“I feel so lame.”
That’s the introductory lyric on L.A.-based producer Chet Porter’s first original release since 2016. “The Longest Day Ever” is a spotlight of honesty that burst forth in a stream of consciousness. It opens in a psychedelic haze Porter’s lyrics paint the picture of a man coming to grips: “Breathe in / Let go / Chill out / Slow down / Who cares / So what / Calm down.” Then it explodes in electronic maximalism.
The single’s unresolved aura ironically indicates Porter’s burgeoning direction. His breakout success around Chelsea Cutler collab “Stay” (which has more than 12 million streams on Spotify) led to a direct opening slot on Odesza’s critically-acclaimed arena tour. Many in the industry saw him as “next up,” but that success led to years of anxious soul searching.
He was scheduled to open for San Holo’s Album1 tour, but voluntarily stepped down in December of 2018, citing mental health issues. Nine months later, he’s confident enough to share his story. Billboard Dance caught up with Porter to learn what prompted the panic, and how introspection and isolation led to authentic breakthrough.
First new original music in about three years. It’s been a tough process. How are you feeling?
A little odd. I’m definitely excited to do it. I’ve been waiting to put something out for a long time. Seeing the initial reaction of people being like “fuck yeah, he’s finally doing something” is kind of a nice feeling. It’s kind of cool to not put out music. There’s something comforting about being in that space where you don’t really have to show anyone anything, but I guess time to start unraveling.
What happened on your end that led to this semi-hiatus?
I wouldn’t call it a hiatus, because it wasn’t intentional. I just realized the position I was in, having people look at me. I had people saying “oh, keep an eye on this guy, he might be next up.” That made me think about what I actually want to give people. It took me a long time to figure it out — too long. I was worried, because if you’re a big artist at the top, you have the luxury of going away and taking your time, but when you’re still building yourself, not many people can get away with that. I was very lucky to have people patiently waiting, and somehow I was still growing while I wasn’t even really doing anything.
When did the weight of the situation strike you?
I was on the Odesza tour. We were all celebrating because they sold out this big stadium. We were just having some drinks after, and their agent was really drunk and he was like “Chet, You’re in such a good place right now…don’t fuck it up.” That just stuck in my head forever. I hope he reads this. I actually did the opposite of what he told me to do. He was like, “You got to get some music out,” and I was like, “You’re right,” and then I kind of just went away for two years.
What did that moment change?
Maybe my perspective changed a little, because I realized how much it can actually represent me as a person. When you make something and put it out into the world, people associate that with you. They expect you to play it in your show. I thought “do I really want to make this and then I’m stuck playing it forever?” I wanted to really figure out what I want a Chet Porter project to sound like.
What did you decide?
It didn’t end up really being a decision, but I definitely had to work it out. What I landed on turned into this very DIY indie [sound] infused with electronic sounds. It feels like me, and it feels like what I like.
Have you been trying to make music all this time? Did you take a step back and not put pressure on myself?
It was a bit wavy. I went back and forth between putting my all into it and then being like “I should stop putting so much pressure on myself and chill out a little bit.” I went back and forth over and over again until I ended up with some stuff I’m happy enough with to share. There were some shows. I don’t know why people wanted to book me or see me when I didn’t even have any new music, but it was fun. I’m happy people wanted to.
Is anxiety something you dealt with throughout your life?
Not until high school. That’s when I first had experiences with it. Definitely in the past two or three years, it’s been highly elevated. I think I’m pretty good at managing it. It’s such a weird thing. I don’t even know how to really speak about it. It’s a thing, and I have to deal with it. I guess a lot of people deal with it. If I realize “oh shit, this is too much,” I’ll like take myself out of the equation. I did that with the San Holo tour. I love San, he’s one of my best friends, and I was like, “There’s no way I can do the whole thing.”
What about that situation was overwhelming for you?
I don’t know. I was in a very weird mindset. I was crying every day. He was really understanding. Everyone was. They were like, “You don’t have to do it. It’s cool.” I don’t know how many other jobs there are where you can just be like “I don’t think I could do this right now,” and they’re like, “Okay! Go home.” I’m very lucky to be able to do that, take time to calm my brain down and relax.
When did this music that you feel comfortable sharing with the world start to come out of you?
It definitely didn’t start with this song. This one was more recently made. When I made [“The Longest Day Ever”], it happened very fast and, for some reason, I just had this feeling this is the one that we put out first.
There wasn’t a specific break. Different little tiny breakthroughs happened throughout the past couple of years. I’ll be really confident for a day, and then I’m like “oh fuck, now I have to make another thing” and it fucking takes me forever. Sometimes you get lucky in a creative sense, and the basic idea you started is just really good and really easy to expand on. Those are the days where it’s like, “I can do this. I’m the best.” Alongside that are 45 days where you’re like, “Oh I’m fucking terrible, why am I even trying?”
What’s the story behind “The Longest Day Ever” in particular? The vibe is sick, very Animal Collective in the beginning, Beatles go to India, but there are a lot of moods.
Someone else said it was like Animal Collective. I only know that one big song [“My Girls”]. I’m happier getting compared to things outside of the EDM world for some reason. For a while, I thought I was going to be stuck in this bubble.
I made it very fast, probably in the span of four hours in my bedroom. It happened recently when I was pretty exhausted. I spent a lot of time and money working with Grammy-nominated producers, and even though I did that, I didn’t really connect with anything that we did. I spent months working, and at the end of the day, I was like, “I just want to make stuff alone in my room.” That’s my process. I was trying to finish some other music actually, and I was just like, “Fuck this, I want to make something new.” I just started playing around. Four hours later, I had a song.
It’s just about not really caring about anything, but not in a fun carefree way, more melancholy. It’s maybe a depression thing, but sometimes I just don’t care about anything. I’m just a robot. I don’t care about what I eat, what this person did or what’s happening today, exciting news, if I’m going to die. That’s sort of what the song is about. I didn’t even really write it, I just hit record and sang some shit.
I love the lyrics, though. I think a lot of people can relate to that headspace.
I don’t know if honest is the right word, but there is something honest about using the first take. I’ve been really attached to doing that throughout the whole process lately. This goes back to working with these super big people in the industry who would try and re-track certain vocals. I just didn’t like it. It’s too good. It didn’t feel right.
There’s something about the vibe. You’re definitely creeping into that indie atmosphere.
I feel like I finally opened a window. I’m letting some air in. Hopefully that sparks more creativity. I do have more coming, lots to be finished. I’ve always been an album person. I mean, I’ve never made one, maybe that’s why it’s so hard, but I’d rather listen to an album front-to-back up than just one song. I do want to some type of full length project. I think it is on the way.