Grace Potter: I imagine a crowd of 60,000 -- even if there's only fifteen
Photo by Williams+Hirakawa
Blues-rock singer Grace Potter is not just a pretty face. Grace and her band the Nocturnals tour constantly, as much as 200 shows a year. She's hard-working, but when given the opportunity to tour with different artists, she also shows her business finesse. The singer was invited to open for Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw last summer on their tour -- an odd pairing, but Potter saw an opportunity to get her music to new fans.
Before heading off to Europe, the singer will make a stop in Minneapolis for two nights at First Ave. One of those sold out, which Grace credits to sharing the stage the last time she was in town with two country music legends. Gimme Noise spoke with Potter about her life as a touring musician and auditioning for Chesney.
Long before she was ever invited to tour with Tim and Kenny, Grace used to joke with Chesney about opening for him. The country music singer flew her out to do a few shows with him, allowing her to earn her stripes, not just in Kenny's eyes, but also in his crew's. Potter's natural charm onstage translates into her dynamic live show, allowing her to be comfortable in front of thousands of people. She says, "I treat every stage the same. I really like to imagine that every night that I'm walking out, there's 60,000 people in the audience, even if there's only fifteen people in a bar somewhere. Every performance counts."
The band is coming up on their tenth year as a touring act, and have progressed far past getting their start playing anything that was offered to them -- be it a farmer's market gig or a senior citizen's retirement home. They said yes to everything, but the first thing to stop them in their tracks was a record label contract. Rightfully wary, the band debated, but eventually signed one of the last old-school record deals before the bottom dropped out on the record industry. The singer shares that while she leans towards the nostalgia of the days past, she understands the pros and cons of the current industry.
"In the past, few were chosen even though many tried. There was something about that filter that was a formula that worked. I listen to recordings of Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and the painstaking hours that went into those compositions and making sure that every note was hit just so. That attention to detail and quality is so hard to find nowadays."
In her enigmatic way, Potter describes that era as the the Bergdorf Goodman of its time, where everything was preselected and no matter what, there was quality material. She continues, "Now it's more of a thrift store. You have to weed through a lot more music in order to get something of quality. I think it's an advantage because I love thrift stores and going through everything, and there's a prize at the end of the tunnel if you find something you really love."
The singer seems to take everything in stride, be it onstage or getting back to her roots. "When I'm home with my family in Vermont, I appreciate everything and my humble beginnings. There's a lot of grounding that goes on, because when you're on the road for too long you forget things. There's a rhythm on the road that is so different from my life in Vermont."
Grace says that she has always had wanderlust, and if not a musician, she would have found a way to make a living traveling the world. "Touring allows me to see everything, but just in a more structured environment. If I didn't tour, I would just strap a backpack on and stick my thumb out and hitchhike. I use travel as a catalyst for writing. I get on a plane, bus, or a car to get inspired, so I imagine it would be a similar situation if I wasn't a musician." Just like every other artist, Grace's drive comes from the eternal search for her muse. "There's always a better song to be written. That's my goal to always try and find a better song."
Even though she has traveled the world, Potter is still excited to be coming back to Minneapolis. "I love coming up to Minnesota, because we have a lot of old-school fans that were with us when we were opening for Mofro at the Cabooze. There's plenty of history, and I can't wait to tap back into that. Maybe we'll pull out some old songs to surprise people."
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will perform at First Ave. on Friday, January 25 and Saturday, January 26, 2013 with Langhorne Slim.
1/25/2013 - 18+, $27.50, 7 pm (Sold out)
1/26/2013 - 18+, $27.50, 6 pm, Purchase tickets here.
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