How does a young viola player become a folk-rock guitarist? Perhaps Leo Kottke is to blame. At least in Willy Porter's case he is. Upon hearing Kottke's 6 & 12 String Guitar, everything changed for a young Porter. He put down his bow and grabbed a pick. The rest is history and still in the making. Hailing from Wisconsin, the multiple WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) award-winner honed his performance chops in the cafes and clubs around Madison. He also sat on the concert committee in college where he met another guitar legend who would influence him greatly, the late Michael Hedges. A singer, songwriter, storyteller, entertainer, and extraordinary guitarist, Porter defies labels and bends genres. He moves between slide blues, acoustic folk, grooving rock, and soulful pop with grace and equipoise. They all combine to create the uniqueness that is his sound.
Being the innovator that he is, Porter released Trees Have Souls on his own in 1990, followed by Dog-Eared Dream in 1994. With consistent touring and the help of adult alternative radio, he built a national following and a modest hit with "Angry Words." This success led to a deal with Private Music, which re-released Dog-Eared Dream in 1995, and opening slots for the Cranberries, Rickie Lee Jones, Vonda Shepard, and Tori Amos, who handpicked Porter from a mountain of contenders. However, all of the newfound celebrity took its toll. And as often happens with independent spirits, Porter became disillusioned with the major-label scene and spent several years untangling himself from that web. After finding a new home at Six Degrees Records, Porter returned in 1999 with Falling Forward, a fine showcase of his ever-deepening strength as an artist and songwriter. He followed with a self-titled album in 2002, featuring guests Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Seal), Charlie Drayton (Keith Richards, B52's, Don Henley), and Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull). The concert set High Wire Live appeared from Six Degrees Records in 2003. Available Light followed in 2006 and How to Rob a Bank in 2009, both released by Weasel Records.