Jennifer Porter - 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 Album in the Roots / Americana / Bluegrass / Blues music category.
What got you into music?
At 4 years old, I watched 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 harmonious sounds come from it. 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. My grandparents then got me a piano. I was always drawn to music, and had a whole repertoire that I would sing for my family during long car trips, but seeing Maxine play, really lit the fire!
What is your favorite part about being an artist? Is it songwriting, performing, recording, something else?) Tell us why.
It is performing. I love communicating with the audience, and I love communicating musically with my fellow musicians. There’s nothing like singing a certain note, or playing a certain note in a chord, and having the people you are playing with understand what you are saying to them and having them answer you back. That is one of the happiest things I can think of! I enjoy songwriting, and when I know I’ve written a good song that feeling of elation is the most exciting thing in the world, but the process can be so fraught with emotional ups and downs, that though it is the most rewarding part about being an artist, it isn’t my favorite.
Can you tell us what being in the recording studio is like for you?
It depends on the day. I am a perfectionist, and terribly hypercritical of myself, so if I like what I am doing on a certain day, then being in the studio is sheer joy. Sometimes I’m so excited I can’t help but dance around during playback. Other days I can’t bear to listen to myself for one more second. But I do think that even those days in the studio are valuable, because when I am able to force myself into not over-reacting, I sometimes can learn from what I’m not liking.
As a songwriter or musician, are there any obstacles you have had to overcome or obstacles that you are facing right now in your career?
The constant push to continue putting new content on several social media platforms is difficult for me . It is difficult, in part, because, I’m embarrassed to say this, but I am rather inept when it comes to using technology. It also feels anathema to me. I have a Smartphone, but it might sit in my desk for months without being used. I hate being connected at all times. I just want to experience life’s events in the moment and not have them become fodder for new social media content.
In 2008 I had to overcome the illness Tranverse Myelitis, which left me with a weak right hand and foot, and tremors in both hands, and my right foot. Playing piano for a while, felt very, very difficult. Time and physical therapy brought me back to feeling stable while I’m playing and singing, but sometimes when I’m out on the road, I might need to find a chiropractor to help if the tremors become bothersome. I found a wonderful one in The Netherlands when I was on tour there last year! Right now, I am facing the difficulties inherent in trying to record an album during a pandemic, but I am incredibly lucky that I have been able to continue to do so!
Who do you admire most in the music scene today and why?
They are not performing much or at all anymore, but the two people I admire most, are Joni Mitchell, and Kris Kristofferson. I think they are both virtuosic songwriters, and I admire them for their integrity. They both have always been exactly who they are, for better and for worse, throughout their entire careers. I think they are both total artists. I admire Joni Mitchell, as well, as a woman in the music industry who proudly let herself age naturally. I always admired Bernard Purdie as a drummer on Aretha Franklin’s (Whom I also admire) recordings, and currently have the great pleasure of working with him on my latest album, as a drummer and co-producer.
To date, what do you think your best song is? Can you describe the song for us?
It is a song that is on my upcoming album called BITTER N.Y. NIGHT. It is about one of the most difficult, yet beautiful and surreal nights I’ve ever experienced in my life. A freezing cold night, during a blizzard in NYC when I had never felt so alone and at the same time so connected to another human being. It is actually rather difficult for me to sing the song without crying as the memories of that night are so crystallized for me, but the song itself isn’t particularly sad. It’s grateful. I’m so incredibly excited to share it when the new album comes out in 2021.
Are you working on any new material right now or what's in the works for the upcoming year?
As I mentioned, I have a very exciting new album, recorded with the legendary Bernard “Pretty” Purdie that is nearing completion! It is called SUN COME AND SHINE, and I am particularly proud, from a songwriting perspective, of my writing on this album. I have had the great pleasure of working on this new project not only with Bernard as co-producer and drummer, but with Steve Jankowsky, George Naha, Rob Paparozzi, and Miho Nobuzane among other talented musicians. Work on it has been slow and intermittent due to the pandemic, but as I say, it’s getting close to being finished, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it!
Tell us where fans can access your music?
About Jennifer Porter 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, and smaller combos including her own quintet. She is also an accomplished Blues pianist, and has played with C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha-Chas, and Ils Sont Partis. Her musical repertoire spans from Jazz and Blues to Country and Opera. She has recorded 7 albums to date.
Her last album, “These Years,” was recorded with producer Jay Newland. These Years has seen significant radio play and received rave reviews in Europe and The United States. Her song Road To Redemption, from These Years, charted at #1 on National Indie Radio, the Independent Music Network Country Charts, New Music Weekly’s Country Charts and National Radio Hits Country Charts. Road To Redemption also reached the top 3 on The Independent Music Network’s Mainstream charts, and National Radio Hits and New Music Weekly’s Adult Contemporary, and Top 40 charts. She was also nominated for 5 Independent Music Network awards and won Female Crossover Artist of the year. Her album Easy Living (2014),, was nominated for a 2015 Independent Music Award in the Jazz With Vocals category, and was heard on jazz stations around the United States, including KJAZZ in Los Angeles, WWOZ in New Orleans, and Public Radio International’s Jazz After Hours. Jennifer is currently working on an exciting new album with legendary producer, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. As an Actor, 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) 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 is a proud member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Writers Guild of America, SAG / AFTRA, and Actors’ Equity Association.