Singer-songwriter Chris Porterfield talks debut album: "It's sort of a snapshot of two or three years of my life"
Fall is almost upon us, and Field Report has the exact soundtrack for you. The artfully crafted self-titled debut album from Wisconsin's Chris Porterfield relates a vast spread of themes -- death and disappointment, family and America, redemption -- but does so with a pensive air that feels right for the end of a hot, loud season and the start of a brisker, calmer time.
"If I don't have something I feel strongly about saying, songs don't get written," Porterfield tells Billboard of the process behind the record. The result is a ten-song effort of feelings being felt strongly and audibly, and orchestrated accordingly. Porterfield's six-piece band employs the usual rock staples as well as mood-sculpting synths and country-echoing pedal steel. (Listen to an exclusive stream of the album below.)
As an experiment in freshness, the bandmates all picked up instruments that aren't their typical weapons of choice. "That sort of removes reflex and muscle-memory from the equation and makes everybody just listen a little harder, think a little longer, and really sort of submit to the songs a bit more than some hot shot just riffing," Porterfield says. "We really wrestle with choices. If something is working, cool, maybe we should try a different way anyway, just to see what happens. If something is not working, we need to break it or we need to kill it and move on. There's sort of a constant state of reckoning with us; I don't think I could operate in any other way."
Field Report recorded the album at April Base, perhaps better known as Justin Vernon of Bon Iver's Eau Claire studio. "It's a lot of different stories hanging together. It's sort of a snapshot of two or three years of my life, but without inserting myself everywhere. Allowing other characters and narrators to speak to similar experiences," Porterfield says. "I think we've carved out enough space to let the stories take over and then just sort of guide it along musically where there's space between the lines."
And while Porterfield is eager for listeners to hear his debut for what it is, he doesn't mind the inevitable Bon Iver connections. "Being a new project, people always want to have some kind of frame of reference and it's just easier for people to digest things that way. I totally get that," he says.
It doesn't hurt that Porterfield, a former bandmate of Vernon's in DeYarmond Edison, harbors genuine admiration for Vernon's success. "I think what happened with him might be kind of a once in a generation thing, honestly. I think it was the right thing for the right time and he was good enough to back up the hype and he's just an incredible musician and human and friend."
"Field Report" will be released through Partisan Records on Sept. 11. For now, enjoy the album's exclusive streaming premiere above, and prepare to hunker down with a mug of something warm and comb through these songs and their beautifully told stories again and again.