Closer to the Surface

Jen Porter

"Porter is a powerhouse. She's been compared to Joplin and this doesn't seem too far-fetched. What she brings to the mic is earthy strength moving at a torrential speed"

STONECUTTER RECORDS PRESS RELEASE -Chicago August 19, 2009 The sounds of rhythmic piano combined with emotion, passion and fire are on display throughout “Closer to the Surface” – an album that Jen says “truly captures me as an artist.”

Jen Porter, born and raised in Chicago, has been playing piano and singing ever since her parents put her in lessons at age five. “Closer to the Surface” was born, and most of the writing devised, based on her personal and musical journey. “I don't think an artist ever says, ok I'm done. I finally achieved everything,” said Jen. “That being said, I think this album brings me so much closer to where I want to be as a musician. Just as the title says, I'm closer to the surface. This album is a testament to how far I've come.”

Directed by Grammy-nominated producer, Chris Steinmetz of Stonecutter Records, Jen says that “Chris brings an edge to my music and vocals that has never been captured before. I FINALLY feel like I've found someone who gets me. He was able to provide outstanding direction and strength to my songwriting.”

Over the past 20 years, Steinmetz has worked with various artists such as Kanye West, Ben Harper, Tori Amos, Jay Z,Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Mavis Staples, Common, Kiss and Feist, to name a few. “Jen Porter is powerful performer that can bring down the house with her high energy. She can also move a listener with her emotional and dynamic performances,” said Steinmetz. “Jen's new CD, Closer to the Surface, sets out to show the diversity in her talents as a singer / songwriter and push the limits of her creativity as an artist. This album gives fans melody, emotion, energy and a sense of common ground.”

This is especially evident on such standout tracks as “Long Winter” and “Discarded.” Long Winter is a song about Jen's experiences working in the Caribbean these past two years. She says, “Working on the islands has given me some balance. I feel calmer and more relaxed and fulfilled, even though I'm working harder than I ever have before. This song reflects that.” While sometimes difficult for her to play and hear, Jen thinks that many fans will be able to relate to “Discarded.” “It's all about heartbreak and despair, but also about recovery and how to pick yourself up.”

With 11 tracks of powerful vocals, “Closer to The Surface” also features Jen's stirring bandmates; Tommy Sanchez playing guitar, Joe Thomas on bass, world-class percussionist Ernie Adams on drums and Chris Foreman featured on Hammond B3 organ, all of whom provide a killer rhythm section to Jen's soulful, sultry vocals and melodic piano work.

With the release of “Closer to the Surface,” Jen Porter and her band give a whole new meaning to a combination of indie, rock, folk rock and adult contemporary genres and add yet another album to an already impressive resume including, “Moving On” ©2006, “It's About Time” ©2002 and “Faces” ©1999, celebrating it's 10-year anniversary. “This new album shows real growth in my songwriting and in me as well,” says Jen. “I'm doing new things in my career and working with new people and it's exciting to see these changes culminate in a new addition to my body of work. ”

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JEN PORTER'S SUNNY MUSE -Andy Downing, Chicago Tribune September 04, 2009

There’s a wintry feel to “Closer to the Surface,” singer-songwriter Jen Porter’s fourth full-length album. The songs are filled with allusions to bitter cold and snuggling for warmth, Porter singing: “It’s … cold tonight”; “She was trying to get warm”; “I was cold and alone. … It’s been a very, very long winter.”

And yet, oddly enough, the Chicago-born singer spent a bulk of the last two winters plying her trade in the Caribbean, performing monthlong residencies at bars in Aruba, St. Martin and Barbados. “Long Winter,” for one, was written overlooking a sea so outrageously blue that it almost appeared computer-generated. “Being able to sit on the beach with a guitar in my hand and stare at the ocean really changed my outlook,” says Porter. “It’s hard to find anything else that can be so calming. It allowed me to let go and let the writing come through.”

And when she did let go, her thoughts often turned to her hometown, locked in winter’s grasp nearly 3,000 miles away. Not that Porter particularly missed the cold. “I see it’s 12 degrees in Chicago,” she wrote in one blog posting at “I’m glad to be soaking up the sun.”

The seasonal gigs, filled with thousands of bawdy songs, countless toasts, busloads of sun-torched tourists and far too many shots, allowed Porter a certain financial flexibility when she finally set out to record “Closer to the Surface.” After splurging on a single purchase (a flat-screen television), the singer sunk the bulk of her island income into her music, booking extensive time at Chicago Recording Co.. With producer Chris Steinmetz, Porter worked to capture that “live energy quality” she found lacking in previous recordings. The pair quickly developed a sensei-student relationship, with Steinmetz challenging the singer in ways she hadn’t previously encountered.

“I’ve always been somewhat of a one-take wonder vocally and previous producers have let me get away with that,” says Porter. “Chris would say, ‘That’s good. Now let’s try another one.’ He pushed me to go outside the boundaries I’d conceived, which could be difficult at times.”

The effort was worth it. Porter sings in a tortured growl throughout, her voice swinging between striking moments of intimacy and tornadic outbursts, while her piano – the classically-trained Porter started on the instrument when she was 5 years old – matches each emotional surge lockstep.

“It can be a vulnerable process in the studio, but you have to dig in to find something amazing,” says Porter. “It’s all right to feel uncomfortable as long as you get in there and still do it.”


This Chicago_based lady is still singin' and rockin' the blues on her fourth album, Closer to the Surface. Porter is a powerhouse. She's been compared to Joplin and this doesn't see too far-fetched. What she brings to the mic is earthy strength moving at a torrential speed. Discarded is an outstanding example of the range of power Porter has within. The title track, Closer to the Surface, is softer and tells us Porter has a hidden depth with an edge; going deeper is the paradox of coming closer to the surface. Porter sings with passion for equality on Now is Then. I Don’t Really Know You, beautifully whispered potency. Another Sign of Life with it’s bluesy-sixties organ feel and funky sounds, is a nice surprise. Christain Chruch (not mis-spelled) is easy and acoustic.

Geez, just listen to Jen Porter . . .

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