Singer Porcelan on Working With Stevie Wonder, ‘Mood Ring’ and More
“So many things I’m learning from him as a writer and as an artist. He encourages me to come from a real place.”
Once singer/songwriter Porcelan notched number 13 on the Billboard charts with her 2018 hit, “Lois Lane”, there was no stopping her. A Christmas album, Joyful Hearts, rang in the season a year later, and then the pandemic hit. But that didn’t stop her. It only made her stronger. Last fall, straight out of lockdown came her debut album, Mood Ring, featuring the hit, Toxic, guest starring the legendary Stevie Wonder.
“He mentored me and made me think about my writing from a different perspective,” Porcelan says of Wonder, who wrote classics like “Superstition” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” The two have an ongoing dialog, occasionally exchanging music samples and notes. “The most important thing I learned from him was in your writing you need to go deep,” she tells us.
“Pay attention to what’s going on in the world and listen to people. Read more, it expands your thought process when you’re trying to put an impactful storyline together. Talk about current events that happen in the world, but talk about it in your own way. So many things I’m learning from him as a writer and as an artist. He encourages me to come from a real place. It’s important because he comes from a time of the best and he is one of the best.”
Mood Ring was conceived and recorded during the pandemic, giving Porcelan time to contemplate, without distraction, what she wanted to say. “I decompressed and started listening to tracks and focusing on how I wanted to deliver the songs, what I wanted to put out there as an artist, who I wanted to be.”
Each track reflects different stops on the emotional arc of a relationship. “Toxic” is about being head-over-heels in love with someone you know is not good for you. “It’s focused on what women go through, but what men go through as well,” she explains about a record meant to strike emotional chords that transcend gender, race and age. “Everyone wants love, they’ve felt vulnerable, they’ve been in pain, they question themselves, they’ve been insecure. And I wanted to cover those things.”
Inspired by one of her favorite 1990s movies, The Thin Line Between Love and Hate, “Act Out” is a track about the casual cruelty lovers often inflict on each other. “Don’t play with people’s emotions. If you love somebody, mean what you say and say what you mean. Or else there’re going to be consequences,” she says of the song.
“It was close to my heart in general and a rebirth of who I want to evolve into.” Growing up in South Memphis, Tennessee, Porcelan is from a musical family from a musical town. While it was all around her, inspiration didn’t strike until she reached the fifth grade. That’s when a teacher encouraged her to sing. In middle school she started writing poetry, and at the wizened age of 15 she put the two together and wrote her first song.
“My mom got me in a studio. I had a beat, my uncle made me tracks. I went in and recorded, wanted to see how I sounded in the studio. And I actually liked the way I sounded,” she recalls about her days before being signed to Made in Memphis Entertainment by Hall of Fame songwriter David Porter.
He produced her first track, 2017’s “The Real Thing Don’t Change.” “I think that’s when it really clicked for me that I could do it. Not just that I wanted to do it, or it looks great. I feel like it really clicked for me when I was 15. That’s when I fell in love with it and started taking it more seriously.”
That meant less time for the other things she loves, like hitting the gym for kickboxing lessons. You heard that right, so don’t mess. And when there’s time left over, she’s a homebody, soaking up wine, seafood and her favorite movies with a friend.
“I like a guy who has a romantic side,” she says with a shy laugh. “Someone I can cuddle with, has a soft side. Manly, but a soft side and can connect with me and share my space. A guy has to be a good conversationalist. I cannot stand a guy who cannot hold a conversation. A good conversationalist and listener, and good-looking, too.”
Next up for Porcelan is a Mood Ring tour, but that can’t happen until everyone is vaccinated and the ban on large gatherings is lifted. “For now, it’s about me staying motivated and continuing the path to becoming who I am, ‘cause there’s so many more opportunities I have ahead and something could happen. I might end up with a number one record. So, who knows?”
Obviously staying positive hasn’t been an issue for Porcelan, despite the pandemic. After all, while last year sucked for the rest of us, it was the year she got to work with Stevie Wonder. It was also the year she released her debut album. So, yeah, she’s feeling pretty good about things. “It was a dark year,” she says of 2020. “I’m optimistic that we can go back to a new normal. I think it’s going to be good.”