What the Press is Saying About Willy Porter
“I found Willy on iTunes six years ago. Went to see him live and joined the converted.“
— Al Kooper (Bob Dylan/Blood, Sweat & Tears)
““Bank” is Porter at the top of his game…“
— Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Willy Porter is perhaps best known as a down tuned six string wonder, but as a singer and a writer, and as a showman, he merits equal regard.“
“Thank goodness he doesn’t play the flute.“
— Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
“Porter is a dazzling acoustic guitarist with a moody baritone…“
— The Washington Post
“Willy plays rhythms that make me want to crawl inside his guitar and sleep there forever.“
— Tori Amos
“Willy Porter captures the street corner ethic of acoustic performance perfectly.“
— The Village Voice
“…one of the smarter, more durable albums of grown-up music we’re likely to get this year.“
“Porter accentuates well – rendered tales with spit – fire – percussive acoustic guitar strumming and fiery color – chord picking.“
“…[How To Rob A Bank] will remain timely for years to come…“
— The Onion
“[Willy Porter] can captivate an audience as completely as can an entire rock band.“
— Washington Times
“…A master of the acoustic instrument.“
— CMJ New Music Report
“A genre-defying maverick.“
“If you have never heard of this guy before, you are in for the musical discovery for a lifetime…” and “…he can still play guitar perhaps greater than anyone else on the planet.“
— Listen To This
“Porter plays intelligent, groove — heavy folk with hearty abandon“
— Santa Fe New Mexican
“With his exquisite, tranquil guitar work, Willy Porter could easily astonish an audience without singing one note. His ability to engage the audience with his personality and intellect raises Porter from the level of guitar wonk into the realm of masterful performer.“
“…one of the most consistently mesmerizing discs of his notable career.“
— Bill’s Music Forum
“Willy Porter is a relaxed and fearless performer who’ll entertain you as well as move you.“
— Acoustic Guitar Magazine
“As usual, you get a hell of a lot for your listening pleasure with Willy Porter.“
— Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“An acoustic picker with the Olympian speed of Leo Kottke bolstered by rootsy vocals and twisting, offbeat lyrics that evoked John Hiatt…“
— Boston Globe
Willy Porter – Current Bio
Download Current Biography [184k PDF][updated January 2015]
Searching for the shaman that lives inside the guitar has led Willy Porter on a musical and personal odyssey spanning over two decades, 10 albums, and multiple continents. His journey remains defined by an independent drive to evolve as a musician and human, affording him the freedom to create the next song on his own terms. Equally accomplished as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Porter’s songs weave a universal perspective about the questions, struggles, and triumphs of human existence. His live shows are guitar-driven events–equal parts grit, soul, and muscle–that are electrifying, dynamic, and wholly original in the way that Porter’s voice blends and fuses with his virtuoso fret work.
A largely self-taught musician, Porter began treating audiences to his brand of guitar playing and wry storytelling in the late ‘80’s while living in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1990, he released his first full-length independent album, The Trees Have Soul, and the touring life has flowed steadily ever since. Porter has literally logged millions of miles across America, Canada, the UK, and Europe, touring solo, as well as with various incarnations of the Willy Porter Band and in support of artists like Tori Amos, Paul Simon, Jethro Tull, Sting, and Jeff Beck.
Porter’s breakthrough album, Dog Eared Dream, was released in 1994, and the song “Angry Words” quickly became a staple at the burgeoning AAA radio format. This led to a major label deal with BMG/Private Music in 1995. Unfortunately, Private was dismantled by BMG just as Porter was preparing to release his follow-up. With contractual freedom in 1998, Porter quickly signed with the San Francisco-based label Six Degrees. There he released three albums beginning with the studio gem, Falling Forward (1999), produced by multiple Grammy-winner Neil Dorfsman (Dire Straits, Sting). The eponymous Willy Porter (2001) followed featuring great guest performances by Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull and Tony Levin. His fan-favorite solo disc, High Wire Live (2003) was co-produced with Grammy-winner Ben Wisch (Marc Cohn, Shawn Colvin).
In 2005 Porter left Six Degrees and launched his own imprint, Weasel Records. Together with longtime keyboardist/ collaborator Dave Adler, Porter produced the atmospheric album Available Light in 2006. His work with Guild & Fender guitars over the next several years would result in the manufacture of the “Willy Porter Signature” acoustic guitar. Porter then took time to record and produce singer/songwriter Natalia Zukerman, on her whip-smart Weasel debut, Brand New Frame (2008). Porter released his next disc, How to Rob a Bank in 2009, the heavily Americanaflavored record featuring the contributions of the LA-based quartet, Raining Jane. Bank was followed with a live disc recorded with the Carpe Diem String Quartet in (2010). This collaboration produced a gorgeous EP featuring several of Porter’s most enduring tunes (“Breathe,” “Paper Airplane,” “Watercolor”), elevated and reinterpreted against a backdrop of lush string arrangements. In 2011, Porter produced the second Weasel release for Natalia Zukerman, the driving Gas Station Roses. A partnership with Milwaukee-based singer/ songwriter Carmen Nickerson resulted in the album, Cheeseburgers and Gasoline (2013). This spartan production illuminates themes of life-longing and relationship repair, all while balancing the dream of self-actualization on the axle of a carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. The record also includes Porter’s brilliant cover arrangement of Peter Gabriel’s “Digging in the Dirt.”
On his 2015 release, Human Kindness, Porter incorporated all of his acoustic, electric, and multi-string chops to bear in service of a great collection of songs. This album is a driving, tuneful return to the pop sensibilities of his best work that also showcases Porter’s growth as a writer, musician, and producer.
In addition to making a life in music, Porter finds ways to make an impact on local and international levels. He is an active supporter of Advocates of Ozaukee, a shelter and treatment facility for victims of domestic violence and abuse in Mequon, Wisconsin. His annual benefit concerts have raised more than $90,000 for this organization to date. Porter also gives his time and talents to helping behind the scenes at First Stage, a world-class Milwaukee-based children’s theatre company. His recent involvement with Kids4Peace International works to bring kids from Palestine, Israel, and the Middle East together with American kids to work towards a dialogue of mutual respect, tolerance, and understanding in hopes that the next generation will have leadership comprised of strong, peaceful voices.
Willy Porter lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with his wife, two children, and their Beagle/ Terrier, Charlie.
Human Kindness – Current Release Bio
Willy Porter has gained international praise as a player, writer, and live performer since his recorded debut in 1990. His road-wisened songcraft, production chops, and musicianship all come together seamlessly on Human Kindness, Porter’s 10th album. He digs in and takes his time building on arrangements with a production approach that serves each song individually while also unifying them thematically. Through this approach the songs collectively radiate and support the central message that, “human kindness is alive and well.” Porter and Co-Producer Kaylen Prescott employ a rich palette of acoustic and electric tones to produce tunes that live symbiotically on the disc. The result is easily one of Porter’s most cohesive and focused studio recordings—an album of musicianship and substance that moves between shadows and light with ease.
Recorded largely in his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Human Kindness brings Porter’s long-time band mates Dave Schoepke (Drums & Percussion), Bryan Mir (Bass), Dave Adler (Keys) together with recent additions Carmen Nickerson (Lead & Backing Vocals), and Aaron Gardner (Tenor Sax and Flute). It opens in a brick kiln in India with the driving, modern anti-slavery anthem, “Freedom.” Porter pulls no punches here and delivers a solid rock vocal, while his electric guitar builds and pushes the tune along, culminating in a beautifully ragged solo. Up next, the pop irony that Porter has brought us for years with tunes like “Jesus on the Grille” and “How to Rob a Bank” is in abundance once again with the literate failed relationship tome, “Chippewa Boots.” Sax and flute virtuoso Aaron Gardner doubles Porter’s whistle on “Chippewa” adding to the joy of that hook. Gardner’s solo breaks on both “A Love Like This” and “This Train” are particularly noteworthy for their technical grace, reverence for the song, and soulful musicality. This is truly an album of multi-colored gems. The gritty, warm vocal duet between Porter and Nickerson on “A Love Like This” reveals their natural ease as singing partners, while the smoke of “Walking with the Man” shows Nickerson’s range and unique supporting skills as a singer.
There are some wonderful guest appearances on this recording including the Carpe Diem String Quartet who contribute beautiful string arrangements and performances to both the title track and to the haunting “Walking with the Man.” Jethro Tull’s revered axe-man Martin Barre delivers some incendiary electric guitar to the country flavored, “Try to Forget.” Porter also calls in his fellow Milwaukee natives Paul Cebar and Peter Mulvey to help lift up the whimsical and funky, “Elouise”–a track that seems destined to be a summer festival favorite. Val McCallum, LA-based A-Team session guitarist and producer, provides some electric guitar sizzle to “Chippewa Boots” conjuring flavors of Stephen Bruton and David Lindley.
From beautiful climbing atmospheric moments like “Constellation,” to straight up Midwestern Rock like “My Bird Can Sing,” the songs on Human Kindness seem at peace with themselves and each other. The lyrics are well-rendered and reaching, though never saccharine or disposable. The closing lyric of the Paul Simon-esque, “Roses in the Rain” seems to characterize Porter’s message throughout Human Kindness–that we are collectively more than the sum of our experience: “After we’re dead and gone and no one knows our names, I will give you roses in the rain.”