Grace Potter: "Do I Want To Do The Katy Perry Thing?"
by Chris Parker
Wild and free like much of what you'll find in Vermont, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have had the opportunity to grow on for four albums on Disney subsidiary Hollywood Records. They've never stood still, passing from rootsy jam to southern rock to the atmospheric dance-tinged modern pop of 2010's self-titled album and culminating in a woolly blues-tinged album that retains the pop hooks, infusing them into surprisingly taut and moody seventies-inflected rock. Potter's got the pipes to pull it off, and a lively personality that translates into fun, freewheeling performances.
After dueting with Kenny Chesney on the hit "You and Tequila" in 2011, Potter's profile leapt, and doors opened. But stardom didn't appeal to her as much as making the music she wants - so she didn't cater and willingly let the chips land where they may on their latest, The Lion The Beast The Beat. We caught up with Potter in Nashville, where she and the Nocturnals were rehearsing before leaving on tour.
Up on the Sun: How did you get drawn into music?
I grew up with hippy parents that really nurtured whatever creative force was going to take hold of thier kids. My brother and my sister both found their path in poetry and art, respectively. And I seemed to grab a hold of music and never let go, mainly because I was and still am legally blind.... as a two-year-old I would be listening to pop songs and I would make up my own harmonies and sing my own words, and kind of correct what I thought was wrong with the song...
I wonder if that one dim sense made your other senses stronger, especially in learning to play by ear.
I think so. That's why I'm superstious--I have this argument all the time with friends who've had LASIK surgery. They're, "You just have to do it, you have to get LASIK," especially because part of my job is not falling off the edge of the stage.
But I have this weird superstition about it that I was born exactly the way I am. It's like any other thing - I wouldn't get a boob job, why would I get an eye job? I don't know. It's weird.
While the last one was poppy and upbeat, and I'm sure that was fun, I was wondering if this one - because its much more of a rock album - isn't a little more enjoyable to get onto the stage and into the clubs.
Yeah, not to say that I didn't love every piece of the making of the last record - and that's the thing, the making of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' eponymous album was so much fun. We had SO much fun making that record. And this record was much more tedious and I was way harder on myself. It was a very intense immersion into creatively where we wanted to go as a band. And not always a fun journey.
But the results of the album are so rewarding because there was so much time and energy put into every lyric and every performance. Every song. Even the track order. We actually recorded it almost as a whole twice, before settling on the body of work that you hear today. So as painful as some of the process was, it's really been one of the most rewarding projects I've been a part of, and helped produce...
The prior album was different from the first two. This is quite different than its predecessor. How much of where you're at is who you are? Are you getting closer to defining yourself, or is this just another stop?
I think the record itself is a conversation about that. And at the end of the record, this lyric, "the lines are blurring and I can't tell the Lion from the Beast," is really the epitome of the process of making a record. Also defining yourself as a band.
Our lines will always be blurred. We will never be definitive... this album is nothing more than the next step in who we have been becoming all along. We've been together for 10 years as a band, and we grow and we change and our influences grow and change and we move in all kinds of different directions... and each album is really only a marker, just a mile ticker for us.
This album for me was more definitive, because creatively I was trying to decide, do I want to do the Katy Perry thing? Do I want to do the Adele thing? Do I want to be country singer? Do I want to have to have security guards following me around everywhere?
Or do I want to have a career and a private life than I can enjoy and make music I believe has integrity and gives me the space to create, while not smothering my personal life. So that bridge did get crossed in making this record, and I very specifically chose not to put out the - I don't want to say "the hit record," because who can say what makes a hit record - but I specifically selected these songs because these were songs I knew we would want to perform night after night, as opposed to songs we kind of felt like we had to.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals are scheduled to perform June 13 at Celebrity Theatre.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.