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Canadian Actor & Muso MacKenzie Porter On Defying Labels, ‘Gross’ Shoeys & More

29 September 2022 | 11:00 am | Mallory Arbour

"That's like my worst nightmare!"

(Pic by Bree Marie Fish)

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Canadian actor and singer-songwriter MacKenzie Porter is currently touring Australia for the first time ever, supporting US superstar Brad Paisley alongside Australian-born, Nashville-based country artist, Morgan Evans. The tour includes the recent CMC Rocks and upcoming Savannah In The Round festival, where she’ll perform in front of over 30,000 people.

Porter says, “I feel really confident. We’ve been playing the same hour set for a while now, so I feel really strong and good about the show. But I have no idea If people will know my music there at all… hopefully some people maybe know the songs.

“I’ve heard it's a wild time, and that country fans and music lovers over there are just so fun and energetic. That's such an important thing when you're putting on a show, you feed off the crowd. I've heard from so many people, ‘Wait to get there, the fans are amazing,’ so I'm pumped for that!” 

One thing Porter is not keen on is the possibility of being pressured into doing a shoey – a popular practice in Australia that sees an entire alcoholic drink being skulled from a shoe. 

Artists like Luke Bryan, Dustin Lynch, Brothers Osborne, and Post Malone have all partaken in the spectacle. In 2019, Kacey Musgraves refused a request from a fan to do a shoey in Sydney, but later caved in Melbourne by drinking gin out of an elegant glass slipper. Most recently, both Drew McAlister and Troy Kemp were pressured by the crowd to do a shoey during their We Roll On tour. 

“I've heard about shoeys, and I do not want to do that. Everyone's like, ‘You have to.’ I'm like, ‘Oh, that's like my worst nightmare!’ It’s just so gross. Everyone knows I hate feet!” Porter laughs. “My band and I were talking about it, and they're like, ‘Would you rather it be a brand-new shoe or whose shoe would you want it to be?’ My band chose my shoe. I was like, ‘I would choose my shoe too.’”

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Despite touring with Paisley before the pandemic and starring in the 2018 Hallmark film Darrow & Darrow: In The Key Of Murder alongside his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father Of The Bride I and II), Porter and Paisley had surprisingly never officially met until recently.

“It’s kind of crazy, like right before the pandemic, him and I went on tour for like six shows and then we got cut short because COVID happened,” she explains. “I actually didn't get to meet him because the way our shows played out. He was still usually backstage or on his bus when we were packing up. I know his wife – his wife and I did a movie together – so I feel like I know the family already. I'm sure he wouldn't say that. He'd be like, ‘Who, who is that?’”

As an actor, Porter has also appeared in TV movies such as The Other Woman, Ice Quake, A Killer Among Us and Finding A Family and guest starred in series such as Supernatural, R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour, Blackstone, Hell On Wheels and had a main role in Travelers

“There's so many people doing both, like, people are actors, musicians, influencers, they kind of have to be like everything, you know,” she confesses. “The one thing I struggle with is time management. Even today, I had two auditions I had to get done. It's a lot because you're doing two careers. Like when I'm out on the road and I get three auditions, how do I do that out of a hotel room by myself? That's hard. I'm still trying to figure out that balance.”

As far as her a dream role, she definitely feels drama is in her wheelhouse.

“As far as a TV series, I would love to do something like Handmaid's Tale or Succession. I'm definitely more into a drama. The thing I was auditioning for today was a comedy, I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm not very funny.’ But there's so much good TV right now that I would be incredibly pumped to be on.

“I don't think I would want to do a Glee or like anything like that. Then I feel like people really wouldn't take me seriously as an actor. I'm already fighting like, ‘Oh, the country singer who’s an actress.’ If I did a show like that, that might really pigeonhole me,” she admits. “But who knows… I love what I do, and I just want to have fun. And if it seems fun, then I'm gonna do it.”

In terms of ideal movies, Porter adds, “I would love to do like a Blue Valentine or a What's Eating Gilbert Grape? Just those movies that are so iconic, they last, and people watch them however, many years later, and they still hold up. It's something I would love to be involved with.”

While the 32-year-old enjoys acting, music is – and has always been – her greatest love. Porter began her musical training (singing, piano and violin) at age four. While growing up, she toured in a family band with her brother, 2004 Canadian Idol winner Kalan Porter and later formed the band The Black Boots with musician and actor Andrew Jenkins, before going solo in 2010. 

Porter moved from her native Canada to Nashville, Tennessee in 2014 around the release of her debut self-titled album. It was around that same time that Evans was making plans to move abroad. The pair met when they co-hosted a stage event for musical expats and quickly became friends.  

“Morgan was one of the first people I ever met when I moved to Nashville. He's just such a sweet, kind person,” Porter admits. “And obviously, Morgan knows my husband, so I'm sure they'll drink one too many beers at some point together [while we’re on tour].” 

She also lists Tom Jordan and Mitch Thompson from country-pop duo Seaforth as another of her favourite Australian country artists. She says, “They're so freaking fun and so sweet, so I feel like those two are my friends and also some of my favourite artists from Australia.”

She became the first female artist since Shania Twain (in 1998) to have three back-to-back #1 singles at Canadian Country radio in 22 years with About You, These Days and Seeing Other People in early 2020. She also earned her first crossover Top 10 at Canadian Pop radio – a first since 2003 for a Country artist – with These Days (Remix) and joined CMT’s ‘Next Women of Country’ class of 2021.

As well as sharing the stage with the likes of Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton, Walker Hayes and Rascal Flatts, Porter previously collaborated with HARDY, Chris Lane, Dean Brody and on Thinking ‘Bout You with Dustin Lynch, whichmade history in April as the longest-running Top 10 single on the Billboard Country Airplay Chart. She will also feature on the forthcoming country album by Cheat Codes, the genre-bending trio who have put out records in electronic dance, pop and alt-rock genres.

When speaking about possible on-stage collaborations during the upcoming tour, she doesn’t rule out sharing the stage with either Paisley or Evans for a surprise duet. 

“I don't know if they'll do it, but 100% I'll ask them. Brad probably doesn't want to come out with an opener, but if Morgan would jump up with me and do Thinking ‘Bout You, that would be so sick.”

Porter is currently working on her second studio album, which will include one of her favourite originals called Confession (which she teased on her TikTok), her previously performed track Easy To Miss as well as a new duet. While she doesn’t reveal who will feature on the upcoming duet, she lists Thomas Rhett, Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Maren Morris, and Kane Brown as dream collaborators. As well as playing songs from her debut album and 2020 EP, Drinkin’ Songs: The Collection, Porter will premiere at least two new songs in her Australian set – possibly more. 

“I have two songs in my set that are brand new, so I play those. Then honestly, by that time, I'd add a third new song because we've been cutting so much new music and I might have a few of them out by then… there's just so much in the pipeline that we have coming. So, for sure, there'll be new stuff that nobody's ever heard. I know people want to hear the songs they know, but sometimes it's cool, like, here's something that they don't know or something that's on the next project.”

Although this is her first time touring in Australia, Porter holidayed here for a few weeks back in 2012, visiting Brisbane and Sydney while a former boyfriend was filming a show in Burleigh Heads. Ten years later, she and her actor/singer-songwriter husband of over two years, Jake Etheridge, are planning to make the most of her off days by seeing as much of the country as possible.  

“Because we're there for three weeks, I'm like, ‘We should just make a vacation on our off days,’” she says. “I don't know exactly what we're gonna do yet. I haven't planned what we're gonna see but we're wanting to take in the culture there, eat good food, drink wine, go hiking and all that stuff.”

“This truly is a trip that we're looking forward to the most and we're making such a vacation/work trip out of it. It's gonna be really epic!” Porter adds. “My favourite thing about traveling is going to places that maybe is more local, seeing how people live and the food they love. Oh, I have heard that you guys have amazing coffee. I'm so pumped for that, like flat whites.”

She worries, however, that they may come home with a new pet or two.

“Oh my gosh, my husband is, like, obsessed with like weird animals. Not weird, but like, not your typical pet. Like he really wants a raccoon or squirrel in the house. I'm like, ‘No, absolutely not.’ But maybe he could get a baby kangaroo. He always tells me, like, ‘If I find one on the street, for sure, I'm bringing it home.’ I'm like, ‘No, you're not, you crazy person!’” she laughs.

Thursday, September 29, 2022 - Melbourne, VIC - Rod Laver Arena*
Sunday, October 2, 2022 - Mareeba, QLD - Savannah In The Round*
Wednesday, October 5, 2022 - Sydney, NSW - Qudos Bank Arena*
(*w/ Brad Paisley)