Isolated in the mountains in southern California, Portair and two close friends, James Droll and Colyer, began having a conversation about what the word “fold” meant. “It was so peaceful where we were, and the song just fell out in a matter of hours,” says the LA transplant. “I think the seclusion and the distance from the big city can be inspiring and can bring up certain conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.”
“I wrote this song about realizing what I didn’t want or need in my life─that had been built into me from my early days of being a child,” Portair tells American Songwriter. “A perception that was conditioned into my mind from the day I was born, only for me to realize as a young adult that I had never questioned anything for myself. I had never stepped away from what I had been told and searched for the answers for myself.”
With “Fold,” he steps “into the ‘cold,’ the unknown territory of the world,” he reflects. As nerve-wracking as the unknown can be, the singer-songwriter learned to trust “that it’s the right thing [to do] because there is no way I can go back into the ‘fold’ from which I came. A simplified version is about faith, but not in the traditional sense; this is about faith in yourself, walking into the wilderness with fervor and knowing that the only way is forward, not backwards.
“I hope this resonates with people in a similar way to which it did for me when I wrote it. I hope it leads people to ask the hard questions in their lives,” he adds, “and have some trust in themselves that if you zoom out you can often find a completely different perspective and that’s okay.”
Keep on moving forward / Keep on moving through the cold / I’ve been here before, he sings in earnest, a flurry of acoustic guitar surrounding him. Where I lost control / Oh, I can’t go back in the fold.
Originally from Canberra, Australia, Portair writes his best work when he’s had plenty of beauty sleep and has “some silence to understand what is going on inside my mind, and I have no distractions,” he reflects. “When I am writing, and I’m in a zone, I will often turn my phone upside down and place it in another room and close my browser, too. We live in such a distracted world, it’s hard sometimes to be present.”
“One of my favorite things about songwriting is the feeling of writing something and not necessarily understanding what it means to me until days or weeks or months later. For me, sometimes I have a hard time getting in touch with how I am actually feeling,” he admits, “and songwriting is a cathartic outlet that often helps me understand what is going on in my heart. Another thing I love about songwriting is collaborating with other people. It’s a great way to connect with new people, and I am grateful to have built some beautiful relationships through it.”
Regardless of the setup, songwriting remains unpredictable. “It feels different every time. Sometimes, I’ll have words written in my notes that I want to turn into songs,” he says, “or other times, it’s a chord progression with some melodies. Almost always, it involves a piano or guitar, too. My favorite songs I’ve written have come naturally─mostly at the same time, melody, chords, lyrics.”
“Fold” samples Portair’s debut EP, The Light That Gives, out everywhere now via Nettwerk Music.