Arriving seven years after his explosive debut album Worlds—which challenged formulaic, big-tent EDM with sensitive epics rooted in fantasy and escapism—Porter Robinson’s sophomore album Nurture turns, surprisingly, inward, reflecting the difficult period that followed. “After I released my first album, panic set in,” the North Carolina producer tells Apple Music. “Things got really dark.” Robinson found the pressure to prove himself overwhelming, and when his little brother was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, he retreated into isolation. “I stopped watching movies, seeing friends, even going outside,” he says. “First I felt guilty doing anything other than trying to break the creative slump. Then, suddenly I couldn’t see the point.”
Nurture traces his gradual reemergence. “It’s me unraveling all the damage I had done to myself and finding, in its place, an appreciation for everyday things,” he says. Through billowing, earnest dance-lite tracks that relish texture, melody, and atmosphere, Robinson sketches the personal journeys—moving out of his parents’ house, visiting Japan, falling in love, helping his brother recover—that reignited his creative spark. “I didn’t want to keep writing about faraway dreamscapes,” he says. “I wanted the album to be about the beauty of the real world, because that’s what gets us through.” Below, he takes us behind the scenes into the creation of each track.
“Lifelike” “I am obsessed with the idea of a window into nature, and this song is the window into the worldview of Nurture. As an artist, my vantage point into the beauty of the real world is so often, like, sitting in a recording studio, staring out my window, and feeling like I'm in a forest. That’s what informed the creative direction of this album. To me, establishing a specific worldview was essential. It’s a lot like the process of omission. It’s saying, ‘These are the things that are worth showing here.’ ‘Lifelike’ is what takes you from the black void on the cover into all the things that I felt were worth showing.”
“Look at the Sky” “My girlfriend Rika and I spent several months in Japan in 2016, and that’s what inspired the art direction for this album. I remember seeing this poster for Nagoya tourism that was a landscape with a blue sky and a white scribble that said something like ‘It’s still here.’ That lyric found its way into the song, and the white scribble found its way into the cover art. As for the chorus, I wanted it to serve as a mantra to myself—a message of hope and perseverance. There’s no shortage of terrible news and reasons to feel discouraged right now, but you have to maintain some sense that things can get meaningfully better.”
“Get Your Wish” “When I started writing this album, I was wrestling with some heavy questions: Why am I killing myself over this? What do I hope is going to happen that hasn’t happened yet? Why do I need to prove myself again? The answer that I came to, which you can hear in this song, was inspired by Bon Iver’s album 22, A Million. I found that album when my little brother had cancer. I really wasn’t able to make music at that time. But that album made me feel a few degrees brighter. More hopeful. And when I thought about how much that music meant to me, I realized that all that matters is making music that connects with people, that makes the world slightly less crappy. ‘Get Your Wish’ was the first time I was able to get back into the real state of play.”
“Wind Tempos” “If there’s one artist who affected my worldview more than any other, it’s this Japanese pianist named Masakatsu Takagi. He’s my hero. He did the score for one of my favorite movies, Wolf Children. That helped me understand that all the beauty and emotion I was trying to create through music didn't need to come from these otherworldly dreamscapes; it could be intimate. Well, when we were in Japan, he invited me and my girlfriend to stay in his home in Hyogo. He lives in a village of like eight people and his house is covered in pianos. When he played for me, it was hard not to bawl. At the end of the trip, he gave me a disc file of Japanese ambient music from the early 2000s. I hadn’t heard of any of it, but he knew it’d be my thing. Not only did it inspire ‘Wind Tempos’ but I wound up throwing in this tiny sample of him playing a toy piano. It's super distorted, almost unrecognizable. I emailed him to see if I could give him credit on the song—just a little way of recognizing how much he’d influenced me. He agreed.”
“Musician” “‘Musician’ is my favorite song on the album. It’s me when I'm peaking on inspiration and creativity and I feel invincible. It came from a conflict between my heart and my mind: My mind told me I needed a chopped-up instrumental, kind of like ‘Flicker’ from my previous album, and my heart said it needed to be another big sing-along. At first, I followed my head and wrote the crazy instrumental; it had like ten key changes, no vocals, no repetition. But it didn’t feel right. Then I finally wrote the chorus, this huge, anthemic, vocal moment, and knew I’d hit something. It almost feels like a Justin Bieber moment, it’s so infectious and sugary and pop. But I can't think of anything that better captures what it feels like to be on stage. In the end, I wound up blending both versions, and the result is just boundless joy.”
“do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do” “I wrote this song after listening to this artist Cornelius for the first time. It was one of those situations where people had told me over and over again how much I was going to love him, but it almost got overwhelming, so I sort of avoided it. Then I finally listened, and wrote this song in eight hours. It feels like rollerblading through my neighborhood—just feeling free and in this childlike state.”
“Mother” “I wanted a song that expressed the love that I feel for my parents—as well as the grief of growing up. I felt like the minute I moved out, my youth would be over and I’d hardly ever see my family or dog again. In reality it wasn’t like that at all, I still see them all the time. But I wanted to capture the sad side of growing up—of realizing your parents aren’t infallible.”
“dullscythe” “This is by far the most abstract and experimental song on the album, and it’s the one track that doesn’t have a standard tempo. I wanted it to feel really hard and chaotic—something at the midway point to keep people on their toes—and it makes me feel like I'm getting smacked around in a thousand directions.”
“Sweet Time” “This song is about being so in love with someone that, for the first time in your life, you’re scared of dying. You realize you aren’t guaranteed an eternity together. In the lyrics, I talk about going to find God to make sure she's okay, and it makes me cry every time. I was bawling my eyes out in the studio, I could barely get the words out. In the end, though, it’s also an expression of gratitude, because the world is lucky to have her. Rika and I have been together four years, and honestly it's really time for me to propose. But I wanted to wait until after the pandemic.”
“Mirror” “This song is about my critical inner voice and how much it was affecting me. I realized I had these inner demons that were represented by the nastiest things somebody might say to me on Twitter, or the meanest things music critics might say. And they got in my head. They affected me creatively, because every time I’d write something, it was really easy to imagine someone dissing it. But if you’re just trying to avoid something mean being said about your work, that’s the least vulnerable place you could possibly be in. You’re living in fear and shrinking yourself to avoid getting hurt. ‘Mirror’ is about my confrontation with that inner voice.”
“Something Comforting” “I wrote the main melody for this song in the back of a cab in New York in 2016. I remember listening to it over and over and over and over, feeling like, ‘All right, I need to make this into something real.’ Emotionally and lyrically, I feel like this song captures the essence of the album. It was the first thing I wrote that became the seed for everything that followed.”
“Blossom” “I made this ballad for my girlfriend, and I remember bawling as I wrote it. It all came together very quickly and sprang from the idea of well-wishing: How much joy does it fill you with to imagine somebody you love and care about really happy? Getting everything that they want, and being surrounded by loved ones? I was imagining that for my girlfriend and picturing her as happy as she could possibly be.”
“Unfold” “This is the only true collaboration on the album, and it came about because I’ve always loved TEED’s music. When we got into the studio to write and record, he started telling me how much he loved ‘Sea of Voices’ from my last album, Worlds, and how he wished he’d written it, so I started sketching a soundscape that evoked it a little bit. Then, to make the song a good fit for Nurture, we decided to have him sing on it—actually we sort of sing together. It was a whirlwind. For a while, I had this song early on in the tracklist because it presented some variety, but as I kept working on it, I was like, ‘No, this is an end-of-album moment. If I’m going to have this epic wall-of-sound thing, it needs to come towards the end.’”
“Trying to Feel Alive” “This song was me trying to make sense of the whole journey, trying to figure out what has changed. What did I learn? Am I any better? Am I satisfied? It was enormously difficult to write, but ultimately, the answer I came to is that satisfaction isn’t the real goal. If you accomplish everything you’re striving for, you’ll stop looking forward. There's nowhere to go. This is another one where I was crying while writing it because I guess it was sort of a personal epiphany. Here I am on the other side of this, still struggling with making music, still not necessarily feeling whole, but beginning to understand that maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe making music is my way of trying to feel alive, over and over again.”


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