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Portugal. The Man frontman details long, difficult journey to new ‘Chris Black Changed My Life’ album

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Atlantic; Photo by Maclay Heriot

Portugal. The Man‘s new album, Chris Black Changed My Life, drops Friday, June 23, ending the six-year wait for a follow-up to 2017’s Woodstock, which spawned the megahit “Feel It Still.” As frontman John Gourley tells Billboard, those six years were very difficult for him and his bandmates.

In 2018, Gourley suffered a broken jaw, which left him bedridden and in extreme pain. A year later, longtime Portugal. The Man friend Chris Black, who inspired the name of the new record, passed away.

“He was also the glue for all of our friends,” Gourley says of Black. “The thing that I miss the most is the way he held that friend group together … it just slipped away a little bit, and I think it’s difficult, recognizing that.”

Then, of course, came the COVID-19 pandemic. Gourley and vocalist/percussionist Zoe Manville, who are married, were met with more difficult news when their 11-year-old daughter, Frances, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease. Meanwhile, members Zach Carothers, Eric Howk and Kyle O’Quin all entered rehab at various times for addiction.

“Everybody has their personal things going on,” Gourley says. “We finally understand what has been happening with Frances. The stakes have changed. The motivation has changed. The reason I’m doing this — it has all changed.”

Through all that, Gourley feels Portugal. The Man produced their “best album.”

“I was really surprised when we got to the end of it, because this had been the thing that I had been searching for forever,” Gourley says. “It’s these really tight, concise ideas, like, ‘Can you tell a story in a sentence?’ I obsess over that, and I feel like this record, we did it.”

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