Peytan Porter’s Journey to ‘God’s Hotel’ Began With a Kacey Musgraves Album [Exclusive]
Peytan Porter wasn't quite brave enough to stand behind the lyrics of her new song when she wrote it two years ago. "God's Hotel" questioned her very essence and, even today when she sings the opening lines, she feels naked.
"I was baptized by water because I was scared of the fire," Porter sings to open "God's Hotel," a breezy country melody driven by — to some, anyway — a terrifying premise.
The song and video are being debuted exclusively at Taste of Country for a wide release on Friday (July 28). Anyone who's tested their faith will find a room in a structure built by Porter, with help from Jeff Garrison and Faren Rachels.
"The whole scaring people into a relationship with a creator who is supposed to be so great and loving was something I never had the perspective to back up and look at," she says.
"God's Hotel" is described as a place for well-meaning people with the courage to wonder. Porter — a Dawsonville, Ga. native fresh from camp meetings at a church revival 48 hours prior to talking to Taste of Country — is in the thick of that. It's part of something bigger that began in earnest after her last project was hailed by fans and critics, but did nothing for her soul.
"That bled into every decision. I started doing things by myself. I started decorating my house differently. I started dressing differently. I cut my bangs," she remembers.
The "In My Head" singer has questions, not skepticism. There's no chip on her shoulder toward friends and family back home. She's simply the middle child — the "weird, artsy one" in a family of athletes that for the most part, are happy in north-central Georgia.
That's not her truth any longer.
“I have my whole drive back from Georgia to become my Nashville me, which is a little bit shinier and it occupies more space in a room here," she'll say. "When I go home, I kind of shrink a little bit.”
Classic rock bands like the Eagles and the Allman Brothers Band mixed with gospel music at home until she began to discover her own favorites. Friends fell for Justin Bieber ...
Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park album (2013) was a turning point. The song "Merry Go 'Round" specifically was a shock to the system. Her community objected to the drug and gay references.
“That was something I could never wrap my head around," Porter remembers. "I was like, ‘well it’s a great song. You don’t have to go smoke weed or go kiss a guy if you don’t want to.’”
Few artists have ever tried to sing about home in a way that's raw and honest, but not critical. Musgraves hit a very narrow target that Porter often aims for. Yep, there's more like it to come from this country newcomer.
“Unlearning the doctrine of what you’ve grown up believing is a very messy, personal thing that you have to figure out on your own. I was finally in a place where I was able to talk about it," she shares when asked about writing this song.
Garrison had the song's title, but it remained an open concept until all three started to share their experience with religion and the church.
"Maybe God’s got a hotel / For people like me / That ain’t trying to build a mansion / On a gold gated street / All I’ve heard about heaven / Is it don’t come cheap / Maybe God’s got a hotel / For people like me."
After the chorus, the singer comes with a great second verse that Rachels inspired. "My congregation checks in and checks out," Porter sings, painting a wavering faith with the hope that God is as understanding as she's been taught to believe.
“When we first wrote it, I wasn’t brave enough to be the person standing behind the song," she says. "I just wasn’t. I cared so much about being liked and everybody thinking that I was still the same person that they knew when I was 16, singing in front of everybody at church, I was afraid to ruffle these feathers.”
She's not afraid any longer. That shouldn't scare the people she's closest to, much.