Like a modern-day version of Tina Turner fronting the Rolling Stones circa the Sticky Fingers era, Grace Potter’s authentic and inspiring rootsy sound has won her fans all over the country. Her soulful, bluesy voice draws frequent comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, and the band has won plenty of awards, from several Boston Music Awards (Album of the Year and Best Female Vocalist of the Year) to a Jammy for Best New Groove. Most recently, Potter was nominated for two CMA Awards for her duet with Kenny Chesney on the song "You And Tequila".
Dish caught up with Potter from her hotel room in New York the morning after she and her band, The Nocturnals, sold out back-to-back shows at Nashville’s world famous Ryman auditorium.
Dish: Good morning, Grace. How are you?
Grace Potter: I'm a little tired, shaking off the cobwebs a bit. We just arrived in New York by red eye to get here on time. We left it all on the stage, didn't we?
D: Oh, yes! And that is one of the things you and the band are known most for is your extremely energetic shows. How do you keep it up?
GP: I think it comes from good genetics. (Laughs) My dad is highly energetic. His name is Sparky.
(More laughter) I get that from him as well as the attitude that every moment you spend in this world you should be at maximum capacity of enjoyment. When I am on stage I feel that more than anywhere else. I feel so free and so alive when I am up there sharing music with people. To me, the audience is feeding it just as much as it is coming from inside me.
D: I agree. The audiences seem to do more than enjoy the show. They really get into it.
GP: It's an absolute group participation thing. When you come to one of our shows you can see that it is a real experience even if it is your first show. It's like going to get a massage or anything else that you do for yourself. When you come to a show to see live music it should be an interactive and visceral experience that takes you somewhere else for a while. We ask a lot of the audience, I think, and they know it. If they don't going in, they really figure it out within the first two or three songs. As the night evolves the audience becomes more and more attuned to where we are.
D: I attended the first night at the Ryman and the opening was incredible. Do you do that every night?
GP: That night was the first time I ever went out on stage with just me and the guitar opening the show like that. You got to see a very special moment because I wanted every night at the Ryman to be different and special. We only played four of the same songs each night. It's the mother church. It is where every band who knows anything about American music, or really any music at all, should aspire to play. We really put ourselves out there those two nights and took some chances we don't usually. It cold have crashed and burned but the audience was there for us and the energy was great. We were firing on all pistons those nights.
D: I hear you did a duet on “You and Tequila” with Kenny Chesney the second night. Was that planned or off the cuff?
GP: He had been texting me from Spain and telling me how sad he was he couldn't make it. I was so happy he was relaxing and taking a break like I told him to. Then, the second day I was getting ready to get into the car and go to dinner and he surprised me as he always does. I was completely flabbergasted. When he and I and Matraca Berg (co- writer on “Me and Tequila”) got out on stage, it was a really special moment for me. It really brought the song full circle; and it was a true Nashville moment for me.
D: It's got to be great as a non-Country artist to get two CMA nominations out of that song.
GP: It's so exciting! Me and the Biebs. Crossing over. (Laughs) I spent two of the best days of my life filming the video and it was such an honor to be a part of it. To see the video getting the accolades it deserves is so gratifying. We all knew how special the video was because of all the time and energy we put into it. This is the first major music award I have ever been nominated for and I could not be any more excited.
D: How well did you know Kenny before working with him?
GP: I didn't know Kenny from Adam until he sent me the song. I knew “She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy” and I knew a few more things about his personal life than I think anybody should from reading People magazine. But, the second we met it was obvious we were kindred spirits musically and personally. He is such a real deal dude and he really puts his money where his mouth is. We met about a year ago and on the day that we actually sang the song in the studio I came down to Nashville and we were fast friends from there. Our musical collaborations will definitely continue on into the next year.
D: I have read that you think your current album is the best representation of you and the Nocturnals ever. Why do you feel that way?
GP: This was the first time in a studio setting that we really came out of our shell. We really opened up all the doors on this record creatively and on the performance side. We were just so inspired by each other, our producer Mark Batson and the setting in which we were allowed to record. There was so much freedom and also focus. We were so ready to make a record we could tour with for almost two years as we have and still feel fresh, inspired and that we have songs that are still alive. This album had a real capacity for change and growth even from the studio to the way we perform it live. It was a launchpad for the live experience and it gave the fans an idea of what they were getting into from the first track. The first noise on the record is “Uhnn!” So, I think it gives a clear picture to our fans that we aren't fucking around.
D: After two years of touring this album have you given thought to the next album?
GP: Absolutely! And, the pressure is on! I feel like we have so much more to say now as a band. We found a dialogue musically and we're really in step and in stride with each other like we have ever been. The pressure is really on now to make that happen and make it happen as best as we possibly can to bring it up another level.
Potter hasn't let up on the pressure. She's put her music to work raising money and awareness for causes like fair-trade coffee and help for Vermont, which was heavily flooded by Hurricane Irene. To help promote Green Mountain's fair trade coffee, she played a secret, late October concert at a spooky mansion. According to her Twitter feed, "Harry freakin' Houdini Lived Here!" she said of the house.
check out that concert here
It wasn't coffee that earned her a nomination for "best single of the year" by the American Country Awards - that honor goes to "You and Tequila," her duet with Kenny Chesney. You can catch the duet live when they perform at the 2011 Country Music Awards on November 9.
Did you get to see Grace Potter's CMA performance with Kenny Chesney?? If not, check it out right here