Grace Potter has been turning out seductive classic rock tunes for the past seven years, evolving from a modest hippie songstress into a sultry, Flying-V electric guitar-wielding rock goddess along the way.
Her latest triumph, carried out last month with the aid of her immensely talented band, The Nocturnals, was conquering prime time television on VH1's Divas Salute the Troops special. While top-billed acts such as Katy Perry relied on spectacle and auto-tune to impress the throngs of soldiers in the audience, Potter and band downright lit up the stage the old-fashioned way: pure, unadulterated rock 'n' roll.
"There's something about rock 'n' roll that deserves to be front and center in the world of soldiers," said Potter. "I'd like to think that they love rock. I doubt they're going to listen to candy-coated pop before going into combat. I can only assume that it's Led Zeppelin, The Who, that type of music that takes them into battle."
Potter's statement is indicative of her belief that rock music can function as a powerful force. And nowhere is this belief more apparent then when she's on stage with her band, which Boise audiences will get to see when Grace Potter and The Nocturnals perform in town on Saturday, Jan. 22, at both the Record Exchange and the Knitting Factory.
"It's all about the live show," said Potter. "You can listen to the record, but it's not until you've seen our show that you know what this band is all about. Being out on the road has taught us to be seasoned veterans, how to play in different venues, put on a quality production and how to one up each show. We're really excited about this next tour."
The building blocks for Potter's songs have always been the same. Thick guitar riffs, savvy B3 organ lines, a steady rhythm section and sassy, light-hearted lyrics smoothly combine blues, country and gospel. The centerpiece of it all is Potter's huge, impenetrable voice. On their last album, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the band cranked up the sex and traded in their looser jam band leanings for sleek production and tightly packaged, efficient rock songs.
"The big change on [Grace Potter and the Nocturnals] was the band lineup. Having an extra member helps to create a new dynamic, not just personally but musically," said Potter, referring to the addition of rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in 2009.
"We tracked this record with greater ease. We didn't think so hard about it, and we didn't worry ourselves with over-manipulating every single tiny tone. We just sort of went for it. Otherwise, at times, the studio can feel a little bit like brain surgery," she added.
Another difference on that album is that Potter co-wrote six of the songs with renowned producer Mark Batson (Eminem, Jay-Z, Dave Matthew's Band).
"The co-writing process definitely made a big presence on this record. I think those [songs] mostly help to kick things up a notch. With this particular record we were going with a more up-tempo, sexually charged sound. I already had the foundation with 'Paris,' 'Goodbye Kiss,' 'One Short Night' and a few others. So I kind of knew what vibe I wanted. Working with Mark, he knows how to flesh things out in a style that I'm not used to. It really stretched my capabilities and how I approach a song," said Potter.
The big name producer and swanky recording studio came courtesy of Disney-owned Hollywood Records, which the band signed with in late 2005. Potter said that working with the big guys isn't bad at all.
"I know it's not cool to say cool things about your record company, but it's really been such an incredible collaboration. Growing up, I was a Disney child. I grew up with the Little Mermaid and Cinderella, and those kinds of characters and movies played a part in making me want to be a singer," said Potter. "Our management totally understands that we're a real rock 'n' roll band. It's not a formula. We're not drawn from some casting agency. We come from the mountains in Vermont."
Since Potter's days as a startup musician living in Vermont, she's undergone quite the image renovation, transforming from a T-shirt and jeans type of gal into a scantily clad--but nonetheless appealing--rock 'n' roll sex symbol.
It seems that with each new album, Potter's legs get a little longer.
"Contrary to popular belief, that is all me," said Potter, referencing rumors that her increased sexiness is some sort of marketing gimmick.
"I've always wanted to be the girl that flipped my hair around and wore cute dresses on the center stage, but it took me a long time to get their musically. Once my confidence grew and I was able to conquer my musical fears, it was time to hike up the skirt.
"When I go home some my friends expect this Hollywood monster. They see the long hair and the makeup and the short skirt. But if you spend two minutes with me you figure out nothing has changed whatsoever,"she said.
Backtracking, Potter noted a recent New Year's revelation.
"I was at the New Year's party my family has every year, and my friend I haven't seen since seventh grade told me that I haven't changed one bit, except for one thing: I have dignity now. I thought that was really poignant and mostly true. I have a greater level of dignity now. I don't tell as many poop jokes anymore."