Popular indie singer rocks Austin on first-ever solo tour
Moxie is an adjective used to describe someone with vigor, pep, aggressiveness, courage, nerve, and skill. As one of the premier vocalists of her generation, Grace Potter is the definition of moxie. The ballsy singer stepped outside of the comforts of her band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (GPN), in 2015 with her first full-length solo album, Midnight.
She jokes that when people heard she was doing a solo tour to support the record, some thought that meant it would be her with a backing track and wind machine. Instead, the woman known for her energetic live shows is stepping it up even more. Supported by a band of six that includes only one Nocturnal (Benny Yurco on guitar), she’s bringing the Midnight tour to Austin on Saturday, January 30.
“I’ve been telling people you’ve got to come. ... There’s definitely something really special going on and I’m not sure how long this particular thing is going to last,” Potter explains.
To borrow a sentiment from a Pandora listener, the only people who are not Grace Potter fans are those who have not heard her. She has a voice and style that give her the luxury of being able to sing any style of music with ease, and her latest record proves she won’t let any one genre define her.
Known as a rock 'n' roller, Potter expectedly got some flack from critics and fans when she stepped outside the lines of the GPN sound with her solo record, but she’s not one to shy away from taking risks. She says she didn’t set out to write a solo record, but the material that excited her this time around was not typical GPN music.
“I wanted to acknowledge the pop music that inspired me and that was something that never really emerged to the surface of the Nocturnals,” the singer explains. “After over 10 years of making records with a band, I just felt like there was this precipice that needed to be crossed and whether [the Nocturnals] wanted to cross it with me or not was a different thing.”
She says it took a good six months for her and her bandmates to realize the music Potter wanted to pursue needed to be made without the Nocturnals. She calls the realization a "bummer" and daunting, but knew it was in her and it was time.
“Everybody in the band had already had that moment where they had the chance to go off and do their own solo records and sort of find their own identity outside of the umbrella of the Nocturnals and I was sort of the last man standing,” says Potter. “It’s really weird when you just clearly know what you want and you realize it’s potentially going to feel like you’re taking things away from your dear friends and family — that’s what my band has become. It was a very scary moment but at the same time, sometimes things just speak louder than fears.”
Working with producer Eric Valentine (Queens of the Stone Age, Nickel Creek), Potter says she participated in something she’s always been resistant to — co-writing. The result is a dozen tracks that take the listener on an audio journey with adventurous beats, sounds, and instrumentation. In addition to the different sound, Potter says she allowed herself to get more personal with this record.
“This is a more revealing piece of music than what I’m used to doing because what I usually do is try to reach a really universal place. With this record I opened the door more and shared from my own internal perspective ... I’m showing the cracks and more pieces of me.”
The 12-track album, that explores everything from the state of mankind to the state of the heart to living today as if it’s our last, includes only one ballad. Potter says that’s in large part because she can only perform so many ballads in a live show before she feels the need to dance again. How recorded music will translate into a live show is always considered.
The result is a high-energy 20-song set that changes nightly (with a fairly equal mix of solo and GPN material), honoring the music that influenced her — music she hopes inspires her fans to join in on the fun she and her band are having on stage.
“The show is definitely kickin’ it. I mean our show is on a whole other level ... I’ll just call out different songs and change shit up in the middle of a show based on what the audience is doing and how we’re feeling. It’s really, really fun and it’s great for the crowd!”
Potter calls the Midnight tour a "Halley’s Comet moment" suggesting it’s a once in a lifetime thing.
Asked about whether there is any new Grace Potter and the Nocturnals music in the not-too-distant future, she keeps things vague saying she’s concentrating on being in the moment and not thinking too far ahead. “Until the record company calls and says it’s time to start making a new record, I’m gonna just keep riding this wave cause it’s f---ing fun.”
For now, Potter is embracing life and the opportunities this solo project has brought her way, including a return to Texas. She has lots of great memories of the Lone Star State, including one incident in a roadside barbecue joint that prompted her to break her vegetarianism. “On my birthday, somebody bought me a 72-ounce steak and challenged me to eat it. We were pretty stone-cold broke and I was a vegetarian ... but between me and the whole band we got a free meal and managed to finish it!”
While you probably won't run into Potter at a barbecue restaurant on this tour, you can hitch a ride on her comet when she brings the Midnight tour to ACL Live at the Moody Theater this Saturday. “It’s the wildest ride I’ve ever been on, and thank goodness because I’ve always been interested in pushing boundaries and I always talk about it but I’d never done it, and this time I’ve really done it!”