Photo credit: Jason Koerner/Jam Cruise
George Porter Jr.’s smile is infectious. Walking around Jam Cruise 17, he is always willing to chat with a fan, friend or fellow musician. Even at Noon (which might as well be 7 a.m. at a music festival), he sips a cup of coffee and his smile still remains.
Currently, Porter has two records on the way and plenty of tour dates on the calendar, with Foundation of Funk, Voodoo Dead and more. But still, he still stresses the importance of seeing local music. “I’m a big fan of some of the smaller clubs that have more of the local bands,” he says. “I like the bands that don’t get on the big stage.”
In the interview below, Porter surveys exciting changes in his own career, his hometown of New Orleans and the music industry at large.
What kind of music are you listening to these days when you’re hanging out at home?
I’m in the middle of trying to write two records, so I haven’t been listening to much music at all. Just me. I’m trying to critique what we have and see if we doin’ what I wanna do. Outside of that, if I am playing gigs with other bands and I have to learn that music, I’ll sit down and spend half a day just getting that music under my finger. But other than that, I’m not listening to any music.
Of those two records, one’s with the Porter Trio, right?
One’s with the Porter Trio. And the other one is a Runnin Pardners record I started three years ago. The original guitar player that was with that band for 20 years, Brint Anderson, left. So I have to really go back and decide how much of that I want to keep or if I want to add a new guitar—I definitely want to add a new guitar for them into that song, so I gotta start doing the homework again. But I’ve been mostly concentrating on the Porter Trio.
The other project that I want to get done this year is that I want to do a duet thing with some of the female voices that I’ve been meeting over the last couple of years. Just my bass, their voice and my voice. I’m writing the music with my bass and then I want them to write the lyrics. I’m kind of leaning towards the concept of like a Marvin Gaye-Tammi Terrell kind of stuff. Of course, the ballad things that they did were great, but I want to do some rhythmically or syncopated funky kind of stuff. That’s a big project that I’m really looking forward to doing. At this point, I have a wish list of ladies that I want to do, but I can’t say that right now. I know who I want. I’ve spoken to most of them. I’m just saying that I don’t want to say anything.
On Jam Cruise you played a new song called “Police State.” Tell me about that one.
That’s a Porter Trio song. That was written by Ms. Denise Sullivan. She turned my language into English. [Laughs.] My thoughts were there, but she kind of rewrote it and made it lyrically correct. But, yeah, that song—there’s a couple of almost angry songs in the record. I’m trying to soften that up now.
It’s hard to imagine you being angry about anything, you’re such a beam of light in the live music scene.
Yeah. I guess it’s not as much an anger thing as much as a disappointment in our system as it’s standing right now. It’s not very promising, you know?
At least there’s music to help find our way out of it, right?
Well, you know, that’s our escape. We have music to escape to. But then we can’t stay in that escape forever. We still gotta come out of the closet and see what the rest of the world is doing. And, hopefully it’ll start looking better.
Are there any young cats on the scene that you’re really excited about, who are helping to carry this message and carry this sound?
Well, the young guy right now that’s immediately in my life is Terrence Houston, who’s a drummer and Chris Adkins, who’s the new guitar player for Runnin Pardners. I mean, those two young players are, to me, bringing my old music back to life. I believe Chris is gonna be very influential. Like I said, the Runnin Pardners album that we recorded with the original guitar player, I believe that Chris is going to bring another energy to that recording. In the Porter Trio, Terrence is just killin’ it.
Another group I wanted to talk about was Galactic, since they just bought Tipitina’s in New Orleans.
Those guys been around awhile. I haven’t seen them perform live in awhile, but I bump into Stanton here and there a lot at home. I don’t get to see the band perform much at all, but I see the growth. I don’t get out much since I got sober. I mean, I’m in my 31st year of sobriety so I don’t go hanging out anymore. I’m getting boring. I need to get up off my butt and go out and see some music. Always encouragin’ other people to go out, saying “support your live music.” I don’t go.
I’m looking forward to seeing Tipitina’s flourish once again to its royalty.
Is it a relief that it’s in good hands now?
That’s exactly the energy, you know what I mean? Nightclubs, bar rooms, whatever, they have a tendency to drain the energies of people that went into ’em with beautiful big rosy eyes. All of a sudden they get slapped in the head with reality of being a nightclub owner, you know? Hopefully these guys—because they’re musicians—will not allow that to happen to them. Because they’re all wonderful musicians and I’d hate to see them all turn into angry club owners. [Laughs.]