Sometimes for a musician, it’s all about the journey to get to a particular destination. Just ask Field Report’s Chris Porterfield. As we showed in our Artist of the Week a few weeks ago, Porterfield’s path from DeYarmond Edison to Field Report has been unorthodox with many bumps along the road. We caught up with the Wisconsin-native ahead of his band’s tour with Aimee Mann, here’s what happened.
DK: How old are the songs on the album?
CP: I think the oldest one is three years old. “Fergus Falls” is probably the oldest and the others are around that period. I think “Evergreen” was the freshest one in that batch and that was written around this time last year.
DK: Where do you draw inspiration from for your lyrics? They’re very vivid and evoke a lot of imagery. How does that process work?
CP: It’s sort of a gathering process where I put down ideas as they pop up in a document. Then I take a look at the things that have been gathered and see if there’s a story or a common narrative or sentiment in there. Then it’s putting them together in a way that can make sense. There’s a lot of editing and revisions that go into it and if a set of words can survive that process, then I’ll start trying to put some music to it. And there’s a lot of revisions in that process too, then I’ll take it to the rest of the guys. The thing that I like about this project and this band is that all the songs are in a stage of justifying their existence and proving its worth. A lot of songs get killed off and didn’t make the record. We’re continuing to grow and evolve these arrangements in the live set and we have some new songs that we’re going to try to figure out and incorporate too. The whole thing is in flux all the time, nothing gets to rest for too long then it feels sort of stagnant. Everything is sort of in question.
DK: Are the songs that didn’t make the cut killed off for good or is there a chance for them to see the light of day eventually?
CP: I’m not really sure. I was talking to our drummer this weekend about that and he was going through his iTunes and we had nearly a full record worth of stuff that he still thinks is strong to be played and heard. I’m not sure if I’m of that mind but I think we’ll probably revisit some of that and see where it’s at. There’s some new stuff that’s happening and I can’t wait for that to enter the fray. We’re definitely thinking about the next record and see what happens when it comes time to make it.
DK: What was it like recording in Justin’s (Bon Iver's Justin Vernon) studio? Did you find it weird with him based on your history with him?
CP: It’s a really comfortable place and didn’t feel weird. Justin was out on the road with his crew at the time and we had the run of the place. We did 18-hour days there and did everything in about six days. We wanted to make a “not think about it too much” record and capture it as honestly as possible. There are some things that I’d change and whatever, but I don’t even know that, I didn’t listen to the record after we got the masters back. I haven’t heard the thing since May and I don’t think I’m ready to hear it yet.
DK: Is it one of those things where when it’s done, that you never want to hear it again and onto the next one?
CP: Yeah. I don’t want to be in a place to second-guess and I don’t want to dwell too much on the thing. We’re just going to keep moving forward.
DK: How does the music translate in a live setting? Do you stick to what’s the lasting memory of a song or do you like to improvise more?
CP: The record as we made it serves as a template for sure. We change things around. Say if there’s a different way to start something, we explore that, or we stretch out a certain section or even cut or add a verse. The band is really adept at following where I take things and they’re all just incredible listeners and great players and in tune with the process of interpreting what is best for a song. It’s just one of those gameday decisions that we can make a pretty quick turn if we need to.
DK: How long are you on the road for?
CP: Three weeks.
DK: How did you end up signing with Partisan Records?
CP: There were a few labels that expressed interest in us and we spoke with a bunch of them, and it seemed like they were willing to give us freedom and support. They’re really good people and they’re artist friendly. It’s been an absolute pleasure working with them.
DK: Would you ever change what you had to go through to get to this point?
CP: Right now, no. Every single that we do, there is choices and agency and everything. Every choice, whether big or small, ends up taking you down a path, whether you are conscious of it or not, and I’m really grateful that getting to this point in my career that it’s happening now because I’m a little older and more grounded in who I am. I’ve seen other people with opportunities; some of them made good on them and others haven’t worked out as well. I’m in a place where I can be true to myself and not be too young and naïve and get caught up in nice things people are saying or weird career advice. We’re well grounded, proud of what we’re doing and it couldn’t have happened like this at any other time or any other way.