An Interview with Will Porter

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Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

If you’re a fan of Blues and R&B, then you are in for a treat. Today, I’ve one of the genres best kept secrets in Will Porter with me for a chat. Will is one of the more soulful, original, and downright classic artists in the Blues and R&B game today.

Will Porter’s ability to conjure up the past while simultaneously keeping his music fresh enough to push forward is a talent that is truly singular to him. As such, it’s no surprise that the press and critics alike have finally caught up with Will during his reissue campaign for his now acclaimed album Tick Tock Tick.

Does this sound like your kind of thing? If so, take a trip over to Will Porter’s website today, and snag your very own copy of Tick Tock Tick, along with lots of other goodies which are sure to tickle your Blues fancy.

As I mentioned earlier, I sat down with Will Porter, and among other things, talked about his early musical upbringing, his new reissue of Tick Tock Tick, working with Dr. John, some of his favorite artists, and a whole lot more. Enjoy this interview with Will. Cheers.

Andrew:
Will, thanks a lot for doing this with us today, how are you holding up?

Will:
The year was rough on nearly everyone, I believe. I couldn’t get to my Mexico home, or to family in West Virginia, so I stayed pretty locked down at my San Francisco place and ATE.

Andrew:
Before we really get into this, can you tell us about who you play with
?

Will:
Well, I’m a solo artist. I have lots of great sidemen available to me when I ask for them. During my years as a bandleader and/or musical director, the situation would vary. Sometimes it was me and the headliner meeting a new band and putting the show together with one rehearsal. Other times it was MY band traveling. Whatever the contract called for.

Andrew:
What was your musical upbringing like?

Will:
A mother who collected Jazz, including the better big bands, with their Blues-based singers that fronted them. Also, Mahalia Jackson, Big Bill Broonzy, Chet Baker. I had a stack of R&B records from an older family member. I joined the musicians’ Union at 14 to play sax and sing backup in local bands. I discovered Folk music on my own, but mine was always tempered with Blues and R&B.

Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

Andrew:
Can you tell us a bit about your album Tick Tock Tick? This is a re-release, correct?

Will:
Yes. It was released internationally in 2016, but I didn’t sign a distribution deal in the USA. Plus, I had some hassle with a middleman for streaming services, and I pulled it down. JUST NOW, it’s on all streaming services! Tick Tock Tick made “BEST OF THE YEAR” critics’ lists in both Blues Music Magazine, Blues Blast, and was a nominee for R&B album of the Year in New Orleans. It was named “Soul Blues album of the year” by one critic and “A Soul Masterpiece” by another. Really incredible response; I’m grateful.

Andrew:
You have quite a few guests on the album, care to tell us who they are and what it was like working with them?

Will:
Dr. John (Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame) was the best friend of Wardell Quezergue, the arranger/producer, and had been in his band as a kid. He suggested cutting “When the Battle is Over” with me. He had written it for Aretha, but Delaney & Bonnie cut it first. He had never cut it on his own and was kinda pissed that several people had cut it, and “They made up dey own lyrics!!” I found “Tick Tock Tick,” a song that he had written a long time ago, on a demo by Clydie King (RIP), one of Bob Dylan’s wives. Mac (Dr. John) signed a deal with me to cut an entire album of his tunes that he wanted to hear differently or had never cut himself. He passed before we got more done than these two tracks. He was a fan, which meant a lot to me. He said, “Will finds things in my songs that I had hadn’t noticed, or didn’t know were there, to begin with!”

Bettye LaVette and I were “backstage friends” from before her comeback; she knew I was in her corner. SHE offered a duet. I was shocked; we were backstage. I pulled someone from the hall into the room and made her say it again so that I had a witness! [Laughs]. We listened to a lot of songs; I tried writing one for the duet…THAT never works. We settled on the Dylan song “Make You Feel My Love,” and the response in the press has been unbelievable…calling it the “ultimate,” and “The only version you need!” etc. Wardell’s arrangement is something else.

Jimmy Haslip, who has 22 Grammy nominations; 3 wins, is an old friend and was in an early band of mine before he left for LA. He was thrilled to work with Wardell.

The Womack Brothers I knew from my time working and traveling with Motown star Mary Wells. Curtis was married to Mary. He was the original lead singer of The Womacks/The Valentinos, and I wanted to give him a chance to shine, and he certainly does. They are also from West Virginia and are now in the WV Music Hall of Fame. These were their final recordings.

Leo Nocentelli of The Meters has a lifetime Grammy award and his song “Cissy Strut” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame. We were both traveling for a while with Bobby Sheen (Bobb B Soxx) and actually had a band together for a short minute. We are brothers. He also was in Wardell’s band as a kid.

Andrew:
Listening to the album, there seems to be a mix of Soul, Blues, R&B, and Jazz; these all seem to come together in a coherent kind of way. What got you into Blues?

Will:
You know, I think it’s the singer, not the song. Someone had a newspaper article about a show I did as a 14-year-old for a women’s club or something. I think I was playing an autoharp and singing Folk and Gospel songs. The writer said “Blues Singer” The singers I heard from childhood were Blues-based; that’s what I thought singing was/is. So, therefore, I have never felt like I was singing out of my own culture. I like singing that sounds like someone’s speech put to music.

Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

Andrew:
Your music really takes me back to the olden days of smoky Jazz clubs and velvet seats. Was this a sound you were specifically going for?

Will:
Well, I have seen nightclubs since my mid-teens but the only thing I was “specifically going for” was something truthful sounding. The cut usually mentioned as “Jazz” is “Don’t Go to Strangers,” which is actually the only song on the album that was a TOP TEN SOUL/R&B hit (for Etta Jones in the 60s). I intentionally didn’t listen to her version; I didn’t want the influence. I also gave Wardell a version that I considered to be kinda crappy, and Wardell kicked ass; some of us cried in the studio.

Andrew:
With a voice like yours, it safe to assume that you’ve been a singer for quite some time. Have you gone to school for music, or is it just natural talent and practice?

Will:
Thank you very much for your compliments. I have a fairly ordinary range; there are wonderful voices around. Have you heard my friend Tad Robinson? John Nemeth? Have you heard the late Willie Walker (who was a mind-blower!)? It comes down to using what you have in a way that’s personal. Many of the best singers have very little voice. Wardell Quezergue said something about me that moved me a lot. He said, “Will already sounded like who he wanted to be. He didn’t come to New Orleans to copy anyone. Will Is very critical of his own work; he’s not satisfied easily. I’ve worked with (and had BIG hits with) singers with big, flashy voices, who weren’t saying much. Will Porter IS SUBTLE, EXPRESSIVE, DEEP, AND SOULFUL.” Nice quote, no?

Andrew:
Do you play any instruments, or do you mainly focus on vocals?

Will:
I played sax as a kid (actually won first chair in the state). I use piano for writing.

Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

Andrew:
Has your music taken you to many memorable places? Anywhere you’d like to visit or go next once COVID lightens up?

Will:
I hope to tour Europe soon; the press has been very nice. I toured the UK with Mary Wells on her last tour there. I traveled all over the states but, like most artists, saw the airports, the hotel, the venue. I’m bilingual and hope to record in Spanish and tour those countries. Looking for a new touring agency; we shall see.

Andrew:
Here’s one we ask everyone, do you collect any physical forms of music? Vinyl, tapes, cassettes, CDs, or are you all digital?

Will:
I have thousands of vinyl LPs, plus I have my mother’s collection (which means hundreds of albums from the Columbia Record Club).Hundreds of CDs. I’m barely getting into digital; I bought a new car, and when I realized there wasn’t a CD player, I almost wrecked and thought about returning the car! [Laughs].

Andrew:
Do you have any albums that mean the most to you?

Will:
Mahalia Jackson at the 1958 Newport Festival. Early Louis Armstrong. Big Bill Broonzy. Miles Davis with Gil Evans Orchestra. Fred Neil. Judy Henske. Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett. Dusty Springfield. HI Records recordings (Ann Peebles, Al Green).

Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

Andrew:
Who are some of your biggest inspirations and influences for your music?

Will:
Well, the above-mentioned artists. Luckily, I don’t sing like or sound like my biggest influences. That’s when someone is in trouble….

Andrew:
Are you finding it hard to navigate the digital music scene with endless amounts of other artists and streaming services popping up?

Will:
Oh, HELL, yes. There are at least a couple of other Will Porters; I’m sure they’re not happy about me, either. Willy Porter and I get each other’s mail and money sometimes…

Luckily, I DO own www.WILLPORTER.com.

Andrew:
Where can people find your music?

Willporter.com.

And, as of late APRIL, both of my CDs (Happy and Tick Tock Tick) are on all streaming services & AMAZON, of course.

Andrew:
Will, thanks again for doing this with us today, is there anything else you’d like to add that we may have missed or didn’t cover?

Will:
Thanks for being interested. Special thanks to the myriad of critics out there who have been really wise and kind with their reviews. HEY EVERYBODY! KEEP IN TOUCH! HOPE TO SEE YA’LL AFTER THE APOCALYPSE!!

Photos courtesy of Mark Pucci Media

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Will Porter

  1. What a wonderful interview with Will. Will and I are childhood friends. We listened to this CD in the car right after it was finished. I was overwhelmed. I think I cried through the entire CD; tears of joy over the blues.

    1. Hi Tina! Thanks so much for checking the interview out. Will is a great guy, and his record is awesome too!

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