There is a new musical talent in town and her name is Jenny Porter. You can see her perform solo every Wednesday night and with her band every Sunday night at the Outback in Killington. Her band, made up of Krishna Guthrie on guitar and Bobby Maguire on Fiddle, also plays every Friday and Saturday night at the Santa Fe Steakhouse. Additionally, Porter performs various days at the base lodges of Killington resort and plays with Tony Lee Thomas at the Wobbly every Saturday Apres-Ski.
Jenny Porter, 23, hails from Belmont, Vt., and has been singing since she was a little girl. Her dad, Jeb Porter, had a family band called “Jeb Porter and Friends” and she started performing on stage with him when she was just seven years old. While singing has been a longtime passion, she’s only been playing the guitar for three and a half years. She taught herself the basics, then Tony Lee Thomas taught her chords and everything else she needed to know.
Porter met Thomas at a gig her father was playing two and a half years ago. She had just returned from school at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and was “trying to figure out what do do with the rest of her life.” Her dad was playing a 40th birthday party, opening for Tony Lee Thomas and she decided to accompany him. At that event, Thomas asked Porter to play a few songs with him and afterwards asked her (somewhat jokingly) if she wanted to go play in Nantucket with him. To his surprise, Porter said “Why, yes, I do!” After a weekend of playing gigs together in Nantucket and Block Island Porter has been playing with him ever since.
“I completely lucked out,” Porter said. “Meeting Tony is the biggest blessing that has ever happened to me. When Tony first asked me to play at that party, he asked me what songs I knew. I froze and said I don’t know any songs.”
Thomas had laughed and said he was pretty sure she knew some since he just saw her perform with her dad. The first song Porter performed with Thomas was, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
Besides her dad and Thomas, Jenny Porter says her major musical influences are the Indigo Girls, Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin, Bob Dylan and the 10,000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant. When she was younger, she loved musicals. She says she was “obsessed with them” and that is what got her into liking music in the first place. Then, in high school, she sang in acapella groups.
“I love acapella, that’s some of my favorite music,” she said and she still sings acapella frequently.
I saw Porter sing Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” acapella at the Wobbly a few weeks ago. Thomas had broken a string, so Porter sang that while he was fixing it. She performed it beautifully.
Porter has only been playing in Killington for less than a year, her first ever solo gig being at Santa Fe last Feb. 22.
“I owe a lot to the Killington folk. It’s really nice because most people have to do open mic after open mic and then at least a year later someone finally gives them a gig. I just lucked out singing at a backyard BBQ birthday party and all of a sudden I’m traveling and playing in Killington and Nantucket. I feel like the luckiest person in the world,” Porter said.
“When I sing and play on stage, it opens up the space and my vulnerability. It lets someone look at you. I’m a shy person when it comes to talking but on stage I’m completely opening up,” she said. “It opens the space for other people to feel comfortable talking to you. I really like that moment of connection where eyes meet during a song.”
For similar reason, Porter also loves to dance. “You can have a whole conversation with someone without a single word and I just can’t get enough of that,” she said.
Jenny Porter is very grateful to Thomas for teaching her so much more than just playing guitar. From how to run a music business, to booking shows, to being a band leader and managing money.
“Tony is really smart and he has a lot of experience with this. He’s been a mentor to the max and I’m very grateful for that,” she said.
Porter and Thomas along with band members Krishna Guthrie and Bobby Maguire are now working on releasing an original album.