Editors’ Notes “With all of my records, there is room for love and protest,” Gregory Porter tells Apple Music of the twin themes on All Rise, his highly anticipated sixth album. “Protest is the purest honesty. This is what pushes us forward. This is what cleans the house.” Here, his stage is both micro and macro, those themes of love and protest speaking as much to communal kinship, solidarity, and world events as they do to the intimate dance between lovers. “When I think about the records of my idols on the soul side—Donny Hathaway, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye—they didn’t shy away from [dealing with] multiple subjects,” says Porter. “You could do both. I write songs of love and protest, and I think there is a kinship between the two.”

For seasoned Porter fans, All Rise houses all the grandiose, sweeping, swinging soul that pays dutiful homage to the canons of jazz, blues, and gospel. And yet, on this record, there are forays into the rockier terrains of the blues blueprint outlined by the great Muddy Waters, and futuristic soundscapes that reference a ’70s-era Herbie Hancock. Here, the singer delves into his past and present relationships as we travel through time with him to meet the church elders in front of whom he first sang (“Thank You”) and experience the moments with his son that make him think of his distant relationship with his own father (“Dad Gone Thing”). “I'm harvesting from my past—the writing process happens in life,” says Porter, who adds that this album is infused with the “confidence” and “wisdom that comes with a few more gray hairs.” Even as All Rise stares unflinchingly at loss and the pain of human experience, ultimately, Porter says, the record is about another set of twin themes: “ascension” and “grounding,” beginning with the singer returning home after a long tour, and ending at the open-air church where he first sang. It’s the strength of connectivity—with himself, his faith, his people, his band, and the world around him—that allows this record to soar so high. Here, let Porter take you though his stunning sixth album, track by track.

Concorde
“This reflects on the fact that even though I'm happy with my success, it's a two-edged sword. It takes you away from your soil, your ground, your family, your favorite things. When I’m moving at twice the speed of sound, the most important things are the things that are on my little plot of land in my hometown: my son, my family, my house—all the things that make me me. I’m always excited to get home. I can get to the soil, to the root of who I am. People talk about kissing the ground when they get home, and it sounds clichéd, but I kind of do that. I walk around my property with my shoes off, I get dirty—one way or another, I kiss the ground.”

Dad Gone Thing
“I find that I’m still talking to my father after all these years, even though he’s been gone longer than my mother has. My son is seven years old now, and I see a lot of myself in him, I was similar at his age. It brings to mind stuff with my father. I mostly spent time with him at his church, where he was very well-respected. But it seemed like I was always just observing him—he never connected with me. So for the instrumentals, I went back to my memories of him in the mid- to late ’70s. I have this image of standing at the bottom of the ladder as he's painting the house, and waiting for him to give me a few crumpled-up dollars from his back pocket. What I learned at his funeral is that he was very charismatic—a renaissance man in a way. He could do many things, but he didn’t teach me any of it. Person after person at his funeral talked about his singing voice, but I never heard him sing. And so, you know, [it’s this sense of] you didn't teach me a doggone thing. Not how to fish, not how to change a tire, not how to tie a tie, nothing. But you did give me one of the most significant things in my life, which is how I express myself, and it's what I'm known for in the world. It's like this healing thing, a way of resurrecting our relationship. I’m saying, ‘You gave me everything and nothing at the same time.’”

Revival Song
“This is like [2013’s] Liquid Spirit in a way—it’s straight from the roots of me. Gospel can be so separated from its roots. And when you hear it, you might think: ‘Oh, that's pop!’ But, nope. You might have accentuated the bass a little bit, or you may have clarified a few things, but it's a sound right from the front pews of Gospel Church. So this is a gospel expression. It's definitely relevant at the moment. We need a revival, but it's a revival of the spirit. To think about those things that ground you, and that make you who you are—it could be your culture, your religion, your family. The things that you cling to that might be bigger than you, that help you straighten your spine and lift your head up. It's about renewal from self-doubt and insecurity.”

If Love Is Overrated
“This is connected to my song ‘No Love Dying.’ It's thinking of the power, the drug, the beauty and the trance that love can be. Whatever it is, it's the best thing that we have. It's about the willingness to go through the consequences of love. Whatever I have to do to get it, give me more of it. If love is overrated, if love is cliché or tired, then give it to me. Even if it's unrequited, even if it's unpronounced. It moves you. The lyrics say, ‘Let me fall on my face/I like this strange illusion.’ Here, I’m using also different parts of my voice, and there’s an intimacy that I’m trying to capture. Sometimes I want subtlety. Think of Miles Davis—he was good at that. Sometimes that’s not allowed with an instrument that can sound as big as a trumpet. The voice of the big Black man can also be a huge instrument, and sometimes not allowed to be subtle and nuanced and gentle. And so when I do that, it's purposeful for two reasons. One, it's my personality, and two, I'm trying to bring it back and bring the voice into an intimate space and place.”

Faith in Love
“When you’ve grown up in church, there can be a sense that secular music and spiritual understanding can never meet. But when I listen to Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers, or Al Green, they are constantly playing with this romantic/spiritual thing. It's been something that I have shied away from, actually, in my writing. When I wrote, ‘I believe in Jesus and all that he can do, now I wanna have a little faith in you,’ I don’t know why, but it was a scary lyric for me to write. I was like, ‘Am I gonna get in trouble?!’ When I was a little boy, I was riding in the car with my mama and I said, ‘Mama, I think I want to sing songs about love when I grow up.’ And she was like, ‘Yeah, baby. God made love and it's okay to sing about it.’ So I should have taken that cue a long time ago, but I'm just now coming around to that with All Rise. In all of the music that I have made over the last six records, I’ve said I believe in roundabout ways, but this is the first time I’m saying it directly. And it's the first time I’ve connected it with the idea of love.”

Merchants of Paradise
“Sam Smith invited me to a War Child event, and going to these events, watching videos, and especially hearing the experiences of women when they were children, was what really inspired the song. It's about the young ones, the children that are being abused: I'm thinking about how they are used in war as pawns in a game. This could also speak to other contexts, too. These songs have families, and this one is related to ‘Take Me to the Alley’ [from Porter’s 2016 album of the same name]. Take me to the afflicted ones, the lonely ones, the hungry ones. That’s who deserves to be uplifted. Musically, it’s tricky—it sounds like you might hear something sweet, but there’s something negative that I’m speaking of. When I was writing this song, I felt like I was a lawyer in a courtroom, I’m talking to a jury, and that’s where the lyrics come from. And by the end of the song, the outrage that I have is towards all of us. When children have gone through degrading things in war, or anything else, we’ll talk about them and read their books 20 years later. But what are we doing now?”

Long List of Troubles
“This is purposefully put in the classic blues format. It's about overcoming, and is meant to suggest revival, or a resurrecting strength. It might be about love, or the conditions of life. In writing the song, I felt I wanted it to be more of a blues-rock song in the way that it sounded, and in what the soloists were doing. It's kind of a march. There’s a harsh optimism there, which the blues can be. Muddy Waters was one of the inspirations of the song. In his music, he’s constantly professing his power as a man. He’s constantly saying, ‘See me.’ He’s not straight-up civil rights, but he’s saying, ‘I’m a M-A-N.’ It's about dignity. There’s something about the blues that’s often missed, and in some hip-hop, too. Sometimes it's done in crude ways, but it's a statement, and trying to find a way of expressing masculinity when you feel like less than a man. Marvin [Gaye] said ‘taxes, death, and trouble.’ These are traditional exterior powers that can move me to the left and to the right, and I'm claiming power over it and my ability to resurrect the past any of the issues in my life: taxes, pain, the man, racism, whatever it is. It's a simple blues.”

Mister Holland
"A subtle protest song. You could take it as a song to a guy who's the father of the girl that you liked. Using this ’70s soul, kind of folksy sound, I’m trying to be as regular and down-to-earth with my lyrics and delivery. I’m saying thank you for inviting me in. I’m normal, and that’s how I want to be treated. But when I say ‘by the way,’ what I mean is ‘Thank you for not being racist.’ I’m drawing on the story-songs of people like Bill Withers or Billy Preston. The song has a bounce, and ebullience, but there’s always a giveaway in my songs. On my way out, I’ll tell you the truth. I’m referencing Jools Holland here, and his daughter, Rosie Mae—she’s nice, but I’m not in love with her. I thought those names are too good not to use. I once stayed over at his home and we wrote a blues song together. The song is really a coupling of experiencing Jools’ hospitality and remembering an experience that I had as a young man. ‘Get away from the door, n****r’ is what I heard then. I was not invited into the house. I'm well past my teenage years, but it affected me. These were my formative bricks—and someone laid some broken ones down in me. I want you to dance to ‘Mister Holland,’ but if you care to go deeper—and you should—then you'll figure out what it is that I'm saying. Just treat people right.”

Modern Day Apprentice
“This is like a sweet music interlude. I wrote the song thinking about religious groups like the Quakers that do a lot of handmade things. I think of love as this bespoke, handmade, thoughtfully done thing that takes time and learning to get right. The lyrics say, ‘I’m a modern-day apprentice for your love.’ It's love without any frills. I think about the simple ways some of those communities dress—their hairstyle and shoes, it's all very simple. It's about the purity of love.”

Everything You Touch Is Gold
“A straight-up soul song. The brother or sister to this is my song ‘Real Good Hands.’ You know, I’m going ‘Hey, girl…’ It's like listening to Teddy Pendergrass and thinking, ‘Damn, player.’ It's a reference to Luther Vandross, a track like ‘If Only for One Night.’ In the studio we decided to let this be long play. We wanted this to be one of those lovemaking songs. I'm basically saying I could write another song over this. ‘If I went there, I could write 1000 songs about you.’ We just let the groove and feel roll on.”

Phoenix
“It's that ascension thing again—that rising and moving upwards in love. It’s like, getting the dust of life off your shoulders—those things that can pull love to its knees—it’s shrugging them off, and saying, ‘Let's move. Let’s go upwards.’ I could give a bunch of meanings to my love songs and say that they mean something social, but it's actually true. In Black music, often you’ll get the feeling that you’re speaking about more than just romantic love. Here, I mean community love, too. This desire to right some wrongs, to have this conversation about who we are as a people. It’s a desire for us to come to an understanding with one another.”

Merry Go Round
“This one is in 3/4 time. It has the feel of my songs ‘Be Good’ and ‘Consequence of Love.’ It's another song for when I can visualize love but it's not quite in reach. The lyrics here say: ‘You can choose your horse, but that don't change the course of my love.’ I’m saying that love has its difficulties, but I’m going to love you anyway. Even if you have another lover, I still love you. I may be rusty and maybe I’m imperfect. It's thinking of love as this carnival or a theme park or a festival. What I’m saying is that this love is constant, and it just goes round and round, and I will be here in the same place, next year and the year after that, and the year after that. There’s a melancholy in here as well. I’m saying that I hope I’m good enough for you. You can change your horse. I’m giving her the option, I’m not saying that she takes it! It's connected to the tradition of songs like Billie Holiday’s ‘Don’t Explain.’”

Real Truth
“In the writing process, I kept coming up with these songs that were in direct response to my president, and I scrapped, you know, three or four, five songs, because it was like, I'm just responding to him. And I don't like that. So I had to go back to the drawing board, because it's not my process. The middle part of the song is a section for prayer; it's funny how personal these songs can become. The idea that the truth has many different versions is a lie in itself. The truth is the truth. You can’t say you didn’t say something when we have you on tape saying that you did say something. We’re living in this right now. We might be told, ‘The fight against this pandemic is going extremely well.’ It's not. In America, we have the worst number of deaths in the world. And my brother is dead [Porter’s brother Lloyd passed away from complications related to COVID-19 in May 2020]. So it's not true—what you’re saying isn’t true. The song is influenced by late-’70s, early-’80s Herbie; it's there in the outro and bass solo as well.”

You Can Join My Band
“This is an altar call. It's welcoming. Bring in the lonely, and the afflicted. The downtrodden, those who have toiled without gain and haven’t yet had success. I’m saying: ‘You can join my band.’ And it's also about my band! It isn’t perfect, but I love them, and they have all the right ingredients. There are many young players who want to replace my senior citizen piano player, but he’s incredible. He has a deep understanding of music, and can go to places musically from before I was born. The track is really a call for people to join me. It's about the fact that things are imperfect but we can still embrace them.”

Thank You
“A thank you to my roots. And a thank you to my brother—he was there from the beginning and my biggest cheerleader, always. A thank you to my family. To my fans. And it's a thank you to the tradition that I come from. I started off singing gospel music. It's a thank you in particular to the older women in my community—my mother’s friends from way back—that I used to sing to. They used to say, ‘Put that child in front of me, and let me hear what he can do!’ The first place that I sang was an outdoor church service. You know, I felt some real connection to what I was doing at the church and to those spiritual experiences I had at the age of nine or ten. I sing about ‘A rough cut stone/I couldn't polish myself/It had to be done by someone else.’ I’m thanking the people that made me. It's the soil, the people, that made me. I’m thankful every day.”

SONG
Concorde
1
3:54
 
Dad Gone Thing
2
5:01
 
Revival Song
3
3:35
 
If Love Is Overrated
4
5:53
 
Faith In Love
5
4:56
 
Merchants Of Paradise
6
6:02
 
Long List Of Troubles
7
4:14
 
Mister Holland
8
3:24
 
Modern Day Apprentice
9
2:53
 
Everything You Touch Is Gold
10
6:03
 
Phoenix
11
4:45
 
Merry Go Round
12
5:26
 
Real Truth
13
6:36
 
You Can Join My Band
14
5:50
 
Thank You
15
5:19
 
Revival
16
3:06
 

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