Musical 'Communion': Oklahoma native M. Lockwood Porter brings timely new album to Norman Music Festival
M. Lockwood Porter indeed croons about the demise of the American dream in his new song “The Dream Is Dead.”
But that doesn’t mean the anthemic track is a pessimistic downer.
“I actually think it’s a hopeful song about the possibility of kind of creating a new sense of what our collective future could look like ... maybe imagining a different sort of a dream that might be about working together to make all of our lives better,” he said.
“I feel like I wanted to tackle some of that heavier material that I think just felt relevant to what I was experiencing at the time and also relevant to just the conversations that I was constantly having with friends of mine and other people my age. But I didn’t want to make just a really dark protest record or something like that — I had kind of already done that before, to be honest – and I thought, ‘If I’m gonna write about this stuff, I want to have some sort of answer for what we could do about it — or some sense that it could get better.'"
The Tulsa-based singer-songwriter released last month “Communion in the Ashes,” his first album since he returned o his home state last fall after about 15 years away.
“There’s part of it that’s kind of a goodbye to the Bay Area and to California,” Porter said. “The last few years especially, there have been these really scary wildfires that have been happening ... and then just the stress of trying to live in such an expensive and crowded place, that kind of just all got mingled together in the writing.”
The Oklahoma native will perform in support of the new album at the Norman Music Festival at 10 p.m. Friday at the historic Sooner Theatre, 101 E Main.
Porter is one of more than 300 acts on the lineup for the free, independent festival, which continues through Saturday at several indoor and outdoor venues. The festival annually features an array of Oklahoma, regional and national acts, and this year’s headliners include Beach Fossils, Black Milk with Nat Turner and Oklahoma expatriates Skating Polly, an “ugly pop” sibling trio originally from Edmond and now based in Tacoma, Washington.
Originally from Skiatook, Porter initially left Oklahoma to attend Yale University.
“When I was a senior, I cast a wide net and I got in and they gave me a scholarship. So, I kind of couldn’t say no to that really,” he said.
After graduation, he worked as a seventh-grade English teacher for four years through the nonprofit program Teach for America, which placed him in the San Francisco Bay area.
Learning from history
The singer-songwriter began developing his solo music career while in California, but the high cost of living prompted him to move back to his home state — and influenced his songwriting.
“A lot of my own sort of studies of American history — I was actually an American studies major at Yale — kind of inform the songwriting. … It’s kind of about looking critically at, I would say, some of the dominant narratives in our culture from maybe the last 50 years,” he said. “Something I was thinking through in these songs, that kind of idea of a more collective understanding of how society could be structured … where we all help each other out.”
The music video for "The Dream is Dead" depicts Porter literally taking positive messages of change out into the community, not always with positive outcomes.
“After the character gets beaten up, he still keeps going,” he said. “I hope that that kind of conveys a message that it’s not going to be necessarily easy to work to make our world a better place. But if you persist, then you can make a difference.”
12th Annual Norman Music Festival
When: Through Saturday.
Where: Various venues in downtown Norman.
MORE TO COME
This is part of a series of feature stories about Oklahoma artists bringing new music to Norman Music Festival.