A Blazing Grace

Grace Potter is pumped up and ready to hit the road in advance of the release of her debut solo album

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click to enlarge After her intial writing for new album Midnight produced what she calls “boring rainy-day music,” Grace Potter amped things up to make it a high-powered Rock & Roll album.
After her intial writing for new album Midnight produced what she calls “boring rainy-day music,” Grace Potter amped things up to make it a high-powered Rock & Roll album.

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race Potter’s rise in the music world has been steady. She has toughed it out with tour after tour for years, opening for and collaborating with artists like Derek Trucks, Warren Haynes and others.

But now Potter is entering a new phase in her career; after years of being billed as “Grace Potter and The Nocturnals,” Potter is now a solo artist. And she’s jumped right into the role. In June, she opened two stadium shows for The Rolling Stones. And on Aug. 14, Potter is set to release her first solo album, Midnight.

Potter began writing the music for Midnight a couple of years ago, but she hit a point where she realized her new songs were too mellow. She was sparked to rock, and so she went about changing her musical plans.

“I’ve been twiddling my thumbs and painting houses and all of the stuff that happens when people take time off,” Potter says of the time leading up to creating the new album. “It took a long time (to put together Midnight). I definitely had a vision in mind when I started writing it. It started in Vermont, at home. The rainy season in Vermont is not long, but it definitely gets gloomy. You sort of tuck in and I got to work with all of my gear and everything. I started writing and I thought, ‘Man, all of this shit sounds so boring.’ It was rainy-day music and it sounded like those albums that a dude makes after he has a kid and makes that ‘Dad album.’ ”

That was at the end of 2013. Soon after, Potter changed her songwriting path and decided that she had enough with all things mellow.

“A switch flipped in my head and I was like, ‘I want to fucking dance and have fun. How on earth can I do that if I’m just tucked away into a barn playing Dad music all day?’ ” she says. “So, I started digging back through record collections that I listened to as a kid with my mom. She called it ‘house-cleaning music,’ and it was things like The Pointer Sisters, Carly Simon, Lionel Richie and David Bowie. It was so fun to go back through to the Tom Tom Club and the Talking Heads and all of that stuff from the 1980s that got her psyched about cleaning the house. I guess it was sort of a fire that got lit under my ass that made me realize that there is no time in life to be bored or uninspired and still think it is OK to put that out into the world.

“That was a year and a half ago, and that started the fire in me to really reinvent my formula for songwriting. That process took another year and a half to come to fruition, as it has on the record. It is a lot of other steps, and it is a long and winding road to the end of any album. But mine tends to be particularly long because I don’t like the studio very much.”

After finding her new muse, she reworked some of the original, more laid-back songs she had written for the album, while simultaneously creating new tunes for the project.

“Some of the lyrics definitely stuck around,” Potter says. “A lot of the themes that I write about are an affirmation of our existence on earth and making people feel like they are not alone, and making them feel like it is OK to be a little bit insane. That has always been sort of my credo in life. As long as you have balance, you can experience all of the things going on in the world and reach out and meet people and try new things and you shouldn’t be judged for it. You shouldn’t feel judged when you are dancing or singing at the top of your lungs or existing in a maximum-expression way.”

Potter was certainly dancing and singing at the top of her lungs when she joined The Rolling Stones a few months ago. Not only did she open for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, she strutted out and proceeded to throw down with Mick Jagger on “Gimme Shelter.” And she wasn’t shy or intimidated.

“Oh God, it was the best,” Potter says of the Stones experience. “They’ve been doing it for long enough now that they pretty much know what they are doing. I have to say, everybody says, ‘Was it really surreal? Were you just pinching yourself the whole time?’ But I think that when you’re around them, you’re in their movie. You’re just in it.

“We’ve all seen them and we’re all so familiar with Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts and Keith and Mick, and they are who they are, and when you are in their presence, it feels the exact same way as when you see them in documentaries and in movies and on TV or listen to them on the radio. I was lucky enough to be able to do that and I will carry that with me forever. It was a really incredible milestone in my career.”

For Potter’s current tour, she has enhanced her stage band to include new musicians, as well as a few Nocturnals members. Her machine is in high gear, and she is ready to hit the road, hard.

“It is the biggest tour that we have ever undertaken,” Potter says. “And when I say ‘we,’ it is truly the ‘Magical Midnight Road Show’ (as she’s dubbed the jaunt), this collective of people that are playing with me. The musicians that we have out on the road with us are out-of-their-mind good.

“We’re firing on all pistons, like somebody gave us one of those crazy adrenalin shots, like in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta has to give Uma Thurman that adrenalin shot into her aorta. I feel that energy happening as we start this tour.”   


GRACE POTTER plays Friday at Taft Theatre. Tickets/more info: tafttheatre.org.


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