Remember the scene in “Wayne’s World” when Wayne sees Cassandra on stage for the first time? Everything fades away and stars float around her body as Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” plays in his head? I had the same experience the first time I saw Grace Potter live almost 13 years ago.
No matter what genre of music you prefer, do yourself a favor and go see this woman. Her albums, including the latest, “Daylight” from 2019 (her first in four years), are incredible, but to see her live is a gift. Every hair will stand up on the back of your neck as she wails into the microphone with one of the best voices you’ve ever heard in real life. Long, dirty blonde hair blinds her eyes as she whips her head in a fashion that makes you wonder if she brings a chiropractor on tour. There’s no denying her music comes from a place deep in her soul. She plays the organ, yes, but that’s an inadequate description. She commands it, sometimes stands on it, and always owns it. Her undeniable natural beauty is surpassed only by her mega-talent, making one wonder what it must feel like to be her, for a moment, on stage.
Potter almost quit music for good. At 19 as a freshman at St. Lawrence University, drummer and now ex-husband Matt Burr saw her at an open-mic night and asked to start a band. They formed the Nocturnals and had independent, followed by mainstream, success.
After a tough time, she and Burr officially divorced in 2017. The band’s descent followed suit, and Potter retreated to gardening, painting, crafting and not touching a piano or guitar for months at a time.
Now 36 and married to her music producer husband Eric Valentine, with whom she has a 2-year-old son, Sagan, Potter has embarked on a journey of self-discovery with a cathartic and deeply personal new album.
If fans were wondering where she has been, she has answered us. Just listen to the lyrics. And please, enjoy the show.
Potter performs at 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 12 at the Sunset Green Event Lawn in Key West.
Did you know growing up as a musical child that you were destined for this, or was it after you formed the Nocturnals? I thought I might be an actor, there was a moment I got into filmmaking, but I noticed music always got me out of trouble. I wasn’t necessarily chasing the dream of being a rock star and touring, but exploring a lot of things. I do have to credit my former husband and band member for recognizing that what I did when on stage was the most compelling version of me.
You’ve had a few collaborations with Kenny Chesney with ‘You and Tequila’ and ‘Wild Child.’ How did you two hook up? Back when I was trying to make money to record my first album, I used to spend summers on Martha’s Vineyard painting houses and I ran into a family friend who was actually Kenny’s publicist and gave her one of my early, rough CDs. She threw it on his boat in a pile of others. He was on a trip floating around the Caribbean, had the CDs on shuffle and heard ‘Apologies.’ He already had ‘You and Tequila’ in the hopper, but was feeling like it was a duet and decided then he wanted me on the song.
“Daylight” wasn’t meant to be an album. You were journaling for yourself, and your producer husband was quietly recording you singing in the living room and bathtub. How did the album transpire? I knew if I was going to get into music again it had to be for myself. And really, what he was doing was being an archivist, because if that truly had been some of the last music I ever made, it would be a shame for it never to be captured. It gave me a sense of confidence. Had I been thinking about it going out onto the radio or how it would be received by someone, I wouldn’t have written those words. All of these things flash into my mind and suddenly I’m writing for everyone, from this place of trying to hold a universal thread, and he knew that’s my psychology. So ultimately my emotion was to feel that this is a really wonderful way of paying respect to my perspective.
What would you go back and tell 19-year old-Grace? That she doesn’t owe anybody anything.
What would you have 19-year-old Grace tell 36-year-old you? Don’t take things so seriously and that whiskey is awesome.
Piano or guitar? Piano
Favorite lyric you’ve ever written? “I could never change my heart after being where it’s been”- from “Release”
You are multi-talented, way beyond music. It’s not fair. So tell us about something you wish you were good at, but aren’t? Oh, I’d be a really good acrobat. And better at doing my taxes.
As a mom I have to ask, do you sing Sagan nursery rhymes? Or are you teaching him the classics? Queen! His very first lullaby was “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And he doesn’t like the quiet part…
You are coming to perform in Key West, so I have to ask, what are you drinking? I’m going to start early and then cut it off. I’m thinking spritzers through mid-afternoon and then go to the heavier stuff for one mixed cocktail. I don’t really drink liquor any more, but my mom is going to be here and she loves tequila, so maybe a tropical version of a margarita. Then it would behoove me to stop there — if you guys want to see a good concert.