An old soul with new stories
Jandee Lee Porter sings country comfort
By Michael Witthaus firstname.lastname@example.org
When Jandee Lee Porter was a young girl in Charlestown, N.H., she’d sing along with her grandmother’s Patsy Cline records while the two baked cookies together. Porter insists her destiny became clear the first time she held a hairbrush and pretended it was a microphone.
“I have been on the stage since I was probably 3 or 4 years old,” she said recently from her new home in Boston, “and definitely it progressed to become something more substantial since I’ve gotten older.”
The heartache at the core of country music spoke to Porter, and as a teenager she wrote songs to cope with a tough home life. “It was a need to get it out of my system. My parents have married and divorced twice and growing up was difficult at times,” she says. “All families have their own stuff, but I found it to be my best relief.”
Now in her late 20s, Porter draws from other influences like Paul Simon, James Taylor and Bob Dylan. “They have that knack to do the same thing [and] when their songs come on, they take me somewhere else,” she said. “You don’t realize if the song is eight minutes long.”
The title track from Porter’s latest album offers the declaration, “There ain’t no sugar-coated stories here, I write songs about the way my life is… I’m gonna tell it like it is, baby — I got no reason to lie.” Porter says her music reveals the person behind the songs, both good and bad. “If you were to talk to a lot of my closest friends they would say ‘that’s her; I know what she’s singing about.’”
Porter continues, “You know, something my mom said has always stuck with me — I was probably 19 at the time. She said, ‘I really don’t know how you write stuff like this, because I’m 45 years old and you understand my life, too, and you’re a child basically.’ That stuck with me. I was always thought of as an old soul; I’ve kind of grown up very quickly.”
Released earlier this year, No Reason To Lie is Porter’s second long player, and she’s hard at work on a new record. New material arrives at the speed of life.
“I have songs stockpiled for years, but they never stop coming,” Porter said.
“I’ve lived in a small town my whole life; now I’m living in the city. I’m having a baby in the spring; there’s a lot going on in my personal life, which is something to write about, and there’s always a story to tell.”
In May, Porter appeared at Boynton’s Taproom as part of a songwriters showcase. On Friday, Oct. 22, she brings her band to the club.
“Manchester is opening up doors for original singer songwriters,” she says. “Cover tunes are a dime a dozen. This is just people that want [music] in a quiet environment that has this cool feel and a cool stage.”
Porter began assembling her band somewhat by accident, at a solo show last year in Portsmouth. “There was another girl who I met when I played at the Blue Mermaid,” she said. “I opened for her band, and now two of her guitar players are now my guitar players.”
Mike Groove and Mark Sciascia, who share a love for honky-tonk performers like Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens, heard something in Porter and offered to produce her on spec. As the sessions progressed, chemistry between the three became apparent. “We realized that something more was building. People started to come and ask, ‘Who is she with, what is she doing?’ The next thing you know [they] came at me with, “Do you want a band? And I said yes.”
The Jandee Lee Porter Band, which also includes Dave Mastroianni on bass and Michael Powers on drums, is coming off a busy season that included everything from small-town farmers markets to a pair of gigs on the second stage at Meadowbrook, opening for Reba and a sold-out Zack Brown show. Porter and her band also made a pre-show appearance at Jo Dee Messina’s Indian Ranch concert.
“I love to perform, I love to be on stage, I love to bounce around,” Porter said. “I don’t stand still very often when I’m on bigger stages — you get to connect a little bit more with the audience and show that more bubbly side of yourself.”
She plans a blend of rock and acoustic music for the band’s Boynton’s Taproom appearance.
“We’re looking to give a little bit of both and show the versatility — we’ve come together very quickly and become very much a family unit. We’re people that have been playing music their whole lives and love it for what it is … they’re doing it for the right reasons and I couldn’t ask for more than that.”