Finger-Picking Guitarist Willy Porter Comes to The Hamilton

By: Dory Jackson, OnTap Magazine

At 11 years old, Wisconsin-based musician Willy Porter had learned to play his first song on the guitar – “The House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals. For those familiar with the 60s tune, it isn’t your typical lighthearted song that the average pre-teen would be interested in playing. Hence, his mother was shocked by his song of choice. And that was only the start of Porter’s interest in an eclectic range of music.

As a largely self-taught musician, Porter has managed to make a successful career for himself with his unique fingerstyle guitar technique. He describes his early beginnings in music as “very fortunate and pretty aggressive.” However, he’s enjoyed the ride, as he continues to share his love of music by blending blues and acoustic rock to cultivate his signature sound. In time, his work with Guild Guitars – a U.S.-based guitar manufacturer – resulted in the creation of a “Willy Porter Signature” acoustic-electric guitar.

“I just love music,” Porter says. “All of that filters into what I do.”

To date, Porter has released over 10 albums, with work stretching back to the late 80s. On his most recent release, 2015’s Human Kindness, he returned to his original sound, tying together a collection of acoustic-electric tunes. As a result, fans of his music will be able to see his progression as a well-rounded musician.

Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to meet some of his personal heroes on tour, including Sting and Paul Simon. Although he has grown accustomed to performing live amongst music industry heavyweights, he admits that he still gets nervous before a performance from time to time.

“I get worried if I don’t get nervous,” he says. “If you’re not nervous a little bit, then you don’t have enough respect for it.”

Currently, Porter is touring with fellow Wisconsin native and singer-songwriter Carmen Nickerson. This partnership birthed the album Cheeseburgers and Gasoline in 2013.

“What we are doing is fresh,” he says. “Without sounding arrogant, we’ve written some killer music.”

As an added bonus, the duo’s vocals perfectly complement each other, making it all the better. Earlier this year, their stellar performance skills were noted as they were showcased on NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion.

After 35 years of playing, he isn’t ready to pull in the reins just yet. Porter is still inspired to create fresh and innovative music by one thing in particular: the human condition.

“Everything from love and loss to trying to build a better mouse trap,” he says. “Everything that human beings go through while they’re here, and everything they dream about that might exist when they leave. All of those things inspire me.”

Catch Porter and Nickerson on tour at The Hamilton tonight. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $15, and are available at

The Hamilton: 600 14th St. NW, DC; 202-787-1000;

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