Porter Robinson has spoken about how making his new album ‘Nurture’ gave him a refreshed perspective on life and music, having overcome a period of depression. Watch our video interview with the dance star above.
For much of the seven years since a breakout debut album that made him the teenage posterboy of EDM, Porter told NME that he “felt really convinced that I wouldn’t be able to ever make music again. And that was always my greatest fear.”
Now aged 28 and about to release his second record, ‘Nurture’, the North Carolina vocalist, songwriter and producer said he remembers being “so obsessed” with trying to make something that he “was too anxious to be able to make anything good at all”.
He told NME how he he wanted his new album to be “much more vulnerable, intimate and personal” than some of the previous work: ‘Nurture’, which balances pop and ambient music (compared to the techno, hardcore and gabber inspirations of his Virtual Self side project), is about how Porter “crawled my way out of how I was feeling” while reconnecting with nature.
“With me being so unhealthy – emotionally and mentally just really unwell, and my thinking being super distorted – nature was a stand-in for health,” Robinson told NME. “This idea of things being as they should be, at a stasis point where everything is balanced.”
When making ‘Nurture’, he wanted it to feel “intimate and up-close, that you could touch it, but also emotional and beautiful”. Compared to his 2014 debut ‘Worlds’ which was more about “escaping to faraway dreamlands, these video-game like universes”, he said he sees ‘Nurture’ as “finding the beauty in everyday and reality as it is; that’s why the tagline of the album is ‘everything we need is already here’.”
Before making it, he said he would pile pressure on himself (“I was basically running on empty and beating my head against the wall”) and miss out on real life experiences as a result.
“Learning to appreciate life without the constant validation, and constant creative highs and lows, really helped to change that,” he said.
He also realised that he needed to “go and experience some IRL stuff and get off Twitter. I said to myself ‘whether or not you make music, you’re going to be okay’,” he added. “That really helped me to relax and create much more comfortably.”
Getting back to piano and using more “physical sounding” instruments, too, was pivotal in helping him move forward as an artist. “I knew that I wanted this record to have a less dance-y sound and I think the biggest way that manifests is that most of the songs, regardless of how produced or the instrumentation, they don’t really have drops,” he explained.
“Instead, they have these vocally-driven choruses, and learning to write them was something that took some years to do. Going from producing so much instrumental and just drop-driven music, it’s not as easy as you might think,” he added, summarising his approach as “more samples and less synths”.
This refreshed perspective also changed how Porter sees his role as a musician: “To stand at the front of the stage, sing my feelings out and express myself to the fullest – although there are all these various masks, in the sense that I’m using this filter that pitches my voice way up in this cutesy way to represent this inner voice.”
He said the reason the tracks on ‘Nurture’ – which manage to be both uplifting and emotional at the same time – “sound so sunny” is because “it’s alI could tolerate when I was at that low point.
“I needed something that was so hopeful and kind of sweet. I just wanted these sweet major key songs as it was what made my heart soar and made me feel kind of teary.”
Robinson added that, in the “insecure and anxious” lyrics, was where he would “inject some pain; even though they’re quite hopeful on the whole, I also tend to give a voice to this negative internal monologue a lot,” he said. “They’re lyrics that I felt would hit me in the stomach when I sing them.”
This idea of “balancing out the sweetness” comes from his love of Eurodance, happy hardcore and “super major key piano music” and pop-rock from the 2000s. “This was just a really pure expression of that,” he said, adding that “everything I love is there”, describing his process of making music as writing love letters.
“I’ll find something that I love so much that I’ll feel like the only way for me to get as close as I want is to embody it and get as,” he added. “Anything that I loved that I felt fit the world of ‘Nurture’, I was trying to live it through the music.”
Watch our full interview above, where Robinson also opens up about virtual reality and his hopes for a “more fun” future.
‘Nurture’ is out via Mom + Pop on April 23.