Grace Potter and The Nocturnals Interview
Before talking to Grace Potter I was informed by Grace’s publicity agent, of how much of a badass she is. While describing Grace to me, her publicist made one thing very clear: “Do NOT put Grace in a box. She will break right through it.” Frightened, but even more enthusiastic about talking to Grace, I braced myself, slowly realizing that I better choose my questions wisely, because to try and sum up Grace Potter through comparisons and similarities, would not get the job done at all.
Grace is a creative force; she works with whoever she wants, creates whatever she wants and plays whatever she wants. At first I was skeptical, but after talking with Grace, and hearing her do a spot-on imitation of James Brown’s screech, I realized that to have been skeptical of the charming, yet powerful and awesome human being that is Grace Potter, was an absolutely foolish thing to do. If I haven’t convinced you of how much of a badass Grace is in just this introduction, continue reading. Just like me, you will be changed too.
MVRemix: So, tell me a little about yourself, how the band was made and we’ll go on from there.
Grace Potter: We basically formed at college in an organic way. I was a student and Matt, the drummer, was getting his master’s. Scott was giving guitar lessons and living in northern New York. Matt and Scott were in a band together that I really loved, called Soul Patch, and through that I found my calling: to perform. One day Matt saw me at a café playing and told me, “what you need to be making is rock and roll.” So, I delved into my collection and soon after that dragged Matt and Scott to Vermont, where we picked up Benny (guitar), and most recently, Catherine Popper (bass). So, the band has been organically growing since the very beginning.
MVRemix: Your last release was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals which was released last year. How has the reception been since then?
Grace Potter: It has been insane. I mean, we realized this is the kind of music we want to do, so let’s put this record out, self-title it and make our statement, make our claim. We never would have thought in a 1,000,000 years, that a year later people would still be just picking up on this record. Every single day I get tweets and messages from people saying, “I don’t know how I haven’t heard of you guys.” So, we’ve just been picking up steam, and working with this album, which, in our minds, is still young.
MVRemix: That is great to hear, especially considering that the band is comprised of individuals who are multi-instrumentalists.
Grace Potter: Totally! Everyone has got a different skill and we all complement each other because of that.
MVRemix: Before I had found this out, I would get you confused with Grace Slick. Coincidentally, you guys have done a cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” Is there any strange connection, or is it just purely coincidental?
Grace Potter: I mean, I think rock and roll is littered with female wannabe rockers, but there are only a few who do it properly, you know what I mean? It’s not so easy to find female musicians who can stand up to any man, and do what they do and be just as impressive. I don’t believe women have to earn their way in rock and roll just as much as men, but there are people like Grace Slick who really did earn their stripes, especially with her singing and her songwriting. But, there really aren’t that many women. You have Ann and Nancy from Heart who are phenomenal, but it usually tends to be about the women first, and then the music. So, we try to be the exception to that rule.
MVRemix: You have been compared to the likes of Tina Turner, Patti Smith and other female artists who are not even in the genre of rock. How is that?
Grace Potter: Well, sometimes they’re complements, and sometimes they’re not. I mean, comparisons are unavoidable, but there is a piece of me that believes that comparisons do not do a band any kind of favors. It changes the way the listener perceives the music because, they’re constantly comparing it to some other artist. So, we try to avoid that.
MVRemix: Are you guys looking forward to your Bonnaroo performances?
Grace Potter: Yes! After our show tonight we are literally heading right out of the door, and going to Bonnaroo. I will be busy the entire time, but it will be fun either way [laughs].
MVRemix: On some of your tour dates you will be performing with Stevie Wonder. How excited are you for that?
Grace Potter: We are very excited! We will be performing with Stevie, Janelle Monae, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Rickey Minor, the bandleader for Jay Leno’s band. It is going to be in July at the Hollywood Bowl in LA. We are so thrilled about it. It is very exciting because, Stevie is one of those people where, where ever he goes, people have stories about him. As a child, Stevie was littered in my record collection, so I definitely have some stories to talk to him about, like what his music has done for me, and what kind of songwriter he has helped make me into. I mean, we used to cover “Superstition,” which was like our big dance song where we got the crowd going.
MVRemix: In another interview I had noticed Matt had compared your vocal stylings to James Brown. How did that come about?
Grace Potter: Yeah, Matt picked up on that very quickly. He saw that I had a power behind my voice, and that I was more than just a girl who could sing. I was someone who could scream that note. I knew that I had the power, and in high school I was involved in all of the musicals, and enjoyed doing all of the belted-out notes, but I just needed the right band to back me. I needed the band to be loud enough to excite me.
MVRemix: What can we expect from Grace Potter in the future?
Grace Potter: This summer is really all about touring. We are doing our debut at Lollapalooza, but the main thing we are excited about is our own music festival, the Grand Point North Festival. It is such a huge step for the band, and we have always dreamed of putting on our own music festival, so that is the new project. We are going back to the site where the band formed in Vermont, and we’re throwing a balls to the wall music festival. As for myself, I have this new single out with Kenny Chesney called, “You and Tequila,” which recently hit the airwaves. I’ll be touring around with Kenny, doing the complete opposite of what I do musically, and wandering out onstage with him every once and awhile. We’ll also be performing on the Today Show next week. So, I’m just genre-jumping all summer [laughs].
MVRemix: It is cool to see that you are not restraining yourself as an artist, and taking up different opportunities.
Grace Potter: Yeah, I don’t want to do just one thing. I don’t want to be that girl where everyone goes, “she was the one who used to cover that White Rabbit song,” you know? I want to do so many things, so no one can put a finger on just one thing that we do. Music is life, and if art imitates life, then I believe art should be different every day because, I live life differently every day.
If Grace is coming to a town near you any time soon, please check her out. By what I have seen and heard, the group puts on an amazing show, and you never know, maybe Grace will bless you with her James Brown screech like she blessed me. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is a band that carries enough confidence, charm, energy and swagger, to leave anybody amazed, and desiring more. Become a fan; your ears will thank you for it.