Chris Porter’s Southern Wit and Grit
Alabama transplant teams with Centro-Matic frontman on new CD
By William Harries Graham,
2:55PM, Fri. Apr. 17, 2015
Chris Porter is a tall, dapper musician that hails from Alabama. When he enters a room, he lights it up. Timeless Southern charm and crackling wit oozes from his pores. Porter demonstrates that and gritty songcraft at the Cactus Cafe this Sunday on a bill with Oklahoman John Moreland.
Several weeks ago, Porter released the Will Johnson-produced This Red Mountain, featuring locals Chris Masterson, Eleanor Whitmore, Bonnie Whitmore, Falcon Valdez, and my father, Jon Dee Graham.
“This Red Mountain is about leaving Birmingham and planting roots here in Austin,” says Porter. “I’ve always preferred tunes that have a sense of place. With this record, I got to say goodbye to a few old haunts.
“I grew up in a little town outside of Birmingham called Pell City. My parents were both public school teachers. They worked across the hall from one another for 30 years.”
Porter grew up listening to Sixties folk and Southern rock records that belonged to his family. He also sampled country radio in his dad’s home workshop and pickup truck. Wearing alt-country on his sleeve, he moved to Austin a few years ago.
“My move here has helped a lot musically,” he says. “Mainly by forcing me to seriously up my game. There are hundreds of great songwriters in this town, and 100 guys like me that move here every week.
“The better you get at what you do, the more folks begin to notice. I’ve got a long way to go, but being here has forced me to get out there, play harder, and write harder. That’s put me in touch with a much larger audience.”
How does he define This Red Mountain?
“I try not to be too pretentious when approaching the genre question about my own music. It’s easy to pretend that what you do is so original and special that a fan of a specific genre may or may not gravitate to it. What I do is Americana. Or at least those boundaries are the ones that I use when trying to figure out how to step around them.
“Will Johnson and I decided early on with This Red Mountain that there would be no ‘genericana’ on it.
By day, Porter works as sales director for Calton Guitar Cases (“Emailing rock stars about fancy guitar cases”). He reserves weekends for barbecue and beer. Everything else is reserved for his craft.
“You have to chase it for a while before you realize you’ve made a lifestyle choice,” he admits. “With every release, I grow as a writer and performer, and so does my crowd. Being validated by my peers is another barometer I hold dear.
“Having the group of musicians I did on this one, my friends that I am blessed to tour with, helps keep me going. Maybe by this time next year I can weasel my way into a Sprinter van or something.”
His motto, “Don’t fuck this up,” remains inspired by his fellow man.“Humans. There’s a ton of them just running around loving stuff, hating stuff. I gravitate to darker themes in my material, but inspiration comes from a lot of directions. Humanity gets my motor running.”