Jennifer Porter - 10 Question Music Interview
The W.A M. Awards celebrate the year’s most outstanding independent artists from around the world in multiple genres and categories. "Best Song" and "Best Album" nominations were based on Artistry, Musicianship, Originality, Professionalism, Diversity, and Excellence. W.A.M. stands for "We Are the Music Makers.' Jennifer Porter's album "These Years" was the 2020 W.A.M. Award Winner for Best Roots /Americana/Blues Album.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it.
When I was very young, I was badly bullied in school. When I would get home in the afternoons, I, without intention to do so, would be drawn to sit at the piano and “express” my emotions, unintentionally improvising melodies and chord patterns that conveyed the way I was feeling inside in a way that I couldn’t do verbally. When I was 9, for the first time, I formally turned one of these improvisations into my first “song” written for my piano teacher, whom I adored. I was really inspired to create songs with lyrics when I got older and heard Kris Kristofferson, and Joni Mitchell for the first time.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
The bass player in my band asked me out on a date. Nothing too strange, except my husband played drums in the same band. For some reason the bass player had gotten it into his head that my husband and I were brother and sister, and that’s why we always showed up to gigs together. Now, I don’t want to even explore how we might have given him that impression! Keep in mind, we had played as a band for two years by this time!
What has been the high point of your music path?
Touring in northern Europe last fall was so exciting. The last gig of the tour was at this amazing place called Mandy’s lounge in Homburg, Germany that is run by two wonderful people. The audience was singing along to the last few songs, and it felt like, to coin a 60’s term, such a “happening” or a “Be-in.” There was such a magical creative cohesiveness between me and the band and the audience and us. Three encores and a celebratory toast to the end of the evening taken with the audience, made for a perfect finale to one of those special performances which words fail to adequately describe, but is the kind of experience every musician lives for.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
I generally write the music first, and let it dictate the rhythmic structure and mood of the lyrics. The music itself often comes from an improvisation. I also keep a small digital recorder nearby in case a melody or chord pattern works its way into my head while I’m doing something else.
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 see the biggest challenge to be financial. It’s wonderful that so many digital platforms have sprung up, allowing for one’s music to be heard, but less than a penny per play is really ridiculous, forget about illegal downloads. I would advise anyone who takes the time, and love, and money that it costs to create an album, to set aside the same amount of money they spent making the album, on marketing that album. Even when one does this for oneself, there can be significant cost involved. Luckily, of course, there are cool online places such as this one!
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
Hmm…I’d say Rufus Wainwright, Kris Kristofferson, or Joni Mitchell, as I think they are all brilliant songwriters.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I don’t often get to rehearse with my bands. When touring in Europe, we might have one rehearsal. I’ve also, not infrequently, met the people playing with me for certain concerts, an hour beforehand! A few weeks before a concert, I will write out charts for everyone, and send recordings of my songs for reference. One of these days, I’d love to have a more permanent band to practice with!
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
It was the title track from my first album, HYACINTH BOY BLUE. I was trying so hard to make the lyrics work (I’d written them first), but I couldn’t seem to make them rhyme without losing the vibe I was going for. I finally realized they didn’t have to rhyme as long as they flowed rhythmically. Once I made this realization, the song felt like it wrote itself.
What's coming up in the future?
I have a very exciting new album, recorded with the legendary Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, that is nearing completion! I am particularly proud, from a songwriting perspective, of my writing on this album and have had the great pleasure of working not only with Bernard as co-producer and drummer, but with Steve Jankowsky, George Naha, Rob Paparozzi, and Miho Nobuzane among other talented musicians. I’m so impatient for the album to be finished, but working during the pandemic has been prudently measured!