Grace Potter, lead singer of powerhouse rock quintet Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, has been on a steady rise since her band formed in 2002 while students as St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. Long praised as one of the best live acts in music today, Potter made headlines in late 2010 after being a featured performer alongside Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Sugarland on VH1’s “Divas Salute The Troops.” Continuing on the upward trajectory, Potter stepped out of her comfort zone in a big way in 2011 when she was asked to duet with country superstar Kenny Chesney on “You and Tequila” from his last album “Hemingway’s Whiskey.” That duet went platinum and garnered the Vermont rocker numerous country award nominations.
Potter, who has been called, “…one of the rock world’s reigning elite female vocalists…” and her band have cultivated a growing following with a steady stream of releases (four studio albums to date), incessant touring, and late night TV appearances. They’ve opened for Dave Matthews Band and The Avett Brothers, played numerous festivals, including Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Coachella and Farm Aid, and have collaborated with members of The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Kenny Chesney and Gov’t Mule. Grace and her band the Nocturnals recently performed in stadiums across the US on the Brothers of The Sun Tour with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, followed by a nearly sold out U.S. headlining tour.
After touring nonstop through late February, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals got a rare chance to chill out for a couple of weeks. But there would be no downtime for perpetual-motion road dog Potter, who instead decided to accept the Avett Brothers’ invitation to open for them on a whirlwind tour of Europe, followed by a handful of the US dates with Nocturnals drummer Matt Burr joining her. “I wanted to give my poor band a break,” said Grace just before she and Matt jumped on a flight to Oslo, “but I just don’t know how to put the brakes on!”
For Potter, this rare stripped-down setting provides an opportunity to “rediscover” the songs she’s been performing with GPN, who have won widespread acclaim and a growing horde of diehard fans for the ecstatic, incendiary rock ’n’ roll they deliver on concert stages night after night. Potter explains, “There’s the artistic revitalization for me as a songwriter that comes from playing solo. It’s how a song is born, but when the band gets their hands on it, it can take a completely different form. So I thought it was a good time to scale back and reexamine some of these tunes from their bare bones. I’m sure I’ll discover things through the process.
Grace’s arsenal is also stripped down down for the occasion. “I usually start on the piano, switch to acoustic guitar, go back to the piano and finish up with some heavier guitar pieces. So the first half of the show is acoustic, but it definitely ends in a White Stripes/Black Keys slamming, electric kind of thing,” she said of the solo shows. “Matt and I did a radio promo tour in December, and that was sort of our audition for each other, to see if we could pull it off as a ‘power duo,’ and it went over like gangbusters.”
In a sense, Potter’s solo show closes a circle for both Potter and Burr. Grace was doing solo shows in Vermont when Matt happened upon her. “At that point I was doing lilting piano ballads while people ate their poached salmon,” she recalls with a laugh. Mesmerized, he impetuously suggested that they start a band together, and, with parallel impetuosity, she agreed. GPN celebrated their first decade of existence on February 23.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals’ fourth studio album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, was released in June 2012 debuting at #17 in the country on Billboard’s Top 200 chart and #10 on Billboard’s Digital chart. Current single “Stars” reached #1 on iTunes Rock Song chart.