Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield has been flying under the radar for some time now. After the end of DeYarmond Edison (his band with members of Megafaun and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon during the early 2000s), he moved on to a grown-up job and got married. Field Report came out of the blue: Porterfield had been writing just for himself before realizing he had something special on his hands. Listeners won’t be surprised to learn he was in a band with Vernon—their musical styles are similar—but one key difference is that lyrically, Porterfield relies more on narrative and less on atmosphere than his former bandmate. It’s not so much the place that makes the song; it’s the story—generally an autobiographical one—that drives the narration of Porterfield’s music. Tracks like “I Am Not Waiting Anymore” [below] are folk-driven, beautiful pieces of musical art that call to mind Neil Young or Bob Dylan.
We spoke with Christopher Porterfield on his friendship with Justin Vernon, the importance of solidifying his writing, and keeping the project on the down-low.
HOMETOWN: Eau Claire, WI
GOOD TIMING: I ended up moving to Milwaukee, WI from Eau Claire, WI. I got married and I had a professional job. I figured that I was pretty much done with the band thing. I don’t know. I just started writing—not a plan to do anything with it. I started writing songs. I had never really done that before. I had always been a side-band man. That just became a really good outlet for me. I met a lot of people in the city. Why Field Report now? I guess I finally got my writing underneath me a little bit more. I felt like I was finally contributing something. It took me a while to find the right layers. This lineup sort of solidified. The songs—I felt were finally strong enough. It was just time to make a record. When Justin Vernon came through town on tour, we were hanging out and he said, “I heard you finally found some good people to play with,” and I said, “Yeah, it’s true.” We were going to record, and he offered us his space. Everything just snowballed from that. I don’t know “why now.” The timing was just sort of right. Things just started happening on my own and in kind of cool ways.
STUMBLING UPON STUDIO SPACE: Nope. We just used his space. He wasn’t there at all. He was on the road. His space was available, so we just stayed at his home and recorded there for a week.
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH JUSTIN VERNON AND THE END OF DEYARMOND EDISON: We stayed friends. We email occasionally and talk on the phone every once in a while. He sent me some of his stuff when this was beginning to happen. We stayed in touch. We send adolescent text messages. He’s super busy, and it’s a different kind of relationship at this point. He toured in Madison, WI. He came out and we got to spend time with him then.
We’re probably going to self-release it when we tour this summer, and then we’ll see about having someone else put it out nationally towards the fall.
THE STORY OF “FERGUS FALLS”: That song is written from what I understand to be… well, the narrator of the song is a woman. She was in a situation, and she’s recalling back to the watershed moment of when she became aware that she needed to get out. I think it was a pregnancy. It takes place in a small town in northern Minnesota called Fergus Falls. I’m from Minnesota originally, and we used to drive through that town to get to our cabin in Minnesota when I was growing up. I had already spent some time in the city. “Fergus Falls” reminded me of “free-fall,” and it just sort of happened from there. It didn’t have a lot of historical purpose. The Midwest is a huge part of who I am. It’s where I’ve lived my whole life. It’s where I am the most comfortable. I think that a lot of that comes out. That song doesn’t necessarily have to do with that town, as much as it does, sort of a Midwestern sense of responsibility. It was realizing that it is just a social, geographical construct and that you can escape from that, and still be true to who you are. There’s real freedom in choosing not to be determined by the things you’re bound by.
THE NAME: I think there’s a part of it that is sort of a reporting-from-home kind of thing. I don’t know. It just sort of presented itself I guess. Band names are probably the hardest things about being in a band. Maybe. When we started naming this project, I was naming this project for a really long time. That one sort of emerged around the same time that this lineup emerged. It just felt like a comfortable one to go with.
CREATING A STORY: Neil Young is a huge influence. You might not hear it in the music, but just the way that he built a career with integrity and continues to struggle after some kind of truth. Paul Simon is a big one with his use of proper nouns. He’s able to put you in the middle of a story and then let you figure out how to navigate it based on giving you some challenge. I guess those guys make a pretty good list.
THE FUTURE: This summer we’re going out with Counting Crows and we’re going out with Emmylou Harris. We’re just kind of taking it one day at a time. We’ll see how the summer turns out. We’ll have a record by the end of it, and we’ll take it from there.
FIELD REPORT PLAYS WILLIAMSBURG PARK IN BROOKLYN WITH COUNTING CROWS ON JULY 17. THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM WILL BE AVAILABLE ON SEPTEMBER 11 VIA PARTISAN RECORDS. VISIT THEIR WEBSITE HERE.