'Travelers' Alum MacKenzie Porter Talks Working on Debut Country Album While Balancing Acting Career (Exclusive)

Rising country music star MacKenzie Porter is on the cusp of a new phase in her career, as she preps her upcoming debut album for the world to hear in 2023. Recently, Porter  — who is also an actress who starred in series such as Hell on Wheels and Netflix's Travelers — made her CMA debut, and later this month she'll be joining the CP Holiday Train tour in her native Canada. Recently, PopCulture.com had a chance to speak with Porter about all she has going on lately, including how things are progressing on her new record and how she finds time to be a busy star in both the music and acting industries.

Porter's last project was Drinkin' Songs: The Collection, an EP she released on Big Loud Records in 2020. "I haven't really put out a full-length record before," she revealed, possibly to the surprise of anyone who's been listening to her music for the past decade. "When I put out this project before summer, I think that's the plan right now, that'll be what we call my debut album." Porter went on to say that she "definitely" has "more work to do." She elaborated, "So I'm writing right now. Even tomorrow I'm in the studio with Joey Moi, my producer. We're cutting another song."

"It's something we've been working on and we'll continue working on for the next probably six months or five months," Porter continued. "And then we'll start with artwork and content and videos and all that kind of stuff before it comes out." She then quipped that she has "so much to do," adding, "All I can think about is, 'Today packing. Tomorrow studio.' And that's as far as I can go."

Among all that Porter has on her plate the rest of this year, is the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train tour, which kicks off on Nov. 22 and concludes in mid-December. She joins other artists such as Lindsay Ell and Tenille Townes, among others, riding the legacy train and making stops along Canadian provinces and U.S. states to perform free concerts. Attendees are simply asked to "bring a cash or non-perishable food donation if they're able."

"Basically, you're on this really cool lit-up train and you pull in city-to-city. I'll maybe do eight cities a day. And you pull down the box car and you play for kids and families and homeless shelters and all the stuff to raise money for a food bank. I'm going to do that for a week, which I'm really excited about." She added, "This is my first time. My husband's going to come and we get to live on a box car, or whatever they're called, on the train for a week. And apparently, there's really good food on there. We'll just watch movies at night and then I'll play eight shows a day."

Porter noted that the trek is similar to being on a bus for touring, but she doesn't "even have a bus yet, so I fly everywhere." She joked, "The idea of just being in one spot for a week sounds like more than I'm in one spot at home for a week. So it sounds kind of nice... I'm going to unpack my clothes on the train. I've already decided. I'm like, 'I'm going to put it in the closet.' I feel like people do that in hotel rooms. I never get to do that because it's like one night. But I'm going to do that."

For many, it's possible that their introduction to Porter was through Dustin Lynch's mega-hit single "Thinking 'Bout You," on which she collaborated with him. The track is one of Lynch's most played, and currently has more than 100 million streams on Spotify. "Dustin and I have a really good relationship," she said of working with Lynch. "We not only did the song and got to experience all these things together. And things that I had never ever experienced, like late-night TV and Good Morning America, and Nissan Stadium. All these firsts that I got to experience with him."

She went on to share, "Also, he would invite me and my husband out on his boat and we'd go boating and wakeboarding. And he's just now a really great friend of mine. That relationship is just one I'll always cherish. So I would really say he is somebody in my life that has made such a big impact."

Porter added, however, "There's so many people. And I'm also an actress, so I feel like there's shows that I've done that other actors have become some of my best friends. And I'm just really grateful. It's kind of cool that I have a job that I can meet new people all the time and spark up these really long-term friendships with."

As she alludes, in addition to her long and expanding music career, Porter is also an accomplished actress, having starred in a number of TV shows and movies. "Acting is a funny beast because you can't really act unless somebody hires you, or unless you write and produce your own script. But I don't want to do that at this moment in my life just because I don't have time."

Porter continued, "So I audition all the time, and every time a part has come up we've just evaluated, 'Does this make sense for where I'm at my career? Does this take me away from music for too long? Does this money make sense?' Everything. 'Does the character make sense?' And then we just go from there."

Opening up about the balance between music and acting, Porter explained, "When I first booked my show Travelers on Netflix, that we all felt was a really good opportunity and one that I wanted to take and try... It definitely took me away from Nashville and the writing community. And I learned a lesson in that sense where it's like, if you're not writing songs and doing this grind 24/7, you do fall behind a little bit because other people are doing it like that." She then revealed, "So I took a little break from acting and I'm just starting to audition again now and talk about new roles, if it made sense."

Recalling when she began to take her music career seriously, Porter shared, "I had tried to write a bunch of songs before that, but 2014 was when I booked that show and that was also when I got my first publishing deal as a songwriter. But I didn't have a label. I didn't have anything. So I just started writing songs. I did put out a bunch of songs independently that now that I look back, I'm like, 'Oh, gosh..." But whatever. That's part of my story, my process. But when I was doing Hell on Wheels is kind of when I really started diving into music more heavily."

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Porter also told us that she had kept in touch with all her Travelers co-stars since the show was canceled in 2018. "So Jared Abrahamson... I've played his sister like three different times. I don't know why I keep playing his sister. But he's a really good friend of ours. And J. Brinson, who plays the cop on the show, he's a really good friend of ours. Nesta Cooper, I'm really tight with her. Eric McCormack, I'm still really close with him. So yeah, I definitely keep in really close contact with all of them."

Lastly, reflecting on the show's unfortunate end, Porter noted that she felt like "that's kind of the beginning of when people started petitioning for new networks to take over. So I feel like if we would've got canceled in 2019, I feel like maybe we would've gotten moved over to another network or something. But it all happens for a reason and it really was such an amazing experience for me." Fans can also click here to check out Porter's brand new surprise single with Cheat Codes, "One Night Left."