Sharpening her sixth sense

Through blurred vision, Grace Potter sees success

Brian Palmer | Boulder Weekly

Contrary to what you may have seen or heard recently, not everything is going smoothly for Grace Potter & The Nocturnals these days.

“One thing I would redo if I could is I wouldn’t have put so much bronzer on my legs for Jimmy Kimmel last night,” Potter confesses. “They made my legs look all greasy and shiny.”

The laughter that follows is somewhere between mortified and embarrassed, but considering how things have been going for Potter since the release of her band’s self-titled third album in June, this is not a misstep that will require years of therapy to get over. The album debuted at No. 19 on Billboard’s Top 200 and has received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone and O Magazine, and in addition to Jimmy Kimmel Live, the band has also performed on The Tonight Show. That is definitely not a bad way to spend a summer, and Potter knows how fortunate she is to be doing what she is doing.

“It’s a dream come true,” she says. “Ben & Jerry’s has a bumper sticker that says, ‘If it’s not fun, why do it?’ So if you have this thing that’s fun and real and honest, and it’s your job? And if you have people who love you and support you in that and follow you around because of that? That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

And it is an opportunity she is taking full advantage of, as she and the band have fun exploring a host of sounds and new directions on the new album, never staying married to one genre or idea for very long. Equal parts rock, blues, pop, soul, R&B, Americana and country, with a lyrical spirit that is independent and reckless one moment, reflective and tempered the next, the album manages to be sonically and creatively diverse without sounding like a schizophrenic mess.

“I started this album with four core songs: ‘Paris (Ooh La La),’ ‘Medicine,’ ‘Goodbye Kiss’ and ‘Colors,’ and a lot of what we did was try to build the personality of the album around the arc of genres that you hear,” Potter says. “Those four songs are all very different, but they create imagery and they create a texture.

And if I can make an album where those two things tie together, then that’s magic. The challenge then is to find a way to fit it all together naturally without it sounding forced.”

Potter and her bandmates — including new bassist Catherine Potter and new rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco — gladly accepted this challenge as they headed into the studio to record.

“Every musician looks for that,” Grace Potter says.

“Every musician likes to show lots of different sides to themselves. I think even as a lyricist this album gave me a lot of opportunities to really stretch out in a lot of different directions while still being cohesive. Plus, with the different sounds on the album, we found that the less time you spend focusing on it, the more likely it is to come to the surface anyway.”

The pop-rock first single “Tiny Light” has garnered the band some attention on the airwaves, and a video for the provocative “Paris (Ooh La La)” has a message that is about as subtle as a brick through a window, but it is the mostly piano-driven “Colors” that actually stands out most on this album.

“I knew that song needed to be on the record. I think that ‘Colors’ is a song that actually has a lot to do with the other songs on the album. It’s about love and living in the moment and the freedom of spirit that comes from living in the moment. And you know, even though it’s a different kind of love song, that’s what it is — a love song.”

Songs like “Colors” show that while music is something Potter is grateful for because of what success can bring (“It’s a great way to do what I love and make a life for myself ”), it also has a much deeper level of importance to her.

“I was born legally blind, and so music is sort of the way I see. It is my sixth sense because one of my five senses isn’t very strong!” And how does she see the band’s songs? “I like to think of our songs as music that winds up on someone else’s mix tape and they try to tell someone how they feel through our music. I don’t like to tell people what some songs are supposed to be about because it’s going to matter more how they respond to it rather than where it came from.”


On the Bill

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and Dr. Dog open for Robert Randolph & The Family Band on Wednesday, August 11. Must be 21 to enter. Tickets are $32.50.

1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.