Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter
Bullseye with Jesse. Thorn is a production of maximum fund dot org and is distributed by NPR. I'm Jesse Thorn. It's Bullseye this week. We're listening back to some favorite interviews next up. Is Greg reporter in two thousand eighteen? He's a Grammy Award nominated. Jesse sold a bunch of albums and the route that he took to his singing careers. Nick he was an offensive Lineman in college then during his junior year an injury ended his football career. He knew he could sing but he wasn't a singer he hadn't really pursued it professionally and that changed. His mom literally from her deathbed told him to start singing. He moved to New York with his brother and recorded twenty ten water his debut album. And that's the other unique things about his career whereas most young jazz singer start out. Recording standards border recorded. An album of mostly originals. Like this song magic coming. Just can't stop thinking about you all day long can do without you taste up every day and every man you are a good fix you give me inside into my mind for a quarter has also done standards like on. Twenty Seventeen Nat King Cole. Inmates though can smile even the sprinkling when their cloud in the sky by you smile through your and so smile you see the sound. Come shine these days. He's got a new album. All rise is a return to form. Clark another compilation of originals. Let's take a listen to a single off of it called revival. I'm thinking revived reporter. I am so happy to have you on bowls. I thank you much for coming in here. A real pleasure to be here man. Thank you so you're in town from Bakersfield where you live. Yeah and you you know you lived in Los Angeles when you were a young kid but you kind of grew up in Bakersfield. Yeah that's correct. I've spent a little bit of time in Bakersfield lately because it's in between here and I have a cabinet in the sequoias stop and Bakersfield. Yeah get some ice cream at the doers candy shop. Oh yeah okay now. You're talking but wh what's up with Bakersfield like for people who just think maybe like Bucko and something right oil derrick right and those things are very important in Bakersfield. Agriculture community is It's a small community yet. It's you know is over. Four hundred thousand and quite spread out now. There's a lot of new construction where the cotton fields used to be. My mother used to pick cotton when she was a little girl. There in in Bakersfield but Bakersfield is is I feel like it's a city in change racially and politically. But it is a A fascinating place. I just moved back there after you know twenty years and I've been there for for a couple of years now and I'm re rediscovering place that I was raised in So I'm still trying to figure out what it is. But in the meantime in figuring out what it is there's some Extraordinary Mexican food. Which is you know in every corner and I love that and But it is still an agriculture Based Agriculture and oil is enormously important there and And it's you know a lot of working class people. The feeling of Bakersfield is you know. You're you're not very far from Los Angeles. Yeah it's an hour hour and a half away and it's a big city of four hundred thousand people as you said Yeah. You're not surprised when you are there that it was the birthplace of a whole sub genre of country and Western music. Because it is it's hot streets are wide and you can see a long way. You know what I mean. It has that open dusty feeling. You know it's funny. It is a thing is it transplantation of the South It. It is and The people that gravitated there The the agriculture that was Found route there A lot of the people because it's the start of the of the Central Valley essentially of California where you know whatever it is forty. Five percent of the produce in the United States is grown. Yeah Yeah and so the plaque the black population they came. They came for work Texas Louisiana Arkansas. There was the migration that they're that from the south that went to the north and went to Chicago and Detroit But there was also that group of the family that came From Louisiana Arkansas Texas Know Mississippi that came West in Bakersfield was one of the places that they settled because there was agricultural work. The interesting thing for me is I caught the last bit of the black migrant workers a black field workers who who Who pitched watermelons and who cut watermelons Who PICKED FRUIT? That doesn't exist anymore really population and they had songs. They had culture and I met those guys. My mother had a Ab- essentially a rooming house With those guys state And I hung out with them and they were characters. Frenchie ALLIEU SCO. Can't chief they were. He's interesting characters but they work the fruit they worked. They pitched watermelons they. Don't I don't even know if they harvest the fruit like that anymore. But but it was a line of men who who pitched the fruit. Your mom was minister. Preacher both in Los Angeles when you're young and when you were a little older and a teenager in Bakersfield what kind of church did she pretend? It's gotten Christ Which is an offshoot of holiness pentecostal. You know for her. What was important was going directly to the people. She was a street minister and her establishments were always called missions because first of all she had a mission and she wanted to her places of worship to be a place where people could come in any condition so consequently we all of the the houses of worship that we had were storefront churches. They were And what I mean by. That was like not a purpose built church. It's this was this was maybe I think the first one we had on Lakeview Avenue in Bakersfield was A cafe converted into a church. We built an altar and put a big air conditioner and then there we go there. Put some chairs. That's the church I imagine your family must have been central to church given how big it was. Yeah tap your brothers and sisters and your mom you know we set up. The concession stands out there collection plates and you already start off with the congregation. You know you got eight kids and that's you. Can you already got a choir? You know and I imagine you also already have somebody to sweep up afterwards and yeah absolutely everybody pitches in we were at work. We were her her crew. It was it was a family is a family thing we did. We didn't realize it was like okay. A church is the family business. Real estate is the family business. Singing is the family business. But you don't do. It's just like this is what we grew up doing and But she had a a conviction on her life and we kind of all had to follow and we thought it was normal until we realize okay. Nobody else really picks up homeless people off the streets and take them home like we did. I remember my friends coming over sometimes. And who's that man and he's like this is You know my mother would would have projects she would she would redeem try to redeem people. She would meet people if they seem like a like a good people that just had fallen down for some reason they were coming to the house and my mother was gonNA clean them up. It was going to you know. Give them good. Food is going to get them physically and mentally try to get them back on their feet and and there was so many of those episodes and so from that comes the song from me called you know. Take me to the alley. The alley is a is a real street in Bakersfield Lakeview Avenue Cottonwood road. The road is what they used to call it. That's where she she started her her ministry and away. They was the worst street the street that had the most problems the most drugs the most people stumbling around in the days of life and she would go to those people. Those are the first people that are saying to. I'm you know Royal Our Hall and Hollywood bowl is amazing but really the first people that confirmed me what people who had a bottle of wine and a hand thunderbird night train and they confirmed me by saying maybe you got something you know and that for funny thing is is it meant something to me then Singing to them out on the street corner and it sounds like a romantic made up story. But then you know. Yeah that's what that's what we she's like less. We would have a church service out doors on the sidewalk. She wanted to be where the people were. Take me to the alley. Let's hear that song. Take me to the to the fleet in one and take me to ones that somehow though a let them hear me say Fran to g rest here in my You have You went to college on a football scholarship and got hurt almost right away. Yeah and couldn't play football anymore. Yeah did you at the time that you got hurt. Did you think of yourself as a football player like was that the top thing and your identity? Yeah yeah that's The self identity especially when you're on a college campus You know especially its annual state. You flopped onto a campus with thirty thousand students and You know who are you? And what are you there? Yeah that was my identity. I walked around with you. Know with asked Tech Gear. And you know things that that signified I was. I was on the team and And there was no miss. Your a big man sitting in front of me right now lake. Yeah I think I imagine you. Kind of figure your alignment. What I'm saying. Yeah Yeah we're not talking about tailback. Yeah this this This was my This was my identity and But the funny thing is is I think everything happens for a reason. I injured my my my shoulder early in my athletic career in college. And so you left without that self identity. I mean I couldn't run without my shoulders shaking around it socket and so I was like an after you know Months and months of therapy didn't get any better and then you know I was like okay so I'm not an athlete anymore. What is my identity and that went right back to. This is the S. I was a was a I was a student but this. What's the extra thing what's the what's the other thing you know and I went back to my? I love my original love. The one the thing that was really always there through throughout anything and that was that was music and I started immersed myself in that and Immerse myself in the music of of of Nat King Cole I went to the the music listening library at San Diego State and I just checked out just a stack of records and and I listened in a realistic and it brought me back to my childhood. It brought me back to to my mother the environment of my home as a as a child and It was it was really something Self medicating with music. Because at the same time I injured myself I'd founded my mother Was dying of breast cancer that had spread throughout her body and and so. I needed some some. Pick me up a needed smile. I needed some you know. Pretend you're happy when you blew a needed these these songs of powerful encouragement and even escapism. I needed it and I and I found it in in nats music again. I mean to me the incredible thing about Nat King. Cole's records is you know. He's so profoundly elegant as as a musician As a man as well I mean a gorgeous guy. Yeah Yeah but a man for whom you know his career as a black entertainer who was working in The broad pop music world in the early nineteen fifties you know. He's very unusual in that. And his manner is characterized by kind of forbearance. You know like all of those. Although slings arrows are translated into a feeling of like no matter what I am transcendent. It's something that is like on inspiring about him. Yeah you know it's also I think for a lot of people it's the thing they least connect with about him because they wish he was mad about it. Yeah you know net for me. You know people talk about him. Well did he was. He expressed himself In a In a way that it advanced You know black people you know you can. You could say that. Just by checking out some of the things that he You know how forceful was. He was he on the front lines of in in marching just his being there his eloquence his genius. Nah this is a thing. Net knew exactly who he was. He was the darkest of dark. He knew he exactly who he was and he knew he was. You know there was a perception of the perceived threat in his blackness but he took it and he graced it so beautifully and even it even affected some of the that he chose to sing the idea of singing love songs to love. Love songs to humanity Universal love smile nature. Boy Pick yourself up this type of song in a way is is uniquely connected to him because their love songs to love and to life and that's profoundly affected me but in a way it was a thing that he in some in some way had to do. Because you know swooning after Nat King Cole was not a popular thing for many parents in many people's minds at the time you know in some ways I called him the the original Barack Obama because he he knew who he was and he knew how he had to Traverse this world and he knew he had to do it with grace and he did and he's still got his message across. Now I think about you know. People think about his his lyrics like oh he's you know he's in the sky and he's he's just so you know milk toasts sweet but think about a song like pick yourself up dust yourself off and start all over again. Think about that song for somebody who had been pushed down who had been mistreated who had been punched kicked or bitten in the civil rights struggle. Pick yourself up dust yourself off. Start all over again. Means something totally different to them totally different. It means something totally different to my mother. Smile though your heart is aching mean something. Totally different to her. You know To the people that are under underneath to the people who have been pushed down many a Nazi songs means something totally different. It's encouragement is optimism and So when we talk about his contribution to people that are on the underneath you absolutely have to consider these these lyrics that here now and that still fortify people you have to think of that So he had he had a great great contribution. You know I First Black Man to have his own television show and and You know just the experiment of that was really something extraordinary for If you know for an American culture that that wasn't Wasn't open to that. Well let's hear my guest. Gregg reporter singing. Pick yourself up. His most recent record is called Nat King Cole. And make yourself a take a deep breath. Just start all over again. Nothing's impossible I have own for win much on the ground myself just myself and start all over again even more with Gregg reporter. Don't go anywhere. After a short break. His voice gets compared to bill withers pretty frequently. He'll tell me what he thinks about that. This show is bullseye from maximum dot org and NPR machine rocketship. One coming mission control. This you control go ahead. We have incoming and it looks big. Can you identify it? Looks likes some sort of pledge drive? Affirmative it's Max Fund drive. That's a verified Max Fund drive countdown to Mexican. Drug is initiated. Can you project a time to intercept? Based on the country next fund drive will be here from March sixteen to March Twenty seven March Sixteen March twenty seven Roger Rocketship one. Can you confirm a visual uncommon? Max Fund drive phenomena such as the best episodes of the year bonus content and special gifts for new and upgrading monthly members. We have a visual great episodes bonus. Content premium gifts confirmed and more sure. Sounds quite down their mission control. What's your status all systems? Go Rocket Ship One. Just catching up on our favorite. Max Von Show so we can tune into Max fund drive episodes between March Sixteen and March twenty seven over it out on a secret military recording a sound so haunting one scientist believed it could change. The world. Mind was racing as I listened to this and I thought this. This is the way join. Npr's visit Delia for the first episode of our new season. It's I'm Jesse Thorn. My Guest Gregg reporter is one of the best selling jazz singers alive today. He's also a prolific songwriter. He has a new album coming out later. This screen called all rise. Here's another track from it. It's called if love is overrated. So arrayed maybe one that is Ni- flow rate then maybe though That is to see a crime. Nanny or hand touching me is not the handmaid's post to be Your Lips Andalusian. Let may be the only for your in. Brace let me on my face like this strange. I hear you often compared to bill withers you know. Put WITH HIS Co. Maybe my favorite ever. Be careful with those comparisons. So I'm a child and that's you know that's that's that's the GRANDPA and you know I've I've spoken to a couple of times. And he's you know he's a brilliant brilliant man in general not just musically and one of the things that I think ties your art and his is that both of you were men when you kicked off your careers. You Know Bill. Weather's had sung in the navy but he was. He was a career in the navy. Now you know he didn't. He didn't put out his first record till he was about thirty. Yeah you are in your late thirties. When you put Schreker yeah and that is a very different perspective on the world. Then the perspective of you know even even when it's about falling in love it's about a different kind of falling in love them when you're sixteen. Yeah yeah no offensive when you're sixteen. That's also great. Yeah I didn't know what to say when I was sixteen and Seventeen and eighteen. I think you know having the life seasoning and an ups and downs can Can Inform your your art loud. There's some power and energy the know youth can give to music but there's also some power in energy and wisdom that A life experience can can bring to music. I hear it In in Bill withers music and sometimes when I divorced myself from myself and I hear my music on a radio show or or somebody else's explaining it to me I'm like Oh yeah. Yeah there is a depth. This has a little bit you know. Then what you might hear from from a seventeen year old you know. The world of music consists of years. That are nine years old and ninety years old and so we gotta have something far for everybody and for every life experience and the the ups and downs of love. All love is not this. Love that you experience at twenty two and that's a great love but you know when you're twenty two you think you know it all and then you become thirty two and you're like wow. I knew nothing when I was twenty two and then when you forty two you're like wow. I knew nothing when I was thirty. Two and when? I was twenty two. You know what? I'm saying so. I think the music has to grow as well and Yeah I think life experience and going through the ups and downs of all of it. Racism has informed my music Mistreatment discrimination the ups and downs of love. Being dumped can inform the music Success can inform the music You know feeling having a triumph. Whatever in whatever field can find his way into the music beauty nature you know just having visited many beautiful vistas that can can be something you can sing about or or even secretly put into the music isn't it doesn't even you're not even speaking of beautiful sunrises but the inspiration is in the music. That's you know. Yeah Well Greg Report. I'm so grateful to you that you came in and took all this time to be on the show. I'm grateful to you for You in your cocktail cuffs. Tolerating the fact that I'm here in Sandals Sports Sandals Lhasa it's hot outside in Los Angeles got a nice scarf your accessorized. Yeah No. It's Nice. May You know I had my concert last night. So that's all I have to close. This is what you get. Maybe thank you very much greg. Thank you real pleasure useful. The way you look at me is for the only one as V very very extraordinary e even more than one that you can gregory porter watch for his album all rise coming out next month. Now is the perfect time to get acquainted with his earlier albums. One that's particularly wonderful is twenty sixteen. Take me to the Allie was Mary. That's the end of another episode of Bulls Eye Bulls Eye is produced at maximum fund. Dot Org World Headquarters Overlooking Macarthur Park in beautiful Los Angeles California where firefighters came and shot their hoses into the lake from their big tall ladders. Guess Carter. Park is the ideal venue for big tall ladder. Hose spraying exercise. The show is produced. By speaking into microphones producer is Kevin Ferguson. Hey seuss Ambrosio is our associate producer. We get help. From Casey O'Brien our production fell is Jordan. Cowling are interstitial. Music is by Dan. Wally also known as Dj w our theme song by go team thanks to them in their label Memphis Industries for letting US use it and one last thing we have done. Many many many interviews in the shows nearly two decades. If you're a jazz fan why not check out our interview with Ozzy Washington or our conversation with Terrace Martin? We're also on facebook twitter and youtube just search for Bullseye. With Jesse Thorn. Keep up with the show there and I think that's about it just remember. All great radio hosts have a signature side Bullseye. With Jesse Thorn is a production of maximum. Clean Dot Org and is distributed by NPR.