Jennifer Porter is an award-winning musician, actor and screenwriter. Jennifer, who is a musician’s musician, has sung with Classical and Jazz Orchestras including the world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra. As an accomplished Blues pianist, she has played with C.J. Chenier, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha-Chas, and Ils Sont Partis. Jennifer was the first vocalist in Maine inducted into the prestigious musical honor society, Pi Kappa Lambda, which recognizes excellence in both musical performance and academics. She has recorded 7 albums to date and recently released “These Years,” recorded with Legendary producer Jay Newland. Her album 'Easy Living' was nominated for a 2015 Independent Music Award in the 'Jazz with Vocals' category and was heard on jazz stations around the country, including KJAZZ ( Los Angeles), WWOZ (New Orleans), and Public Radio International’s Jazz After Hours. With Dana Packard, Jennifer co-founded The Originals Theatre Company in 1988 and Honey Tree Films in 1998. Her more than 80 stage credits at SRT include Betty in Chapatti, Rose in The Woolgatherer, Scarlett in Coyote Ugly, Bella in Angel Street, Rita in Educating Rita, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha and Patsy Cline in Always...Patsy Cline. Jennifer starred in, and composed and performed the film score for BALLAD OF IDA AND DOOB (1999) and wrote, starred in, and composed and performed the film scores for the critically acclaimed MR. BARRINGTON (2003) now available in several languages, and the multiple award-winning 40 WEST (2011). For her work on 40 WEST, Jennifer received Awards of Merit for Acting and Original Score from The Accolade Competition, Gold Prestige Awards for Acting, Original Score and Original Song, and a Silver Prestige Award for Original Screenplay. Jennifer holds a second degree black belt in Tai Jujitsu, and has advanced training in Kali and Jeet Kun Do. Jennifer is a proud member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Writers Guild of America, SAG / AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity Association.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
I think the first important catalyst, was the woman who inspired me to play music in the first place. When I was 4 years old, and I sneaked out of my bedroom to watch a pianist named Maxine entertain everyone at one of my grandparents notorious cocktail parties. She played boogie-woogie, blues and jazz standards. I was fascinated by the movement of her fingers across the keyboard! It amazed me that she could take something sitting mute in the corner and make all of these fantastic sounds come from it. The chords, the harmony, the melody, the rhythm, all coming together. The sounds singing and dancing at the same time. I was hooked! I sat down the next day, when I was alone, and began to pick out, by ear, what she had played the night before. I would also sing along to myself when I played, and found I loved singing just as much as playing, and it was the act of playing and singing that caused my own melodies to begin to form in my head, and to realize that sometimes, these melodies had words. When I was 9, my excellent piano teacher (My parents had insisted I get a teacher and she made sure I learned how to read and write music!) heard me playing one of my songs. She made me go home and write the music out. She then had me play my own song at her student's next piano recital. I remember how proud I was to see my song listed in the program, with "by Jenny Porter" next to it! I had named the song "Peggy's Song" (not very original, I know!) after my teacher.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Well, it doesn't necessarily have to do with music, but I had played with this one particular bass player for two years, and my husband, Dana, played drums with us that whole time, then one night, as we were packing up after a show, the bassist asked if my brother would mind if he and I went out on a date. I said : "Brother?" (Very confused, as I have two sisters) He said: "Yeah. You know, Dana.". I said: "Oh...Um...well I'm sorry, but he's not actually my brother." I still can't figure out why he thought we were siblings, and the thing is, after another show, a young woman asked me if "my brother was single"! I still can't figure it out! We look nothing alike! Maybe we've been together so long, we've unconsciously inherited some of each other's mannerisms. Who knows!
What has been the high point of your music path?
Gosh, there are so many things that hold such happy memories for me! I would have to say it is a tie between being nominated for an Independent Music Award for my album Easy Living, and making music with the absolutely fantastic musicians who played on my newest album, These Years. Listening to my music come to life in the studio, during those first few days of recording basic tracks, was one of the most joyous times of my life!
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I write the music first. I keep a small digital recorder on my piano, and if a melody or interesting chord progression comes to my mind while I am going about my day, I will hum or play it into the recorder, and then add words, as a rhythmic or lyrical pattern begins to develop within the music. For the most part, I let a song build up inside my head, both lyric and music-wise, until it’s ready to tumble out, fully formed. There are exceptions to this. Some songs really don't want to be formed, and need to be coaxed and cajoled, and labored over! They need to be convinced that it's not so bad out here!
Let's take a moment to listen to Jennifer's song "Road to Redemption"
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be?
I think knowing where to spend one's limited dollars is the biggest challenge for Indie Musicians. When one is an independent musician, one has to be a business person as well, and business isn't the strong suit of many artist types, myself included! There also tends to be, I believe, this misconception that delving deeply into, and learning about the business side of things, corrupts the art. Independent artists need to realize that we must be our own managers, accountants, legal document readers, etc., and that we need to learn to do these jobs well. We must be our own advocates!
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
I would say, Kris Kristofferson. I think he is one of the greatest songwriters of all time!
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I don't actually rehearse very much, as the other musicians I play with, live in other states. If we're lucky we might get one rehearsal before a show, but what I generally do, is write out the charts for the band, and then we will go over beginnings and endings, or tricky interludes in the music, right after the soundcheck, and then continue to talk them over in the green room, before the show. When I'm performing jazz, I might only meet the musician's for the first time at the soundcheck! This is how it went when I sang with The Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
It was a song that was on my first album, Hyacinth Boy Blue. The song is called Sweet Honey Bee. I was struggling over and over with the lyrics, trying to make them rhyme. I finally had the realization that they didn't want to rhyme. Once I realized that, they came to life. The song has absolutely no rhymes in it, but is held together by the pulse of the words, and their rhythmic patterns.
What's coming up in the future?
I am writing new songs that I hope to record soon. I am also putting together shows in the U.S., and have a tour coming together in Northern Europe for the fall.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
For more information about Jennifer Porter, please visit her website.