up PorterHouse Studio and had an article about me in the paper. We've recorded many songs together. On occasion, he'll ask me to sing a hook for him. He had the words and I came up with the melody line in a couple of minutes then recorded it. Took about 10 min for me to do my part. It wasn't till a few weeks later he called me and said "We're gonna shoot a video for Never Imagined". I was like "Sweet! Lets do it!!"
Claes: Are you interested in continuing that kind of thing, perhaps guesting on a few hip-hop records by Austin folks?
Porter: Hell yea! I love collaborating and singing with talented people. I play a lot of acoustic shows but It's fun singing over a fat hip hop beat sometimes
Claes: People judge by looks, and being a large bald guy you don’t have the conventional “musician” look, but you’ve got an amazingly powerful and soulful voice. When you play a new room, do you surprise a lot of people with your vocals?
Porter: Almost every show somebody comes to me and says " I wasn't expecting THAT to come out of YOU!". I've learned to accept it as a complement. I've grown my hair back out. I've been told it "softens my look". Haha. Whatever, just listen to me sing!
Claes: Do you have a favorite song that you’ve penned? Why?
Porter: Probably "Songwriters Manifesto" because it said everything I wanted to.
"My Reality" was inspired by my love of philosophy and is based on Platos Alegory of the Cave. It made me feel good I could share Plato with a tight groove!
"Its a Shame" says what I wanna say to every girl I've been into that wasn't into me. I wrote it about a particular chick who loves the song but has no idea it's about her. Ironic isn't it? It's a shame you’re not in love with me babe. True : )
Claes: How much of your set is originals and how much is covers? What are your favorite covers to perform?
Porter: Longer shows it’s about 50/50. I try to put my own spin on my covers but stay somewhat true to the original. Basically I would want to original artist to listen to it and say "Good job man!." Fav covers are “You Don't Know Me” by Ray Charles, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles, “Nice and Slow” by Usher, “Red Headed Woman” by Wade Bowen and “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkly.
Claes: Are you solo singer/songwriter or are you looking to put together or join a band?
Porter: I'm both. I'll always perform acoustic shows because I love them but I'm also looking for good players to back me up too.
Claes: You’ve produced music via your own PorterHouse Studios when you were in Ardmore. Are you set up in Austin now?
Porter: I've got all my equipment and I'm still recording out of my apartment and demoing things out.
Claes: You had indicated to me that you were thinking of doing some busking during the big music week in Austin. Did you? If so, how’d it go?
Porter: Yea I've been down there a few times. I've had a lot of fun and met some interesting characters as you can imagine being on 6th. I even met Danny Trejo one night! I've been a fan of his since I was like 13 watching his movies. That was too cool.
Claes: Having just moved to Austin, have you had a chance to play many places in town yet?
Porter: Mostly open mics and busking but I opened for Sam Sliva and the Good in Yokum and at the stock yards in Fort Worth. My buddy Lucus, Honkey Tonk Red, plays bass for them
Claes: What local musicians have you caught and been impressed by since you got here?
Porter: JT Coldfire is a badass. Gary Clark JR is also a badass. I've noticed a lot of good talent. That's what brings me to Austin. It's inspiring
Claes: You play April 2 at The Red Eyed Fly. Tell me a little about that gig?
Porter: I go on at 11pm and its gonna be a fun show! My first show downtown so I'm gonna be excited to play and on my A game!
Catch Will Porter perform at Red Eyed Fly at 11p on Monday, April 2, 2012. For more information about Porter, visit his Sonic Bids page.
Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here - http://www.seanclaes.com/.