Flickr *The following is a dramatic interpretation of Spinner's Monthly…
- Posted on Oct 11th 2012 3:00PM by Shauna Farnell
Currently on tour with Aimee Mann and having toured in the last few months with the Counting Crows and Emmylou Harris, Porterfield still feels strange when he returns home to Wisconsin and doesn't have to go to work.
"I was nearly finished with school and in a relationship, not ready to leave the Midwest. I stayed in Eau Claire for another year, then moved to Milwaukee. I've been there ever since. I had a real job. I was pretty sure music was done. But then I started writing these songs and finding people to play them with. It's been going from there. It was a hobby until very recently," Porterfield said from the outset of Field Report's tour with Aimee Mann this fall. He had to ask his bandmates -- only partially in jest -- to clarify where they were. Arizona? New Mexico ... somewhere around there.
Even before Field Report's first self-titled release that happened to be recorded in Vernon's famed cabin in the woods (during a snowstorm, no less) came out last month, the band began getting some buzz. They were in invited to play South by Southwest and a handful of other summer festivals.
"Nobody has any idea who we are and it's been a fun, interesting challenge to win people that way," Porterfield says. "Surprisingly, we've been pretty good at it. We were in Grand Rapids opening for Emmylou Harris. The crowd, they were a little older. They tend to be people who know Emmy really well. We played for 35 minutes. They gave us a standing ovation. It was really humbling. It was honestly like, holy shit, what just happened? We played the Hopscotch festival and nobody knew who we were. Same thing ... we got a standing ovation. During the Counting Crows tour, we had no idea if their fans would be into what we're doing but the reaction has been really, really positive."
Before Field Report, Porterfield hadn't really been the impetus behind the music and was more just a cog in the machine. Now that he's the creator and bandleader, he is still getting up to speed with the phenomenon of songwriting.
"Writing songs, you can pick and choose what you want to present of character perspectives," he says. "For us, the lyrics come first. I always carry a notebook. It's a gathering process. If a line comes up, I write it down. Going through them and making sense together of those ... it's like curating an exhibit at a museum. You've got different pieces that can be independent, but when you put them together in a room, they speak to a different whole. It's taking the honesty of a moment and putting it together as an honest piece. We really struggle or fight with all of these things to keep it honest. I think when we're honest with ourselves and presenting something, it makes for a more compelling performance."
All of this paints a whole different world than that of his former job in Student Affairs at Marquette University. The rock 'n' roll lifestyle is fast and exciting for Porterfield, but not something he's wholeheartedly ready to sign up for ... yet.
"We're just following the energy around what we're doing and it's exhausting," he says. "It's weird not going to work when I'm home. There is definitely some recalibration that has to happen. It's been overwhelming, the support we've gotten. New things come in every day. Initially it was jaw-dropping, like, how are we a part of this world suddenly that we looked in on for so long? It's really humbling and really cool that people are investing a bit of themselves in experiencing it. It's really rewarding. It's exciting to think about what the next thing is. But we're in beta time mode. We don't know if this is going to be a career."
But, it's a career for now. Look for Field Report on their first ever headline tour this November.
In the meantime, now that the first studio record is under his belt, Porterfield has some new songs in the works. And as close as he and Vernon are, moving forward, he is really hoping to shake the constant affiliation between Field Report and Bon Iver.
"Of course I want to maintain my friendship," Porterfield says. "But I'm looking forward to separating myself from that."