He’s earned multiple Grammy awards and accolades as a producer, engineer and songwriter, in a career that has spanned almost four decades. He’s produced and written works for artists like Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin, Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, Luis Miguel, Khaled, Ozomatli, Ana Gabriel, Selena – and the list goes on and on. He’s made critical contributions to the music world by introducing global audiences to Latin music, and also introducing Anglo music to the Spanish-speaking world by translating hit songs for artists like Boyz II Men, Sting, Brian McKnight and Toni Braxton – and again, the list goes on and on.
He’s also a performer and recording artist in his own right, having made appearances on stages all over the world and most recently releasing his second studio album, titled CRUZANDEROS. One of the founding members of Oneness, a non-profit organization that promotes racial unity through music, arts and education, KC Porter joins us as our guest artist in this episode of Cloud9.
Born in Los Angeles, KC’s parents, both successful artists and members of the Baha’i Faith, accepted an invitation in 1970 to move to Guatemala as a family, when KC was just 7 years old. There KC’s parents would spend decades assisting in strengthening the local Baha’i community of Guatemala, a country in the midst of a civil war.
KC shares how this move impacted both his faith and his desire to serve humanity, and exposed him to Latin sounds, rhythms, and instruments, rooted in both traditional and romantic music. His musical experiences in Guatemala paved the way for him to continue working with Latin music and Latin artists upon returning to his birth place, Los Angeles. He explains how he began working with artists like Janet Jackson, Bon Jovi, Sting, Brian McKnight and Geri Halliwell, producing their hit singles, translating from English to Spanish, and making them accessible to the huge Central and South American audience.
When the opportunity came up to produce the Argentinian band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, KC was eager to collaborate. His work with Los Fabulosos Cadillacs would later win him two Grammy Awards. This led to collaborations with many other Latin artists such as Selena and Ricky Martin. KC credits the Baha’i teachings to explain his eclectic, universal, and collaborative approach to music production, infused with a relentless pursuit for excellence:
It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 145.
KC also shares how he engages artists in the process of Baha’i consultation, which widely differs from the general attitudes held by some other producers in the industry. He feels that this approach enabled him to achieve much more than he would have if he’d done things his own way:
Consultation bestoweth greater awareness and transmuteth conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leadeth the way and guideth. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation. – Baha’u’llah, in a tablet translated from Persian.
We learn about KC’s seminal and ground-breaking work with Carlos Santana, and the role that faith and spirituality had in the production of his record – Supernatural – which sold over 30 million copies and won KC another Grammy for his role as producer. KC shares how Santana reminded him of the spiritual responsibility that artists have to “spread a spiritual virus” through their music. KC explains how this approach set the tone for the record, as did the writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. The hit single Primavera, which appears on the record Supernatural, was actually written and produced by KC and his friend and fellow Baha’i musician JB Eckl. KC reflects on the writings of Abdu’l-Baha, which inspired Primavera and the sacred period when it was written, the Baha’i Fast:
Soon the whole world, as in springtime, will change its garb. The turning and falling of the autumn leaves is past, the bleakness of the wintertime is over. The New Year hath appeared and the spiritual springtime is at hand. The black earth is becoming a verdant garden; the deserts and mountains are teeming with red flowers; from the borders of the wilderness the tall grasses are standing like advance guards before the cypress and jasmine trees; while the birds are singing among the rose branches like the angels in the highest heavens, announcing the glad-tidings of the approach of that spiritual spring, and the sweet music of their voices is causing the real essence of all things to move and quiver. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 352.
In our interview KC shares his memories of collaborating with Michael Jackson on a benefit song to remember the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, titled What More Can I Give. He also opens up about the motivation behind starting the Oneness initiative and why it was important for him to bring a Baha’i-inspired perspective of oneness and racial unity to the world. The initiative – comprised of songwriters’ summits with youth from all over the world, culminating in recording and production opportunities in Los Angeles – has the overall intention of uniting the world through song.
We segue into a conversation about his latest album release – CRUZANDEROS – which follows the immigrant’s journey and “the masses of souls looking for a new life in a new land.” KC shares the inspiration and motivation behind this record, as he walks us through some of the themes, stories and messages rooted in his songs, the unique instruments and traditional sounds featured on the album, and who he collaborated with to make the stunning new song and video.
We explore two tracks in more detail. The first is a song called Canto, which focuses on indigenous peoples’ universally intrinsic relationship with the land and environment.
The second song, called Quisiera, explores the theme of economic equality and the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty – a fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith. KC shares how the inspiration for this song arose out of the economic disparities he grew up witnessing in Guatemala, and how he hopes this song offers a voice to the voiceless and an awareness to those in positions of power to influence positive change.
We close our interview by reflecting on the gratitude KC feels towards his parents, and the sacrifices they made for their faith, which KC strongly believes led him to where he is today.