Porter Robinson has championed electronic dance music, that much is obvious.
But while many consider him to be the luckiest 22-year-old on the planet, luck wasn’t what got him here.
Originality is the key to success in most endeavors. But for what some call an “imploding” EDM industry, staying original has never been more demanding. Because in an age where all seems fair in love and bro-step, the science behind stardom is as unpredictable as it is unlikely.
Lo and behold, a kid from North Carolina has broken the industry’s preconceived laws and limitations.
He inspires other artists to dig deeper, and his wisdom empowers fans to live freely through the only universal language that still exists today – music.
A self-taught producer, Porter Robinson began making music at the age of 12.
He was known around the world before he could smoke cigarettes – and when Spitfire (2011) was released under OWSLA (the label operated by Skrillex), the album crashed Beatport’s server upon its debut.
Most people know Porter Robinson from his first hit “Say My Name” or his ground-breaking single “Language,” while others discovered him from “Easy” – his smash-hit collaboration with Mat Zo that we consider the No. 1 EDM Song of 2013.
However, it’s Porter Robinson’s role in another record-breaking single that most people aren’t familiar with.
While the song “Clarity” was coveted to the rising superstar of the time, Zedd, there was a hidden factor in the song’s creation. Zedd played a massive role in the song’s breakout popularity, and he should be awarded likewise. But Zedd wasn’t the only mastermind behind “Clarity,” that’s just the way Porter Robinson wanted it to look.
Around the time they announced their back-to-back mini-tour Poseidon, Zedd and Porter Robinson had been working on a track titled just that. But as it turned out, “Poseidon” would only become the instrumental behind Zedd’s wildly successful single.
“The final version of ‘Clarity’ was not the same song Zedd and I produced together,” Porter told me. “It’s something most people aren’t aware of in the first place. Me and Zedd were writing ‘Poseidon,’ but the final vocal production was much different. I could tell it was going to be this top-40 hit…and I wasn’t interested in having any part of that.”
As a testament to his character and dedication to originality, Porter took none of the credit. Instead, he let Zedd take all of it.
So many people across the industry overlook the importance of originality. It’s startling, but not surprising. Artists such as Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike challenge the definition of “authenticity,” and breakouts like The Chainsmokers force aspiring musicians to question the true definition of a “sell-out.”
But Porter Robinson practices what he preaches: you won’t stand out if you’re just trying to fit in.
For most of his fans, half their love is for the music Porter makes, and the other half is for the passion he puts into it.
“If I were to give any up-and-coming artist a piece of advice…it would be to stand out,” Porter insisted.“If you’re doing something and it sounds unusual, don’t suppress that. Go with that. Be extremely good at your craft, and focus on that.”
It takes people like Justice, Daft Punk, Skrillex or even Eric Prydz to challenge musical thinking, or simply change the way music sounds.
And now, it’s Porter Robinson’s turn. It’s time for a new face to sit on the throne of EDM, and it’s time for a new leader to determine the fate of a genre.
We live in a world that demands you change by the tweet, but Porter Robinson has made it clear that in life, or just music, ingenuity will always trump imitation. Days spent in the studio will always outshine the hours spent e-mailing a press release.
Last week, we journeyed down to Urbana, IL to see Porter’s show at The Canopy Club (a popular concert venue at the University of Illinois). During it, Porter stopped the show to address two frat-stars who decided to mosh during a slower, transitional moment of the set.
Porter got on the mic and told the bros to have some respect for the people around them, and to “go rave somewhere else.”
“The groups that get most upset about my music are more interested in the ‘party’ aspect, or rave culture. A lot of EDM has gotten homogenized, and I think there must be some craving for something different.”
In doing something different, Porter has created a live persona that completely encapsulates his defining role in the current music industry. Porter sang, triggered samples, and ran multi-tracks while playing keys. He understands the importance of not only playing his own music, but remixing it live as well.
His music evokes joy, passion, desire and even sympathy – all without condoning drugs, drinking or domestic violence. In an industry being decimated by greed and copyrights, Porter Robinson stands out for all the right reasons.
When I asked Porter how he’s handled the stardom at such a young age, he shrugged it off in an almost immortal manner.
“I don’t like to make a spectacle of my personal life, and I think that plays a huge role in staying grounded,” Porter told me. “It has helped me retain a sense of certainty…to know the signs of losing grip.”
Porter Robinson not only illustrates how good music can be, but just how original you can make it. He doesn’t worry about the tabloids, the raves or the limelight. He worries about his music, he works on his music, and he focuses on his music.
Porter Robinson is dedicated to his craft, and it shows.
He’s no longer just the long-haired punk jumping up and down in that Sony commercial, or the producer that (secretly) helped Zedd create “Clarity.” He empowers a music industry that has become a mockery in itself, and the global success of his new album only vindicates that premise further.
Released this past August, “Worlds” universally sparked a new era of thinking for electronic dance music. Porter moved back home for two years to write the majestic album – immersing himself in the video games from his youth, and pulling inspiration from the fictional digital universes that he played in growing up.
“I think that historically whenever I was disappointed with my music it was because I strayed away from my vision. For “Worlds,” I went in and wrote exactly what I wanted…and it made me fall in love with music all over again.”
While the album’s smash-hits like “Sad Machine,” “Sea of Voices” and “Lionhearted” continue to move up the charts, the album alone reached No. 1 on the iTunes Electronic Album Chart and No. 4 on the Overall Album Chart upon its debut.
“Worlds” has been heralded by critics, and praised by fans.
Porter Robinson has broken EDM’s preconceived laws and limitations. He’s redefined what it means to be original. And despite all these wild accomplishments, he’s remained humble through it all.
He doesn’t own a mansion in Los Angeles, or even his own apartment for that matter. He doesn’t shoot rival producers from his Cadillac, and he doesn’t shoot YouTube videos from his Ferrari. He doesn’t throw bananas off stage, and he doesn’t have a stage name either.
Lo and behold, a 22-year-old from North Carolina is changing the face of music.
And his name is Porter Robinson.
Special thanks to Prime Social Group – “the life backstage.”