Exclusive Premiere: Peytan Porter’s ‘Lemonade’ Paints A Colorful Tale of Small-Town Life
Porter shares the story behind the song and reveals what lies ahead for her next musical era.
Peytan Porter; Photo by CeCe Dawson
Premiering today exclusively with Country Now, the rootsy tune came to life over a 2020 Zoom songwriting session between Porter, Ian Christian, and Matt Willis, during which they explored the unique characters in their respective small towns. At the time, Porter had just moved back to her hometown for the first time since high school and was getting reacquainted with the people and memories around her.
“I remember Matt talking about one of his neighbors who was definitely growing pot in the basement, and then there was some type of other affair that was going on around him,” Porter shared as she recalled the writing process. “It’s so funny to see the dynamics of a small town again now that I’ve been away from it for a minute and so we all just kind of were laughing about all of the characters in our towns. I think Matt had the title ‘Lemonade’ and I was like, ‘Can’t, Beyoncé has an album called ‘Lemonade.’ I respect her, I’m not gonna step on it.’ We ended up pivoting it to be such a different concept that I was like, ‘alright, yeah, this is too good to not do ‘Lemonade.’”
For the very first demo of “Lemonade,” Porter made a recording on her phone from her childhood closet and ended up leaving it untouched for nearly a year because of how strongly she disliked the product of her original work tape.
“The people on my team were like, ‘What about ‘Lemonade?’ We love this song. This song is so good.’ And I was like, I can’t even think about listening to it because I hated the way I sounded on it. Then finally it kept coming up enough to where I was like, I need to listen to this song again, and then I understood it, and I loved it, and I just re-recorded a version of it so that I could take it.”
Meet The Small Town Characters Of “Lemonade”
Within the opening line of the finalized version of the song, listeners get to know their first set of charming characters like Barbara Sue, who sits on her front porch “all dressed up” at the same time every day just to catch a glimpse of the mailman who she dubs a “hunk.” This portion of the narrative comes to life in the forthcoming music video shot with family and friends in Porter’s hometown.
“The one specific memory I have of writing the song is, my dad is a UPS driver, and so when we wrote the line about ‘Barbara Sue checking out the mailman,’ my mom was like, ‘don’t say that, your dad is a mailman,’ and I was like, ‘yeah, and you know there are women on his route that check him out,’” she joked. “We did a music video for it and he is the mailman in the music video. He crowdsourced a bunch of my friends from my hometown and we shot it in Dawsonville. So that was my big memory. My mom still gets a little bit edged every time I sing the part about the mailman. She still gets a little bit frustrated.”
The tongue-in-cheek storyline continues with comedic references about knowing everyone’s secrets in a small town while also introducing Porter’s new era of music that’s focused on being her most authentic self and not shying away from what she wants to say.
There will likely be characters that her fans can relate to, and others may not be too fond of some of the lyrics, but that alone goes along with the 25-year-old’s mission to stay authentic and be less concerned about the opinions of others in this chapter of her career.
“We’re all trying our best and trying looks differently for everybody. There’s no right or wrong way to make it through your own life and I feel like that’s a big thing that I had a hard time with growing up in a small town, was just like, everybody had something to say about what everyone else was doing and they were never taking care of their own stuff,” she explained. “I hope that they laugh. I hope that maybe some of them will get a little bit annoyed if they hear certain topics. And that’s kind of on theme with this new era of my music, is not being afraid to piss some people off and just being honest and authentic about the way that I see the world because that’s all I really can offer as a songwriter and as a person.”
Porter hones in the need for compassion while celebrating the fact that life doesn’t need to be taken so seriously all the time. The country/rock feel blares through the electric guitar riffs and steady drumbeats that emphasize Porter’s soulful vocals.
New Project Coming This Spring
Coming hot on the heels of last year’s releases, “Speaking of Georgia” and “God’s Hotel,” “Lemonade” perfectly fits into Porter’s goals for 2024 as it sets the tone for the rest of the music that fans will get to hear on her new project coming this spring. This collection will follow the emerging artist’s debut project of 2022 titled In My Head. At the time this set of songs was released into the world, Peytan Porter admits she was entering a period of confusion in both her personal and professional life.
“A lot of my worth was being put in my work, and how well people liked it, and it didn’t really matter to me if I liked it at that point. Once the project came out, that kind of flipped on its head, and I realized I had to be happy at the end of the day. And for me, that meant making music that I really, really believed in and that I felt had more of a longevity, creatively and stylistically and picking songs that were a little bit more in line with the way that I feel and think. That also bled into my personal life too of just finding boundaries, setting boundaries, keeping them, not trying to force people to stay in my life, going back to therapy, finding new hobbies.”
2023 Was The Year of Growth For Peytan Porter
This past year was mostly spent correcting the lessons she learned during that period and finding ways to shift her focus back to making the kind of music that makes her happy. She had moved into an apartment that left her sleepless for nearly the entirety of the few months she was there, and at the same time also felt a bit unfulfilled creatively in her sound.
“It was the best decision I ever made, but it was the worst apartment I could have picked for myself, and I had to move about a month and a half, two months later. My birthday’s in January and my friends came up and they were like, we could probably get you bulletproof glass for your windows for your birthday…I have to do things to learn and if anybody had told me not to do it, I would have done it anyway. So, it was a lot of learning things the hard way.”
She continued, “2023 was definitely a year that felt kind of like I had to go underground and figure out metaphorically what kind of flowers I needed to plant. Then by the end of the year, I finally planted them and I feel like in ‘24, I’m going to get to actually experience the fruits of the things that I’ve spent time going underground to really foster and be more intentional about.”
What To Expect From Her Upcoming Releases
Looking ahead, Peytan Porter plans to dig into the folk/rock/country/soul side to her artistry in an attempt to lean away from her past pop/country focus. She flipped this switch with the help of new producers and a vision board that laid out her intentions with this next set of music.
“Last time, I was just kind of like, ‘Oh, everyone likes my music and they’ll help me get it great. They know what’s best for it.’ And this time I really felt like I was hands-on with the direction and I had a lot more references that weren’t country artists like Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt, who was country, but she was that Laurel Canyon rock and a lot of the Laurel Canyon artists really informed the direction of this because I do think that I lean on the Americana side of country as a songwriter, just my instincts and what I listen to are definitely more on the new folk/Americana side than the mainstream country. Part of pivoting this year was saying that out loud and not apologizing and trying to get myself in positions where I was competing and also collaborating with people who do what I do and not people who do something that I don’t do and it just took me getting really honest about my instincts and what I actually enjoy about country music.”
She went on to place this as a matured sound on the “Eric Church/ (Chris) Stapleton” side of the coin, meaning it will be a better representation of her truth and the real experiences she has had as opposed to writing about topics she’s less familiar with just because that’s what artists are talking about. This is what she describes as the “SEC country” side of the coin.
Goals For The New Year
On top of the new music, fans can expect to see Peytan living out her word for the year, which is “audacity,” and playing more shows than ever before.
“I’m really trying to hold myself to a standard of having the audacity to do what feels right in my gut and having the audacity to blaze a new trail and to set new standards and to, like I said, not be afraid to piss people off and not do it on purpose, but to be honest and to be authentic and not apologize for who I’m not. I’m really excited about that…I love and respect country music so much and all I’ve ever wanted was to be a part of country music and the format and the history and the family of it and all of my favorite people came in and ruffled some feathers. So I feel like it’s time to come in and ruffle some feathers. That’s a big goal.”
Beginning January 26, Peytan Porter will join Ian Munsick on select dates of his Boots, Buckles & Bolos Tour of 2024. Additionally, she will perform at a variety of festivals throughout the summer.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.