Porter Lori, a budding musician, singer, and songwriter from Aurora, Colorado, struggled early as a teenager to nurture and hone his talents and skills. Now, at the age of 34, success in his field may be just around the corner.
Born in Louisville, KY as Michael Anthony Anderson, he and his mother moved to Aurora when he was seven. He went to elementary and junior high school at St. Theresa and after starting high school at Machebeuf, he transferred to Central in his sophomore year and eventually dropped out of William Smith just before his senior year.
He began writing lyrics in his mid teens, starting with rap and hip hop. In his early 20’s, he’d already worked on stage in and around Denver, Vail and a gig in Las Vegas.
Anderson earned his GED and began traveling, immersing himself in other cultures, other people’s lives and began to reflect those influences in his music. “I wrote down the lyrics to songs I liked, songs that affected me in some way,” said Lori in a recent interview. “I listened to country because it was popular in Kentucky. I listened to Motown at home because my mom enjoyed it. I listened to rap and heavy metal because my friends listened to it.”
By the time he turned 24, he had moved to Los Angeles, looking for a better springboard to a musical career.
He took the name of Porter Lori after Porter, his Black father, and Laurie, his white mother. Lori worked at a television show with the title of Producer but claims it was more “GG – Glorified Gopher.” On his own time, he learned the operation of sound equipment from a co-worker and when the television show was scrapped, he began doing contract work as a sound technician.
Lori steadily worked on his music, late at night when in town and between traveling for the sound tech gigs. His job took him across the country several times, to New York City, to New Orleans, Boston and Juneau, Alaska and many more remote spots as well. Lori traveled to Mexico, Jamaica, the Philippines and other locations around the globe. Each immersion into the available culture made its own imprint on him and his music, he said.
A friend of Lori’s liked the music he was hearing and introduced him Norman Connors, the legendary jazz drummer also known for his R&B work. Lori says he was overwhelmed: “I was fortunate enough to sit in a few sessions with him while he was recording in North Hollywood.”
“Connors,” according to Lori, “was impressed with my music and my voice – he helped me, co-producing ‘Pleez’ and ‘Daughters and Sons’ and I think, because of him, those two songs in particular came out really well.”
Lori’s music and lyrics evolved from the days of hip hop and rap, and after working for over three years, the resulting CD, Hell or High Water, reflects the sweat and tears that went into its creation.
Lori says fans have compared him to poet and “Godfather of Rap” Gill Scott-Heron and to Grammy winner and nine-time nominee Bill Withers, identifying him with a smooth, folksy style.
With the wide source of influences, categorizing his music into any specific genre is certainly difficult. Lori says he is not bothered by the complaint; he admits writing songs that reflect his feelings or moods, brought on by circumstances or situations he has come across.
“I don’t write songs to necessarily fit into a specific genre. Black music is no longer relegated to just jazz or just soul or just Rhythm & Blues – as Black artists, we’re spreading our wings culturally.”
When asked what he thinks influences his lyrics most, he is quick to say, “Everything, everything influences my lyrics – good and bad!” As an artist, he is vocal in his MySpace blog about “wearing his heart on his sleeve” and bringing the resulting raw feelings to his music, like the sexually charged “SugaTime.” The lyrics to “Bodey” were born after Lori ran into an old classmate from Colorado, homeless and living in a cardboard box on the streets of Los Angeles.
Lori’s voice is just as difficult to classify. His voice can sound smooth as melted chocolate or become coarse as the gravel roads he remembers from rural Kentucky. His “Manifesto,” short but powerful, evokes thoughts of country blues from the 50’s.
Lori’s venue is evolving as well, and by popular demand, he has started doing live shows.
“We almost have a band,” he laughs.
With a trumpet, a viola, a keyboard and acoustic guitar, the music is more personal. Lori, in turn, says he enjoys the smaller, more intimate setting and the audience participation. He continues to appear in numerous small clubs in and around Los Angeles and the North Hollywood area. The University Bar and Grill on Lankersheim Boulevard in North Hollywood is one of his favorite venues, he notes.
Without a publicity or marketing budget, Lori’s CD sales have been steadily climbing as word gets out. His live shows have become one of those secrets only the musical “in” crowd knows about! His fan base has also been growing steadily through word of mouth and the internet. When asked about future projects, Lori will be offering an “unplugged” version of “Hell or High Water” that is being recorded from the live performances. It will be a raw version with more traditional arrangements.
In the meantime, Lori has been getting some great exposure through promotional videos on YouTube. Reactions to the promo have all been positive, for example: “WOW! He’s great in all aspects!”, and “I, for one, will be getting his album – he’s great!” There are more videos in the making, and the future looks bright for Porter Lori – Aurora boy making good in the big city.
Porter Lori’s videos and music can be seen and heard on www.myspace.com/portersounds and his CD can be purchased at www.CDBaby.com or www.iTunes.com.
Editor’s Note: Laura Anderson is a regular contributor to the Denver Urban Spectrum. She is owner and CEO of a professional copywriting and web design service, The Pen Pusher LLC. For more information, visit http://thepenpusherllc.com.