Chris Porterfield, mastermind behind Field Report and Minnesota native turned Milwaukee resident, is one of the most humble and intriguing musicians MFR has had the pleasure of speaking with. After a crazy year comprised of a SXSW debut, touring in support of many notable performers, signing to a record label, and releasing a fantastic debut album, Field Report has finally set out on their first and much deserved headlining tour! During our chat with Porterfield ahead of the show in St. Paul tomorrow he talked about Paul Kolderie, his love for playing live, and a Woody Allen documentary he has deemed “incredible”. Check it out!
You have had a crazy year; you went on tour with Emmylou Harris, Counting Crows, Aimee Mann, Megafaun, etc. With this new tour, aside from the factor of a longer set, how has your live show evolved going from direct support to headliner?
We are really excited about the opportunity to stretch out a bit. As support, we kind of had to hit some highlights and get off the stage. So it’s exciting for us to stretch out. I’m excited to be able to share that with people. As far as playing some songs that we haven’t really played much, as far as really letting them sort of breathe a bit and not having to scamper off or watch the clock as much. We can focus on sort of creating a mood and a soundtrack for that specific night and time. It’s going to be really fun.
I saw Field Report this year at SXSW, but I have yet to experience a proper tour performance. For someone who has never seen you play live but is familiar with the album, is there anything you would say to prepare for that might be a surprise, or unexpected?
We made the record a year ago now almost. SXSW was really our first shows. We probably played 100 shows since then. We’re a lot tighter, we’re a lot more confident, we have a lot more trust in each other. A lot of the arrangements have changed a bit. We really strive to keep things honest to ourselves. If something isn’t feeling right we dig in and try to make it feel right again. So yeah, some arrangements have changed and it’s sort of a constant struggle to keep it honest and interesting for ourselves.
Actually, when I’m done taking a few calls today our keyboard player is going to come over. There is a song that hasn’t really felt great for a little bit and we’re going to break that this afternoon and I’m really excited about it.
What song is that?
“Incommunicado.” We’re going to try to figure out what that really needs to be.
The album has a lot of personal themes. I know you obviously don’t see fan reactions when they are at home listening to the record. Does it make you nervous to open up and see those reactions live?
No, live is my favorite part of this whole process that is making music. I like to be in it and finding different things that jump out to me and to us. It’s cool when people get excited about it too. It’s really sort of telling on this tour I think. For the most part, the shows that we’ve been playing, people haven’t gone into the events with the intent or desire to see us. It was always kind of a surprise. It’s been really fun winning people over that way. It will be really telling to see how people react when they are coming out to see us, and I’m hoping that people have had some time to sit with the record. If they’re coming out they probably got something out of the record. I’m hoping that lays the back work to have the relationship of trust between us and the people who are listening. Sort of the personal nature and context on the record is a good place to start developing that trust. Now, as we’re sort of stretching out a bit more and becoming a stronger band, a more capable unit, I’m hoping that that trust carries through and that becomes sort of a foundational thing in our relationship.
You just mentioned live is your favorite part. I did read in a past interview that you don’t have ‘much patience’ for your record because you enjoy the live variables. Is that something you feel when listening to other music too or is that strict to your creations?
No, I listen to other people’s records constantly; all the time. I just don’t have a whole lot of patience for hearing myself. It’s become kind of a.. it’s not a joke, but people sort of bust my balls about it. I haven’t listened to the Field Report record since we got the masters back. I just don’t want to have anything to second guess, or to regret. In my head it’s a special thing that I am proud of and I didn’t want to go out on the road supporting a thing and suddenly not be proud or happy with it. People will ask me “you listen to your record yet?” but the truth is no I haven’t. I haven’t even been tempted to or interested in doing that at all.
You worked with Paul Kolderie on this record.
Yeah he mixed the record.
What was that like? Did you guys know each other beforehand? How did that come about?
Our manager had met him before and they became friends. Once all the tracking was done and it was time for mixing there were a few leads that we were interested in working with. Dave, our manager, kind of put things on my radar. I didn’t know it but I had been listening to stuff that he [Kolderie] had worked on my whole musical life. It was pretty crazy. He lives in upstate New York, almost into Vermont, in the middle of nowhere. This old old old farmhouse. We flew in to New York and drove the six hours north and got to his place. It was awesome. We spent three days just working the whole time. I got to sleep in the bed that Warren Zevon slept in when he made his last record; at that house. Paul has worked with tons and tons of people so we got to hear a lot of stories. He’s a total pro. He has a great set up. Him and his wife live there and do their thing. It’s pretty awesome.
He managed to carve away some of the things that we were afraid to make choices on. I would love to work with him again.
It took you six or seven years to come around to making this record, right?
Well, that was about when I started writing, about seven years ago. That was a new thing to me. None of these songs are that old, but it was a process of figuring out if I could do it or not and then writing songs and killing those and using the lessons learned from that and sort of finding my feet as a songwriter. So none of the songs on the record are that old, but that is kind of when the songwriting started with me.
Was it a weird time warp for you to spend that kind of time getting grounded as the songwriter you wanted to be and then recording the album in a matter of days?
It was, but in a way it felt like the right way to do it. [It’s] kind of like, okay, we’ve been building whatever this is for as long as we have and it’s time to make an honest document of the total of work that has gone into it. I’m really glad we did this record that way. Real quick, capturing things as honestly as we could at the point that we were. As far as the next record I don’t think we would operate that way again.
Partisan Records gets all the good bands. How did you come about making the decision to put this album out with those folks?
They reached out early on. As far as being interested in working together. Once the record was made and we had a better idea of what we wanted to do with it we talked to a few different labels. But they [Partisan] were there from the beginning; championing us. Being really supportive. We got to know the people there really well and it was just a no-brainer. It was really comfortable personally and professionally. They’re very artist friendly and they’ve done a lot of great work for us. We’re really happy to be working with them. It’s cool too, for us, as sort of all Midwesterners to be working with people in New York. The label’s presence there has really opened a lot of doors for us out east. It’s just been a really great relationship. We’re proud to be affiliated with them. This is a one record deal, but I don’t see that relationship changing.
It’s good to hear positive label/artist camaraderie.
Definitely. Their early support of us really sort of hit home. I’m pretty loyal if an initial thing is working. I’m hoping that this is going to be a long relationship.
For fun, is there any album, movie, or book that is blowing your mind right now?
Right now, at this moment, I literally pushed pause to call, I’m watching the PBS Masters documentary on Woody Allen. It is UNbelievably good. It is so cool. They did a really great job capturing the intent and integrity and thoughtfulness of him. When they interview him he’s really open and it’s cool to see how his vision, his uncompromising vision, has affected all the people that he’s worked with over the years. You can tell he was a wonderful director to work with and after because his vision is so strong. Whether you’re a Woody Allen fan or not, it’s on Netflix rigt now and it’s soooooo good.
You can catch Field Report tomorrow night at the Turf Club in St. Paul.
Interview by Laura Yurich
First Avenue presents Field Report
w/Old Earth & The Farewell Circuit
Friday, November 16 2012
8pm // 21+ // $10 adv $12 door
Posted 1 year ago