Jennifer Porter is an award-winning musician, actor and screenwriter. Jennifer, who is a musician’s musician, has sung with Classical and Jazz Orchestras, including the world famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, and smaller combos including her own quintet. She is also an accomplished Blues pianist, and has played with C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band, Nathan and The Zydeco Cha-Chas, and Ils Sont Partis. Her musical repertoire spans from Jazz and Blues to Country and Opera. She has recorded 7 albums to date, and recently released her newest album, “These Years,” recorded with legendary producer Jay Newland. What is your earliest memory of music? And, how did you get started in music? I have two early memories of music. One is listening to my father sing and play his beautiful banjo, that he made himself. The other is listening to a woman named Mackie, play Boogie-Woogie piano at my Grandparent's notorious cocktail parties. I was always supposed to be in bed, but would sneak down to listen to Mackie play, while her sister Linda sang. The following mornings, I would sit down at the piano and pick out the songs they had played the night before. I also had an entire repertoire of songs that I would sing for my parents every time we drove anywhere! When I was six-years old, a family friend suggested my parents find me a piano teacher, since I was already picking things out by ear. I loved my first piano teacher. For the next six years, I continued with piano, and would sing along to myself when I was playing. When I was twelve, a voice teacher heard me singing, and took me under her wing. At that point I concentrated more on singing, but still played piano and ended up being a Voice Major and Piano Minor at University. My first gigs were playing and singing for weddings starting at age fifteen.
What was the first song you ever wrote? What or who inspired you to start writing music? Well, the very first song I ever wrote was a piano piece, entitled, "Peggy's Song" for my piano teacher when I was 10. I wrote and recorded some songs while I was in high school, but they were rather maudlin, though I do think the melodies were pretty good! When I started concentrating more on singing, I was pulled very strongly into the classical music world. In fact, I was trained to be an Opera singer, but I continued to love and listen to Jazz, Blues, Soul, Funk,and even some Country music. When I left school, I decided I really didn't want to pursue Opera, and so started performing the music I had loved all along. When I was living in the world of classical music, I wrote some instrumental music, but songwriting was inaccessible for me. I couldn't match the technique of classical singing with any honest expression lyrics-wise. Once I left school I started writing songs again. It felt like a cork coming out of a bottle. I did, however, use my classical training to compose and perform the film score for the movie, MR BARRINGTON. Do you play any instruments? If yes tell us about it. If not, do you work with a band or studio musicians? Do you produce your tracks or work with a producer? As mentioned before, I play piano. I also play Wurlitzer, and Fender-Rhodes. I play recorders and flute, and played them on my first album, HYACINTH BOY BLUE. My band is ever-changing, but for my drummer, Dana Packard who happens to be my husband, (though on my jazz albums, I used a different drummer at his request!) I recently toured in The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany with some of my other favorite players, Damon Banks, on Bass, and Gwen Laster on Violin. For my album THESE YEARS, I had the pleasure of working with some amazing studio musicians, including Adam Levy and Ira Coleman. I also had my friend and Grammy-Winner C.J. Chenier and Country Music Hall-Of-Famer, Charlie McCoy, as guest performers, which was incredible. For THESE YEARS, I worked with Grammy-Winning producer Jay Newland. I am in the studio now, working on my new album, and am working with producer, Ben Zwerin, and loving it. What is your favorite part about being an artist (performing, recording, writing, playing)? My favorite part about being an artist is working with other musicians. I love being involved in something where the sum is greater than the parts. I love communicating musically with other musicians. I love putting something out there, a chord, or a note, or a rhythmic idea, and having someone answer you back! I also love performing. I enjoy the give and take between the audience and the performer. Writing music can be pure joy, or pure agony. So I couldn't classify it as my favorite, but when it's going well, then nothing can compare.
Do you have any advice for young women pursuing music? The best advice I could give to a young woman just starting out in the music business, is to trust your instincts and your opinions, and to learn to distinguish between constructive criticism, and someone else's vanity. Both can hurt your ego, but if you believe in yourself, one will sit right in your gut, and the other won't. One let's you sleep at night, the other doesn't. Learn to take the constructive, and throw the rest in the garbage where it belongs. Also, you are entering a world where, in spite of slow changes, most of the people you will be working with are male. Find the ones who are your allies. Again trust your gut. And last but by no means least, don't tear down other musicians who are female. There is room enough for all of us. For readers who have never heard your music, can you suggest one or two songs to start with?