Photo by Jeremy Gordon
It was a warm summer day in Los Angeles and Grace Potter was sitting in the grass outside Hollywood Records doing her first major interviews. She and her band, the Nocturnals had just signed with the label and she sounded relaxed, happy and hopeful.
“It’s weird when you turn that corner,” said Potter on that day in 2007. “All the years when the work you are doing doesn’t seem like it will go anywhere.”
That certainly wasn’t due to lack of talent. Potter, who said the first words she ever spoke came out in melody, had been compared to everyone from Janis Joplin to Lucinda Williams even before the band’s recent release This is Somewhere.
After a three-year Tilt-a-Whirl ride of releases, concerts, and kudos, Grace spoke with Jambands.com about her band’s new line-up, its new self-titled album and just why she thinks this might be a year to remember.
As you started thinking about this album, what was your plan for it when you first started to write and record?
I really specifically wanted some up-tempo songs. I wanted something that was going to smack people over the head like we do at a live show.
The truth of the matter is I write a lot of ballads and I love those songs. They’re beautiful. But the truth is when it comes to playing them live; it’s a lot of work. As much as people want to hear those songs, they really only want to hear the first five chords and then they say, ‘Oh wait. We can’t dance to this.’
I think that was the component that changed things for me. Also, co-writing with my band mates and with our producer Mark Batson, who really became our sixth Beatle on this record.
What made you guys click with him?
He just got us. He and I wrote together even before Benny [Yurco, a guitarist] and Cat [Popper, bass player] joined the band, even prior to last summer. We already had a rapport and he knew I was looking for the up-tempo stuff and he knew how to get it because he is a hip-hop guy. So it felt really comfortable and easy to approach this record with that intention.
Of course, that changed. There wound up being a couple ballads on the record because they are important to my songwriting personally. The stuff that I go through in my life does often feel like a cinematic ballad. So I had to have a couple ballads in there. But for the most part when I came to the band and Mark my focus was up-tempo.
It sounds like putting the album together – -at least as far as having enough material – was fairly easy.
I had already written three or four core songs that I knew were going to make the record including ‘Paris’, the ohh la la song, the opening track. ‘Color’ is a really pivotal song for me even though it is a ballad. ‘Goodbye Kiss’ is the first song I really brought to the label before I met Mark or had done anything, so all three songs were already in the can and everything else was going to fall into place.
You know sort of within that spectrum — certainly a wide spectrum. — when you listen to those songs it’s hard to believe they are from the same person. They are really different songs so it gave me an ability to step back from it all and let the professionals come in and say ‘Listen let’s give people the Grace Potter & The Nocturnals that we think people want to hear.’
That surprises me to hear you giving away control like that. I remember when we spoke after you first signed with Hollywood Records, you felt very strongly about keeping everything within the band.
Yeah, I’ve always been really resistant about producers and anyone coming in from the outside of our world – we’re such a tight-knit group.
But our band was very protective over our own reputation and our instincts were usually wrong. I am just saying that when it comes to a group of people making a group decision it doesn’t work.
So I really wanted to build an insular group of people that were trustworthy and passionate and basically full of love. I needed love and a sense of trust and a sense of safety that this was all going to wind up being just fine.
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