By SPECIWOMEN Photography BELLA PORTER
"My songs may be shaped by my insecurities, but they would’ve never been heard had it not been for the incredibly resilient female role models in my life"
Who are you?
I’m Bella! sometime Bolster, sometimes Burlap, sometime Barb, though all used almost exclusively self-referentially. I have several hanging pothos named Rupert, and dogs and various humans I miss when we’re apart. I often share things prematurely when they’re still exciting but unfinished, so I can definitively say I am a work in progress.
What drew you into music?
Kidz Bop 4, singing “Papa Can You Hear Me?” from Yentl with my mom, Aretha, and acquiring a standing position in my local musical theatre school as a made up character that led to my eventual disenchantment with acting.
Do you remember the moment you decided that this was the path for you?
My debut performance of “Don’t Know Why” by Norah Jones in a taqueria in Acapulco, clad in transition lenses and a Dylan’s candy bar tank top.
Who/what are your biggest inspirations as a musician?
My friends! My friends! My friends, each one of them makes me want to write a damn song, whether they like it or not. Justin Vernon, Eva Cassidy, Nils Frahm, Sharon Van Etten, (my friends mhm) they’ve got some of the most sonically influential music, parts of which are pretty easy to detect in my own stuff. There are certain colors that act as big inspirations and antidepressants in my life/music, most of which occur around sundown. Having a constant impermanence of place, and leading as amorphous an existence as possible. Zoe/baby unchi/baby poo poo/diana/bidet, my dog and sole dependent.
As a woman, how have your experiences shaped your sound?
Until the summer after my senior year of high school, I would’ve never called myself a songwriter. I used to believe I didn’t have anything unique to say, was creatively self-effacing, lacked assertion in band settings, and relied heavily on the validation and instrumental support of talented male musicians around me. Saying that in past tense is fun, but frankly, it’s part of the work that’s in progress. As a woman I've always felt musically inferior. My songs may be shaped by my insecurities, but they would’ve never been heard had it not been for the incredibly resilient female role models in my life.
If you could colab with three people in the near future, who would they be and why?
My siblings, Livy Porter and Zander Porter and Miriam Cortez. I think we can do something big, something witchy.
Talk to me about the first song you’ve ever written.
It was called “If I’d,” and it it described the events of 9/11, of which I have absolutely no personal recollection. It was written in 6th grade and made my Core teacher cry. Here’s a taste: “Clouds break, ground shakes, everything is silent. Cars stop, trains flop, planes crash to the island. If I’d been there. Terrified, nowhere to hide. Smoke fills the air. Couldn’t breath but wouldn’t leave them behind. If I’d. Cries fill up the sky. Watch the ashes fly. Right before your eyes. If I’d. ” Let me know if you want it and I’ll send you the produced track or sing it acapella to you over the phone.
Where does performing bring you?
To the mountain top, baby! I want to take you HIIIGGHHHEEERRR. Sorry. It’s one of the best feelings. It feels like running your hands through a beaded curtain, or stealing enough mancala marbles that they clank in your jacket pocket, or walking outside with wet hair, or a really good hug from an old Swedish lady.
What do you think, out of all instruments you use, acts as the best outlet?
I’d say one of my grandfather’s 6 hand painted didgeridoos my grandma gave me this summer, but I’d be lying if I said I could shed on one of those bad boys. So it’s gotta be piano or guitar, sorry.
Name 5 songs that always keep you going.
Ooh La La by Faces
Milan by Sigur Rós
Aphasia by Pinegrove
Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens by Tiny Ruins
Sweet Pain by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan