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Willy Porter

Like Greg Brown, John Hammond, Leo Kottke, Stephen Fearing, Richard Shindell, Kelly Joe Phelps, and so many others, Willy Porter is often at his strongest as a solo act. He does work with a band periodically, but given the economics of touring in recent years, he seems to perform more frequently accompanying himself with guitar and mandolin. Porter honed his chops the natural way, busking across Europe and playing every little coffee house and dive bar on both sides of the Mississippi. He's a veteran performer who takes his audiences with him on the journey. He elicits a rare kind of communication between artist and audience, mostly because he's able to read his audiences so well.

Porter was raised near Milwaukee, and his first big breaks were playing theater-sized shows there and in Madison. As could be expected from someone from this part of the country, there's an element of blues in Porter's singing and songwriting and in most of his live shows, although he's best thought of as a contemporary singer/songwriter, straight out of the world of folk music. He began playing viola, a notoriously difficult instrument to master, in his youth, but found he lacked the discipline for classical music as a career path. He had a revelation in his teens when he found Leo Kottke's album, "6 & 12 String Guitar." Kottke's playing opened up new vistas for Porter, who began playing guitar after dropping his viola studies.

In the '90s, Porter went through a period of being a rising star, but he has since settled back, comfortably, into the role of independent musician, recording for small labels and selling his recordings at gigs. Among the breaks he caught in the '90s were opening slots for the likes of Jeff Beck, Rickie Lee Jones, Tori Amos, Paul Simon, the Cranberries, and other pop and rock stars after Private Music/BMG re-released Dog Eared Dream and put their significant marketing and promotional forces behind Porter and his music. He's been joined on subsequent recordings under his own name by the likes of Ian Anderson and Martin Barre from Jethro Tull, who Porter opened for on a tour in Europe. After breaking on to the national scene in the early '90s through a lot of hard road work, Porter's discography includes upwards of eight albums, including How to Rob a Bank (2009) and Available Light (2006) for Weasel Records, High Wire Live (2003) and Willy Porter (2002) for Six Degrees Records, a San Francisco-based label. In the mid- and late '90s, he released three other recordings for Six Degrees, 1999's Falling Forward, 1995's Dog Eared Dream, and 1990's The Trees Have Soul.

As the occasion or tour dictates, you can catch Porter solo or with a backing band of veterans from Wisconsin. On How to Rob a Bank, Porter is accompanied by Dave Adler, keyboards, Steve Kleiber, bass, and drummer/percussionist Dave Schoepke. Whether he's in your town as a solo act or with a backing band, one thing is sure: given his artful blending of blues, country, and traditional folk influences and his extraordinary fingerpicking guitar stylings, Porter will be a force in the worlds of Americana and contemporary folk and folk-rock music for years to come. ~ Richard J. Skelly, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

I've seen Willy three times and he is A-Mazing! What an incredible talent! He not only is a fabulous musician he is a great entertainer. If you get the chance to catch a show....don' t miss it!
I first saw Willy on the Chief Waupaca paddle wheel boat in '98. He played at our wedding party in '12. Wisco Proud! One of the best!
Don't care for him
He needs to come to Austin. I think people would welcome him. No doubt about it.
mlewis12
Willy killed it in Sisters at the SFF!!!!
Why can't more artists be individuals like Willy Porter. So much sameness, whether it be in rock, R&B, pop. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, bland, bland, bland, bland, bland.
clmay41
This guy is great !!!!!
wille kicks bootie! we go see him anytime he's neer. if you like him check out Michael Mcloud, Pandora needs to find him. google his site, you won't b sorry!!
movalbob4
we're going to see Willy next Friday in San Diego. Saw him twice before. Looking forward to another great concert!
i saw this guy open for tori amos in 1994 and he was awesome
Willy Porter will be in Sturgeon Bay tomorrow Tuesday June 20th! I can't wait to hear him again!
tourwonk
I must say he is one of my all-time fave live performers! World Cafe Live in Phily in 2008 with Natalia Zukerman opening.. she is on his label and he produced her cd Brand New Frame.
marshawells
Wow - thanks Pandora for exposing me to Willy's music. It stopped me in my tracks.
Willy is an amazing artist I have seen him in big venues and small ones he is a pleasure to watch in both settings. I love the way he makes songs from audience members vocabulary soup on stage. A true performer 100%, His songs and music tell stories like listening to your grandfather or best friend. If you get a chance go see this remarkable talented singer, songwriter, and exceptional guitarist do so he is one talent that should not be missed.
I've seen Willy in concert a couple of times and he is amazing. You'll appreciate his music even more.
What Tom said below but I want to take him sailing saw him with Tull then with the rest of the band in FallRiver Mass just saw him in Natick Mass with a female percussionis t who was amazing. My wife and I will never miss a local show as long as he is playing.
First saw Willy several years ago when he opened for Jeff Beck in Santa Rosa. Probably the best opening act I've ever seen in over 40 years of concerts. Saw him again in a coffee shop in Chico a few years later. Wished I'd asked him to go fishing with me the next day. Not only a superior guitarist but a tremendously engaging storyteller and person. He'll take a set of random words from the audience and create a song on the spot. I hope he comes back to the Bay Area again some time soon.
mia_star
If you get a chance to see Willy live, go!
I've witnessed this incredible individual in concert 3 times now. It's absolutely amazing to watch someone with this much talent doing something he enjoys. Not to be missed.
Choosing2bfr e e
Love it!!!
Yes Dorothy, trees do have souls..Willy Porter is a new addition for me...from Pandora. Thanks. I suspect he will just keep getting better and better. Love the St. Croix, Willy, but come visit us in Kansas. RLH
pugbaily
great sound
dhlavaty
Attended college at same time as Willy and often saw him play at the student union (where we also saw Michael Hedges). It's amazing that the same guy who used to sing "Vegetable Chaos" has evolved into this awesome musician. Thought he was good before - just keeps getting better.
Anyone who likes this guy check out Keller Williams.
heard one of his songs on an alternative radio station in chicago before his first album came out. i waited for over a year - guess there was problem with producers??? anyway, LOVE him, but i still think his first album was the BEST.
If you have never had the honor of seeing Willy live on stage, you are missing out on an incredible experience. His guitar strumming will have you mezmerized, his lyrics are very soulful, and his improv with the audience is astonishing. I was fortunate enough to meet him in Easton, MD and he's one cool cat - genuine and down-to-eart h . Rock on, Willy!!
I'm lucky enough to live in Madison and he's AWESOME live. His vibe is as good as his music...
I've heard his name. I was blown away by a song of his latest album that I found on the fender my space page. I went to his website and he has quickly become my favorite artist I've discovered in a while.
As a musician, he is more gifted than his simple folk songs sound. Delving into alternate tunings, some were listed on his page, and I've never heard of them. His knack for jumping out immediately as unpretentiou s and honest , puts him in the David Grey and Jeff Buckley boat. A

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