First things first. Let's get this out-of-the-way. Tyrone Wells (I) wrote this bio. I figured, "who better to talk about myself than myself?". I'm a lot of things in no particular order… a preacher's son, a brother, a husband, a dad, a real estate lover, a major-label artist, an independent artist, an opener, a headliner, a very self-conscious dancer (think "Footloose", only without the cathartic cutting loose), a gardener, a wanna be surfer, a person who has needed therapy, a pickleball player, a barstool theologian, and this next one kind of goes without saying because you're here reading my bio.. I'm a singer-songwriter.
I've written a lot of songs. Probably approaching around 1,000 songs now… to me, when I wrote them, they were all good songs. The luxury of time has informed me, some of the songs were maybe just good to me. And some of the songs, inexplicably, have millions upon millions of listeners. Meanwhile, others have tens upon tens. I don't know why, I just write them and set them free.
Ultimately, I'm trying my best to be honest, and write a song that I, and you can both love. I'm gonna keep trying. I'm so grateful that you have listened. Be it once, or be it a hundred times. I've got big love for you. I'll be over here chopping away and reminding myself to be vulnerable. Peace and Love, XOXO Tyrone
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 Americana-flavored 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 latest disc, Human Kindness (2015), Porter brings 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.
Michael Pearsall is someone special to Seven Steps Up. He has performed here both as a solo artist and with his band Honor By August. He is a talented songwriter and musician, a fantastic human and a true friend.
Evan Field will join Michael for this very special show.
This is a very special and fitting concert for our final weekend.
I wish I'd known when I started out that the contents of an artist biography ends up being repeated many times in the years to come. It can be frustrating to be viewed through an outdated lens. But what's to be done? The past, including old one-sheets, remains unshakable.
I know you're a busy person and, chances are, if you're reading this, you're here for the updated Cliffs Notes. So I'll tell you what I'm proud of having done over the last 20 years and you decide for yourself if any of the soundbites interest you.
I was born, raised and am currently residing in New England. I have four kids and married my high school sweetheart. I've written about them extensively on all my records. I also put out a book in 2020 called "Objects In The Mirror: Thoughts on a Perfect Life from an Imperfect Person." It's a collection of essays about what I've found to be the most important aspects of a life well-lived. For better or worse, my live show has morphed into one with a fair amount of comedy baked into the storytelling. I write what I believe to be true and I try to have a sense of humor about the stuff that hurts. My newest record is called Keep It Up, Kid and it comes out December 2, 2022. Side B is a suite of 5 interconnected songs that explore the journey from youth to middle-age. Side A is a note of solidarity to anyone looking for hope in hopeless situations. We are all alone in the world, but it's nice to feel as though we are not.
There have been some flattering quotes over the years, but the largest publication to offer up a humdinger was Rolling Stone, who in 2019, said I was like, "John Prine fronting the Heartbreakers." My grandfather taught me not to believe my own propaganda, but I still work hard to fulfill the promise of such heady praise.
In 2013, I delivered a Tedx Talk on job satisfaction and that has led to speaking engagements for some amazing organizations. I've also had the honor of performing at a number of children's hospitals as well as for the U.S military, who gave me an "Armed Forces Entertainer of the Year" award. Those experiences have been enriching and I hope I've used my talents for good there. I've had some great adventures co-writing too and one of the singles I co-wrote, "Got Soul," was the title track for Robert Randolph's Grammy Nominated album of the same title. Although I have, on occasion, cracked the billboard charts, it has been a minute since all that went down, so I'll just say that there is little that means more to me than the people who show up year after year, record after record. Take care of the art and the art will take care of you.
In closing, I guess what I'm most proud of having done, the thing I'd want people to know about the first two decades of my career, is that I survived with my soul intact. I've played more than 2200 concerts, traveled Europe supporting Gregory Alan Isakov and Josh Ritter, sang duets with Adam Duritz and Rosanne Cash. I've sold out the 9:30 club, and performed at the Beacon Theater. I've made music in spite of the challenges and managed to build a life that resembles that of my listeners in all the ways that matter. I have not accomplished all that I intended for myself, but that's why I'm playing another hand at the table. That's the point of Keep It Up, Kid. Thanks for checking out my stuff.
- Stephen Kellogg, April 2022