Gregory Porter–back to his roots

GRAMMY Award-winning singer Gregory Porter has some advice for young people starting out in the business: Don't try to be famous.

"Find something in your life that makes you unique, that makes you you," said Porter, who will be at the Holland Center tonight as part of the Omaha Performing Arts Jazz Series. "It could be your experience with your grandparents, where you came from. Find out what it is you want to say instead of allowing other people or television or radio to put it in your mouth."

Much of Porter's inspiration came from his mother, who was a minister and single parent. As he pondered his career, he said, he thought about how she taught him to sing in church. The mixture of jazz, blues and gospel he will perform in his Omaha concert grew out of that.

Once he went back to his musical roots, he said in a phone interview from New York City, "I started to sound like myself and not like I was trying to be somebody else."

He said the soul music of the 1970s and '80s also were an influence.

Porter was born in Sacramento, California, and was raised in nearby Bakersfield with seven siblings. For the most part, his dad wasn't in the picture. He attended San Diego State University and participated in jazz jam sessions whenever he could.

He wrote a tribute musical, "Nat King Cole and Me," and toured with it before he decided to focus solely on music. He moved from the West Coast to Brooklyn, maintaining a weekly residency at St. Nick's Pub in Harlem. Things took off from there.

Porter has recorded three albums, including 2013's "Liquid Spirit," which won the 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album.

"That was an extraordinary feeling ... the idea of a Grammy sitting on a bookcase behind me," he said.

The Omaha audience can expect to hear selections from those albums as well as from a recording due out in April, including some original pieces.

Porter is pleased with the direction his life is taking.

"I just wanted the opportunity to express myself musically ... without limits," he said. "We all know we can express our cerebral genius with music, but what we can do with it is heal."

GREGORY PORTER

What: Jazz concert

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Holland Center, 1200 Douglas St.

Tickets:$20 to $45

Info: ticketomaha.com or 402-345-0606

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