For the majority of Willy Porter’s life, he has been traveling across the country. Whether it was following his dad during auto races as a kid or performing music on a national stage, Porter has lived his life on the road.
And for Porter, the most exciting part of his travels is getting to know each new community he visits.
“The challenge is finding the real spirit of the town or the real food in a place and just soaking in the atmosphere,” Porter said during a phone interview with the Collegian.
Porter, 41, is now in his 16th year as a traveling musician. The vagabond lifestyle is one that some would not embrace, but for Porter, the most important part of his musical life is performing for people.
“Every show is an opportunity,” Porter says from his hometown of Milwaukee, Wis. “I love being able to get a new and different audience at every show.”
Porter will show off his musical talents for a new audience at Fort Collins’ own Avogadro’s Number on Oct. 20.
While Porter has been playing Colorado venues for over a decade, it always excites him to play new venues, like Avo’s.
And while some musicians never make it out of the smaller club scene, Porter has played arenas and clubs, large and small. During the course of his career, Porter has opened for icons such as Sting, Paul Simon and Jethro Tull.
But despite playing large shows with some musical gods, Porter’s favorite venues are what he calls the “medium-sized ones.”
“At that size of venue, the music seems to connect better with the audience. I have my best shows at mid-size theaters,” Porter said. “The music just sounds better.”
When it comes to Porter’s musical style, he says he doesn’t have one. A self-described “musical mutt,” Porter brings a wide of variety of styles to the table. For instance on his new album, every song shows a different side of Porter’s musical talents.
The song “One More September” has a slow, soul rhythm that incorporates Porter’s voice perfectly, while “Loose Gravel” is a playful song that brings the listeners back to their childhood.
Porter is most known for a song that was released 11 years ago, before many people outside of his hometown of Milwaukee had heard of him. “Angry Words” had modest success and was a hit on AAA radio stations – stations that have a much broader play list than traditional radio stations.
Being known for one song may affect some artists’ psyches but not Porter’s.
“If I had to be known for one song, I am glad it is one that is hard to play like ‘Angry Words,'” Porter said. “Some people like the three-chord songs, but those are as boring as hell.”
Porter’s life has changed throughout his life on the road: From selling his CDs out of his car trunk in 1990 to owning his own record label today. Porter also has a wife and two children, 3 and 6, who do not yet travel with him.
“It is hard to leave, but this is what I do,” he said. “It keeps me in focus while I am on the road.”
From waking up to see a one-legged chicken to finding a goat in a hallway, Porter has seen a lot throughout his 16 years of touring. And while he approaches touring as a job, he still tries to remember why he plays music in the first place.
“I decided when I was young that I would rather do something I like,” Porter says now. “And it’s lucky because it is the only thing I really know how to do.”
Mike Donovan can be reached at email@example.com.
Willy Porter will be playing Avogardo’s Number on Friday Oct. 20. Tickets are $17.