Alisan Porter is back!
The former child star — she starred in John Hughes’ 1991 movie Curly Sue — caught up with PEOPLE on Tuesday. Porter, 35, dished on her new music, her tight-knit bond with former mentor Christina Aguilera and her life as a rock-star mom.
Congrats on “Deep Water!” How did the song come together?
I had been wanting to go to Nashville for a really long time and finally “Deep Water” came out of my second session in Nashville. It was one of those magical moments where all the pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly, and it was like: This is what I had been wanting so badly to create and to hear. So that was the beginning of finishing this EP, which I wrote the entirety of on that Nashville trip. My manager is kind of stone-cold, and she cried — that was the tell-tale sign that things are moving in the right direction, when she kept saying, “You need the song.” I was like, “Is this the song?” When she showed emotion, I knew it was.
If there’s one thing people take away from the song, what would it be?
It’s really a song about not walking alone — personal freedom and independence but also, within finding that, being able to walk your journey with someone else who’s finding themselves as well. It’s a story about finding yourself and finding someone else to experience life with.
How does the rest of the EP compare to the sound people knew you for on The Voice?
I tried to embody every piece of myself that I showed on The Voice: the rocker side, the country-folk side, the emotional ballad side. Everything has a super emotional message or a powerful message. I didn’t want to create anything or to be a part of anything that wasn’t super authentically me. I’ve been a songwriter for a long time, and I definitely was ready to write the best songs of my life and not sing other people’s songs at this particular moment because I felt like I had such a story and such a message and so much to talk about.
You signed to Republic Records after you won but recently left the label. Was that just over creative differences?
Yeah, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I have a really clear vision of who I am, and it might not be the most cookie-cutter commercial radio [vision] … I would much rather be true to myself than to do something that didn’t feel right for me. But I’m grateful for the experience of that because it led me to what I know that I want to put out there. It was all positive!
You won The Voice in May of 2016. What have you been up to the past year?
It’s been another cycle around the sun of finding yourself and being true to yourself. It’s been an amazing year — adjusting to going back to work and being a working mom and traveling a ton and writing sessions and getting back to writing for other people and working with Adam Lambert on his EP and finishing up mine. I’d been a stay-at-home mom for a long time, and I hadn’t really been focused on my career; now I get to do both, which is the best possible thing ever for a Gemini — to be able to be a stay-at-home mom some days and a rock star other days.
Do your kids — Mason, 4, and Aria, 2, with husband Brian Autenrieth — know what you do for a living?
They totally get it, and they’re amazing. They have to be strong little people when I have to go; I have a really strong connection with both of my kids, and it’s definitely difficult to leave them and go to work. At the same time, I always felt like it was important for me, as a mom, to show my kids what it means to have a passion and have drive for it and follow it and fully pursue it to the ends of the earth, which I have. I’ve definitely chased this dream longer than I’ve done anything else in my life, and now that it’s becoming a reality and I get to live in it, I want to show them how much fun that is and how I can still play with dolls and Legos — whatever it is that week — and at the same time, really focus on a career and show them how important that is.
You returned to The Voice to perform “Deep Water” on Tuesday night. How was it going back?
It’s like going back to college, your alma mater, sort of. It’s such an experience there, and you go through such crazy emotions with those people, and they see the best and the worst of you because it’s a pressure-cooker — so you go through such an emotional spiritual journey with everybody there, and so they know you. These people are family. The performance was ridiculous. I helped with the creative direction and made it super, super me, full of crystals and hippie-dippy s—. [Laughs] It was a real homecoming, and I just feel really lucky and blessed to have been on that show. It was an incredible experience for me.
You and your coach, Christina Aguilera, really hit it off on the show. Have you two kept in touch?
We have, we are definitely homegirls. We connect on so many different levels: We’re moms, we’re singers, we’re women, we really found a common ground early on and surprised a lot of people how close we got on the show. And we’ve maintained that. I was at her house last week. And we’re definitely like sisters. I adore her. She’s been there every step of the way for me. I sent her “Deep Water” when we first wrote it, and her response was: “That’s you, that’s the person you’ve been searching for, this is it.” She’s remained “Coach Christina” throughout this whole process, and I’m super grateful. Because who better to guide you on this journey than someone who’s literally been through all of it a couple of times. I’m super grateful for our connection and for the show for bringing us together.