Gregory Porter has released “Mister Holland,” a soulful new song with a pointed underlying message about acceptance and racial prejudice from his forthcoming album ALL RISE, which will be released August 28 on Blue Note Records.
Porter’s version of protest can be worldly or down-home, as on “Mister Holland.” The brass-blessed southern soul jam finds Porter (ironically) thanking the white father of his love interest for not making any trouble over his black skin. Porter explains: “That suggests that maybe I liked a girl when I was 15 and I came to a door and somebody said, ‘Nigger, if you don’t get away from this house…’ That type of energy is being resurrected and made to feel okay these days. I think about things like that for my son.”
“Ultimately ‘Mister Holland’ is a song about equality,” continues Porter. “It’s about the desire for mutual respect and the desire for a young man to be treated like an average teenager.A song of thank you for being treated normal. The implied unspoken experience is the subtle protest of this song.Stevie and Marvin taught us how to groove with a social song, so, thank you Mister Holland.”
“Mister Holland” follows previous ALL RISE singles including the celebration of love “Phoenix,” the heartfelt ballad “If Love Is Overrated,” and the gospel-infused lead single “Revival,” with its powerful video starring dancer Jemoni Powe. “I wanted the video to have an important political message too,” says Porter, “which is why we chose to honor the young man from Baltimore, Freddie Gray, at the beginning. There are so many things in life that can get you down and make you feel small, whether it be racism, self-doubt, insecurity, or financial situations. It’s about finding your source of strength to bring you back to seeing who you truly are so that you can be restored to the giant that you are.”
Following 2017’s Nat King Cole & Me, a dedication to his lifelong idol, ALL RISE marks a return to Porter’s beloved original songwriting—heart-on-sleeve lyrics imbued with everyday philosophy and real-life detail, set to a stirring mix of jazz, soul, blues, gospel, and pop. The album, which was produced by Troy Miller, also represents the evolution of Porter’s art to something even more emphatic, emotive, intimate, and universal too.
“Yes, you could say that I went big,” says Porter about his latest, which combines the talents of his longtime loyal bandmates, a handpicked horn section, a 10-member choir, and the London Symphony Orchestra Strings. “But, quite frankly, the way I write in my head, it all happens with just voice and piano first, and it’s built up from there. It feels good to get back to the rhythms and the styles and the feelings and the way that I like to lay down my own music from start to finish.”
As Porter worked out this album’s direction, he looked inward, upward, and around him, and arrived at a raison d’être found in the title, ALL RISE. “We hear that phrase when presidents or judges come into the room,” says Porter, “but I’m thinking all of us rise—not just one person being exalted. We are all exalted and lifted up by love. This is my political thought and my real truth. It comes from my personality, my mother’s personality, the personality of the blues, and of black people. It’s this idea of making do with the scraps, of resurrection and ascension, and of whatever the current situation is, it can get better through love.”
ALL RISE is available for pre-order HERE in deluxe and standard vinyl, CD, and digital versions.