Joni Mitchell has a lot to do with some of the chord voicing and stuff that has sort of been stuck in my head through the years…I am pretty much self taught, so it’s pretty much follow your bliss (on guitar style).
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and my father was a piano player. So that was really my early introduction. My parents were both really into music as well, so.
Brent Hanifl 01:04
I kind of started following you, I found your self titled album. And I don’t know if it was kind of the music I was listening to at that time, I was listening to like a lot of Michael Hedges and Leo Kottke, and I remember your album being in the mix. I also remember just you know, over the last couple of days, kind of revisiting some of those songs just kind of your unique guitar style, what has informed your way of playing?
Willy Porter 01:24
Well, both of those artists for sure. Leo Kottke, Michael Hedges, but also Joni Mitchell. I think, you know, a lot to do with some of the chord voicings and stuff that have sort of stuck in my head through the years, so it’s really kind of an amalgam you know. I love rock and roll. I just love all music. I’m not particularly formally trained. I mean I’ve had some classical guitar stuff through the years, but then a little bit of theory, but I’m pretty much self taught and so it’s just kind of follow your bliss.
Brent Hanifl 01:56
But you have some new singles coming out, Baseball on the Radio. What is that song all about? I know what it is already just by reading up on it, and was it kind of inspired by the recent success of the Brewers?
Willy Porter 02:07
Yes, sadly that’s come to an end. But more than that it was the realization that Bob Euchre was celebrating his 50th anniversary as a broadcaster radio. As a kid I remember him on the radio and that made me think back to times with my father and working in the garage and stuff. And just what a nice thing it is to have an AM radio crackling away with a game on it when you’re working on something. I really enjoy that and I think that’s about as American an experience as we can have.
Brent Hanifl 02:57
What is your recording kind of like your process with writing? Is it fast, is it quick? Writing and recording, is it something that you knock out pretty quickly or is it something you take some time with?
Willy Porter 03:08
It really depends. I mean some songs are, they come really quick and they’re really simple to distill. Others take a lot of time, months and months, and sometimes even years of work and also just letting them sort of simmer. I think they come from all sources and they come in every different way. Recording is sort of the same way but I try to be really prepared when I go to record, so that I don’t waste a lot of time. I kind of know what I want to achieve and have pretty clear objectives about how the songs are going to be rendered, so that process is generally faster.
Brent Hanifl 03:48
I’ve always noticed you as at least coming through town, I’ve been in La Crosse here for pretty much my whole life. I’ve always noticed that you have been playing at the Pump House, you know, I attended a number of years ago I can’t remember exactly when. Were you always touring? How did COVID affect your work and your lifestyle?
Willy Porter 04:07
Really COVID shifted everything you know, to a virtual world which was fine for me. I had a studio in my house. I was able to make that adjustment fairly quickly and also do it with a certain level, a high level of audio and video production that made it liveable for me. I don’t think I could have done it with just, you know, a single camera and a laptop, I needed to have some audio production involved. So that was a fun experiment. And my son and I really enjoyed working together on that. As far as touring goes, that’s how I’ve made my living. And that’s how I’ve supported myself for years and years as a full time musician was to hit the road. You make a record, you go out and hit the road. And that’s the story and the wonder of this country is that it’s so big that you can hit different regions once a year, you know, and really fill a dance card, if you will, with lots of dates. It’s, you know, you can work as hard as you want in America, and that’s a great thing as a musician.
Brent Hanifl 05:17
So what has it been like, you know, kind of jumping back into it?
Willy Porter 05:21
It’s been strange, I think, I don’t really know how else to describe it. I think there’s a certain nervous energy, even if the audience feels safe, there’s still a little bit of a strange feeling being shoulder to shoulder with someone. And some folks just are simply not there yet. They can’t do it. And I respect and completely understand that. So I’m fully vaccinated, I test before each show on the day of the show to make sure that I’m negative as much as I can. And for that reason, I feel okay with it. But I certainly understand the audience members who do not. And so for that reason, we’re playing to reduce capacities everywhere, I, you know, the audiences in some cases reduced by a third, as much as 50%, in some cases, as well. So it’s gonna take time, and hopefully it’ll return to normal soon.
Brent Hanifl 06:17
What are you excited for, for the next year or two? I believe you have a new album eventually, right?
Willy Porter 06:22
Hmm. I have something that’s about, I’m about halfway through it. Producing with a great producer named Mike Hoffman, who’s been around the Milwaukee music scene for years and years. And he produced the Dog Your Dream record, which was a breakthrough album for me. And so we’re reunited on this production, and I’m very excited. It’s a band album. I really am enjoying the tunes and writing for that. So that’ll come out in 2022.
Brent Hanifl 06:50
Coming up, people can see you perform locally in La Crosse at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. For someone who hasn’t seen you play, what can people expect for that night?
Willy Porter 06:59
Certainly, it’ll be a lot of guitar stuff. But I’ll cover a lot of ground from songs that are you know, three and a half minute tunes to playing a couple things, you know, that are longer instrumentals, some tunes that are more like a journey than they are necessarily a song. So yeah, I’m just trying to stretch. I do a lot of improvisation live these days. And that still remains a blast and a lot of audience interaction. So tell some stories. I’m going to pack as much music in as I can.
Brent Hanifl 07:33
Nice. So if people want to find out more about you or just follow along, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?
Willy Porter 07:40
Probably still my website has the dates and stuff, though we are revising it at this point. Also bands in town, they can figure out where my tour dates are. And I’m on all the social media stuff that’s ruining the world.
Amy Gabay 07:58
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La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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