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‘The Voice’ Season 10 Winner Alisan Porter Dishes on New Songs, Her Musical Evolution and Her Time as a Child Star (EXCLUSIVE)

Plus, learn if she plans to ever go back to acting

Alisan Porter first burst onto the scene as an adorable 5-year-old Star Search Junior Vocalist winner in 1987. Decades later, she won The Voice in 2016 and stunned the celebrity coaches with her soulful rendition of “Blue Bayou,” which has since been viewed over a million times. Porter has been singing her heart out for nearly as long as she’s been alive, and just released her latest EP, The Ride.

The singer-songwriter’s new six-song collection shows off her powerfully emotional vocals, and blends elements of country, folk and pop. Alisan Porter spoke to Woman’s World about her musical evolution, her creative process and her time as a child star.

Woman’s World: What was the process of recording this new EP like?

Alisan Porter: It was all over the place. “Meant for Me,” “See in the Dark” and “The Ride” started as voice notes where I had woken up in the middle of the night and sang a chorus, and then I called my cowriter and said, “Okay, I have this idea. Let’s flesh it out.”

A lot of things came from just getting inspired and singing into the phone. I probably have a gazillion of those voice memos from when I’m driving or in the middle of the night. Some of them were whispered into my phone because I didn’t want to wake up my husband. 

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Alisan Porter in 2024
Alisan Porter in 2024Jen Rosenstein

“River’s Dry” was a little clip that I sent to a girlfriend of mine. She’s an amazing writer, and I was like, “I love this idea. What do you think?” And she sent me back the song, basically. And then “Bleedin’” was a song I had written for a girlfriend of mine, Shoshana Bean, in a writing session with her that we never ended up using. Years later, while I was making this EP, one of the writers asked what was happening with the song, and I had to record it because it’s just too good to sit there.

Lately, if I am Inspired or if an idea hits, I just run. First of all, I’m at the age where if I don’t, I forget immediately, and secondly, I just feel like it’s so much more magical now than it ever was for me.

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WW: You’ve been singing since you were a kid. How do you see your evolution as a musician?

Alisan Porter: I was born into a musical family, so I was always in it. I learned how to play a couple of chords on the guitar in high school. I didn’t fancy myself much of a songwriter until my early 20s.

I wrote a song when I was 19 called “Speedracer,” and still, to this day, people ask me to play it and it’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written. It’s on my album Pink Cloud, which I actually put out 20 years later. I held on to that song forever before I actually released it.

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Alisan Porter onstage in 2011
Alisan Porter onstage in 2011Getty

I think throughout the years, with cowriting sessions and different opportunities, I really transformed my writing. I’ve had a lot of breaks from songwriting or times where I didn’t really feel inspired. But I think every time I was re-inspired, I came in with a new lease on the process.

Maybe I was able to give up more and more control, whether it was within my own process or my process with other people — not to be cheesy, but I think that’s really when the magic would happen. 

WW: Competing on The Voice must’ve been intense. How did you find balance during your time on the show?

Alisan Porter: I don’t know if you can actually be balanced throughout that process. I was going through so much personally during that time. I was a young mom and I had so much push and pull.

In my season of The Voice, most of the contestants really loved each other. We supported each other, and I found relief in that process and in having camaraderie.

I feel really lucky for the people that I was on that journey with. To this day, many of them are like family, and I know it’s not like that every season. We really had a tight-knit group, and a lot of us still write together and support each other in music and share pictures of our kids.

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Alisan Porter in 2016
Alisan Porter in 2016, the year she won The VoiceGetty

WW: As a child actress, you starred in the 1991 John Hughes movie Curly Sue. What was your experience working with him like?

Alisan Porter: Working with him was everything that you could imagine. He was just a legendary person with a larger-than-life personality. He was always really lovely to me, and I had an amazing experience.

Right now we’re hearing so many horror stories about kid actors and bad experiences. I’m not saying I didn’t have any experiences that maybe a 9-year-old shouldn’t have had, but certainly not to the degree of some others.

I think that I was really well-protected. I was loved and cared for by John and the different directors that I worked with during that time. Now, I just turned 43 and I definitely look back on those times very fondly. I feel grateful to have been a part of those movies and grateful for that period of time in my life. 

Alisan Porter holds a picture of herself as Curly Sue in 2015
Alisan Porter holds a picture of herself as Curly Sue in 2015Getty

WW: Would you ever go back to acting?

Alisan Porter: I don’t rule anything out anymore. I have quit music a thousand times and swore it off forever. I love the idea of doing a film that has music in it, and I obviously have a dream of maybe playing Janis Joplin one day, or something like that.

Right now, there are a lot of possibilities. I used to say no to everything, but now I’m changing that up and wanting to say a lot more yeses.

The singer in 2024
Alisan Porter in 2024Jen Rosenstein

WW: How do you practice self-care and stay grounded?

Alisan Porter: I wake up and play with chickens and water my garden. I highly suggest chicken ownership to anyone and everyone. I’m a real-life COVID homesteader, so I hang out with animals and tend to the garden veggies and breathe some fresh air and think about my gratitude list.

No matter where I am or where I’m going or who I’m with or what crazy experience I’m having, I’ve learned that my most happy place these days is being home with my kids and a movie and some comfy blankets. 

The singer in 2024
Alisan Porter in 2024Jen Rosenstein

WW: Having been in the spotlight from such a young age, what advice would you give to your younger self?

Alisan Porter: I think that everything has happened the way it was meant to, but I would have given myself permission to be seen more, and to know it was okay that I was talented. I know that sounds weird, but I always struggled with the fact that if I wanted to be seen, I had to show off or put myself first. It always felt difficult for me.

It’s only recently that I’ve been able to immerse myself in my creative life and not feel guilty for it, so I would tell myself not to feel guilty for wanting to be heard and wanting my talents to be appreciated. 

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