Singer/songwriter Grace Potter discusses Bonnaroo and her upcoming D.C. gig

Feb 28, 2011

Grace Potter will chat with Washington Post readers at 2 p.m. Monday, Feb. 28, about being part of the Bonnaroo lineup and her upcoming sold-out gig at the 9:30 Club.

alright everyone....i ate the pill in his majesty's left hand and am in the matrix.  please bear with me because i'm kind of a tech-phobe and have never done this kind of thing. can't wait to see all your questions and I will try to get to as many of them as possible!   -grace

How do you decide which covers the band will do? Also is it difficult to put together a set list every night for 200 shows a year? Can wait to see you all 3/12/11

i just try to choose songs that are fun to play  or stir something up inside me that I think the audience would appreciate. We're always trying to give cover songs our own spin. We're not a wedding band. Set lists are like movies. they need a great beginning - a dynamic shift in the middle, and bang at the end.

What is one item you cannot live without on the road?

My hot plate!

Tell us about your B3 organ, i.e. where did you get it, does it ever break down and need repairs, why do you like it?

I got my Hammond B3 from a gnome who lives in the misty woods of VT. I love it because of  it's growl and it's emotional analog sound. Yes it breaks. Yes I can fix it:)

Grace, what do you do to warm up your voice before a performance? Lexi from CO

I like to start off slowly, I do a lot of weird baby noises and breathing exercises...and I never go for the high notes til after dark.

Are you a religious or spiritual person since some of your songs have spiritual themes to them.

Spirituality is complicated. I do not belong to any particular religious group, but I have profound respect for people who devote their lives to faith. 

Is it true that you are legally blind?

Yes. Says so on my license. 

Hey Grace! In the movie "Whip It" the roller derby girls have kick-ass, sassy nicknames like Smashley Simpson, Bloody Holly, and Iron Maven. What would yours be?

Machete Vedder

Any chance we dedicated European fans are gonna get some Nocturnal Magic some time this year?

I am DYING to come to Europe!! I've been bugging my 'people' for years. It's at the TOP of my to do list! 

What was the cover you and the Noc's did in Denver during the encore...I think it was called Colorado, and have been looking everywhere for it!

Josh Ritter's "Idaho."  I change the lyrics to fit different states & cities.   Josh is the bee's knees.   

Wil you ever play the song "Something That I Want" or the acoustic version of "Medicine" at a GPN show, or do you just do those in record stores and radio stations? Thanks! See you in Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and New York! Eric

Hmmm. I like the idea of doing an acoustic Medicine at a show! As for "Something That I Want" - it's a song that  I wrote separate from the Nocturnals ..it's not quite the right sonic fit for our live shows. It is a fun little ditty to do solo! ;)

Where do you get those fabulously fierce outfits??

I shop all over! Cat Popper is usually goes on bargain basement reconnaissance missions in every town and then we meet up and go nuts! I'd be totally broke if no for her. If I had my way, I'd shop at Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Saks & Barneys all day long!! Not good for the wallet.

If you could give someone inspiring advice or like a message to live by in life, what would it be? <3 Love you Grace!!!!

Follow your path unapologetically. Be compassionate. Be ballsy. Love yourself. Then find something to love beyond yourself.

I have been listening to you live since 2006. I miss the song "Sugar" which I feel is one of the best. Do you have any thoughts about adding it back into your live repertoire?

"Sugar" is back off the bench & into the starting lineup...we have been playing it every other night for a few weeks now. Glad you dig it!   "Sugar" is so much fun to play!  

Your touring schedule looks brutal. How do you and the band maintain the energy level night after night?

I really am a Nocturnal! I sleep for a lot of the day! Also I take Maude's advice (from "Harold & Maude") and every day, I wake in the morning and do 'breath of fire' exercises, yoga, disco dinner

Is the red-faced man referenced in "Falling or Flying" Santa Claus?

hahahahahah! awesome.  No the red-faced man is not Santa! It was a really angry dude who ran an RV park and kicked us out because he said our bus looked 'trashy' and he didn't want the other RV park residents to see it.

Hey Grace, I loved the surprise duet w/Oliver Wood in Atlanta on Saturday night! Who else would you love to sing with? Any chance of more surprise duets @ Bonnaroo?

Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys is at the top of my wish list.  The dude has some of the most soulful pipes of our time. 

Loved Portishead tease. Would you ever cover an entire P. song?

absolutely....i LOVE Portishead.   any suggestions?

I love your style. You are the perfect combo of two of the greatest women artists of all time: Madonna and Stevie Nicks! My question is, can I raid your closet?

Thanks babe! I have so much fun clothing that I've worn out  I've started a collection that I will probably donate to charity someday when people actually pay $ for my sweaty hand-me-downs! Someday...

Do you guys ever listen to your shows after you've played them? For example, on archive.org there are tons of recordings of your shows from over the years. I love going back and listening to how the band has grown over the years. I was just curious if you ever went on and listened. If not, you should... you guys sound great and always seem to have such great energy though the recordings. One reason why I love you all!

Lately I have been digging around archive.org so I can learn how to put on a better show! you're right. There's SO much out there. It's great to year the musical progression over the years. I hope we continue to get better. There's always room for improvement

Who inspires what you wear on stage? All your outfits look killer!

I just like to feel great onstage. Depending on my mood and what kind of setlist I have written, I will build my outfits to reflect that. also I just really like shiny things. I'm like a racoon. They like shiny things & are Nocturnal :)

It's great to see your shows sell out within hours, but do you miss the old days back at the 8x10 in Baltimore? Because we miss you over here!

I DO miss the 8X10! Love that place.

Any chance that you will be heading back to SLU in the near future? Congrats on selling out everywhere. Well deserved!

I have a dream to come back to SLU and maybe finish my degree at some point. Or maybe I could come & teach a music class. I love it up there. It was a beautiful place to incubate.

I have been waiting for you to visit Wisconsin. Is it ever a state you would visit? Lots of people with good taste in music live here!

the bands loves Wisconsin & we have plans to perform in Madison in early June.  did you know that James Brown's former drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie lives & often performs in Madison!!!  we have been dying to catch him for years, but keep missing him!   go check it out if you get a chance.

I've heard a few band members mention that you do a lot of cooking for them while on the road. What exactly is Grace Potter's tour cuisine?

I'll cook anything & everything! I love to make meals for everybody REALLY late at night. That tends to be Mac & Cheese or Penne Arrabiata (crowd pleasers) But I hate to waste so if there are vegetables that are on their way out - I'll do a stir fry and serve it over wild rice sprinkled with flax seeds (NOT a crowd pleaser:) but healthy

Long time fan here. Does your back hurt after rocking out for 2.5 hours in heels?

Actually my physical well being has improved dramatically since I started wearing heels onstage! Turns out I had been giving myself shin-splints from the way I would stomp in the cowboy boots. I'm much more easy on my feet and ankles now because I'm so much more aware of my balance and posture.

Grace! Can't wait to see you back at Targhee this summer! Ever thought of doing the 'movie soundtrack' concept on the road in addition to your Burlington show? Your covering The Big Lebowski this year must have been a blast!

thanks!  our new years eve 'movie soundtrack' concept will probably remain a nye tradition, but you never know.  our halloween gigs tend to get turned upside down so perhaps we'll toss a curve ball one of these years!  see ya in targhee!   

Are there any other instruments you'd like to learn how to play, do you play anything that you don't use in the band?

i used to take bag pipe lessons so maybe i can blow the dust off my bp's.   :-))

What is the hardest part of your recent success to deal with and do you feel your record company has pushed you in a certain direction to acheive success at the risk of squelching your artistic muse?

Good question. There is a certain line in the sand that every artist either crosses or refuses to cross. Without a doubt, we crossed it in this past year. There are always ups and downs that come with that, but I wouldn't have gotten into this racket if I didn't have the stomach for it. I'm really proud of where we've come , the transitions we've made.  In all honesty, those changes came from me & the founding members of the Nocturnals. The record company has never pushed or pulled us in any direction we weren't already going.

Do you collaborate with other band members of your band when you write or arrange your songs?

Yes! Scotty and I are working on something now actually. Song arrangements can slightly less democratic, I like things the way I like them - but everybody has input and if a good idea comes up, we go for it!   The true sound of a band comes from listening to each other. 

I understand that vinyl records are making something of a comeback. Which format do you prefer listening to: vinyl, cassettes, CD's or 8-tracks? I understand you own/owned a truck with an 8-track player in it? Thanks, Michael D. (Alabama)

VINYL!!! it's just the way music should be heard. I was a mix-tape kid so I have a soft-spot for casettes. 8 tracks are fun and the truck came with the player...but vinyl trumps it all!

Nocturnals' tour bus experience best explained by viewing.... a) The Commitments b) Almost Famous c) O Brother, Where Art Thou? d) Spinal Tap e) Hard Day's Night f) other.... gordie j

All the above!

So how exactly does hygiene work when you live on a bus? Does someone get stuck with the cold shower every day?

I use a lot of baby wipes

What prompted you to write "Tiny Light"? Is it something specific that you experienced?

I saw a man living out of a shopping cart, windows boarded up where there used to be stores. I saw a city that was hit hard by the recession and I wanted to write a song that urged people not to lose heart.

If you could choose any famous singer in history to portray in a movie, who would it be?

Booooy that's a good question! I'd love to play Elvis. Hey, Cate Blanchett played Bob Dylan...it could happen...

Grace, what were the best lessons - musical or otherwise - that you learned from your parents growing up in Vermont? Peace! Fred in upstate NY

Do what you love and life will love you back. 

Where would Grace Potter be right now if the Nocturnals and rocking out was just a dream?

wait...is this a dream?  or a dream inside a dream?  or a dream inside another dream?  are you in my dream or i am in yours?  help.   

What's your favorite song to play on tour right now?

I REALLY love playing Medicine. Paris (Ooh La La) never gets old. Seriously. Never

What's your favorite song of all time?

"A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke.

What was your favorite album of 2010? Besides your own, obviously.

The Black Keys 'Brothers' might take my top spot.   LCD Soundsystem's record was bad ass too.  Adele's new song "Rolling in the Deep" is a mega watt hit & my fave track so far in 2011.

As a big fan of Chamberlin, the opener on your most recent tour, I want to thank you for giving such a great group an amazing opportunity to expand their fanbase. How do you feel about their progression as a live act on tour and where do you see their trajectory going as a band?

Yay Chamberlin! I couldn't agree more! They are a rare group. Gifted and wonderful. It was such a joy to have them on the road because although they are young they are wise, willing and will go VERY FAR.

Will there be more episodes of cooking with Grace? DEEEELISH. and ... Do you really cook like that when you're on the road?

YES there will absolutely be more cooking episodes! It's so funny - I've noticed that a lot of people are asking if I REALLY cook when I'm out on the road. It's not movie magic. It's not a facade!  If you spend more than an hour with me, you WILL get fed.

What is the oddest thing a fan has done?

This dude wrote me a poem: 

"Roses are red, violets are blue...I wanna drink your bath water."

Where is one place you would like to travel to or play a show at?

Hawaii!!!!!!!

Grace, it had to be such an honor to sing for the troops with Ann Wilson. Did you get any advice from her and do you plan on doing anything else with the Wilson sisters?

playing with Heart was exhilarating.   VH1 threw one hell of a party...i'll never forget that gig.

Any chance on hitting Canada later on this year? Possibly hitting smaller cities than Toronto and Vancouver??

I have great hopes to get back to smaller markets in Canada. It's such a big, beautiful country. There are so many places we have yet to play there!

was Things I Never Needed really written for a movie? what movie? thanx!

Yes. I wrote "Things I Never Needed" after reading a script for a film. I never submitted it to the producers because it felt really personal and slightly off for the shiny-happy tone of the movie. Sorry I can't tell you what movie.

I enjoyed your 2009 shows at the festival, where you seemed to be nearly everywhere (including a 3 a.m. or so "band switch" where you all gave the band "moe." a breather by phasing in to take their place (and then out again without the music stopping). Is there a lot of interaction among the musicians there? Are you in tour buses behind the scenes hanging out during the day time, or is everyone at hotels? Are there "talent tents" that facilitate interaction, or is everything set up in advance?

Great question! There is definitely a spirit of interaction and collaboration at festivals. Usually we just bump into each other at the catering tent. That's where most of the magic happens...while we're stuffing our faces! I can't speak for other bands, but we spent the whole time at Bonnaroo on site. I tried to go to the hotel to shower once and got stuck in traffic! I'd rather be dirty and there than clean and gone! That's my old Phish kid coming out....

What's the best advice you ever got?

When we toured with Taj Mahal he told our guitarist Scott that "Touring is like fishing...if you caught a fish every night then they would have called it catching."  

Is there a current show or upcoming film you would love to have a GPN song featured on? Why? Thanks! - Brittany (your Austin show was incredible, by the way!)

i'm dying to get our tune "Medicine" onto Nurse Jackie.   any connecs?

According to Neko Case female rock stars don't get hit on/groupies as much as the guys do...is this true??

That is CORRECT! Maybe it's the whole expectation that we're all batshit crazy divas...women in rock can be very  intimidating. I love Neko

Are planning on hitting up anymore summer festivals?

Hell yes! Lots and lots and lots of summer music festivals! stay tuned...we will post them on our website

How do you prepare when your the support band on a tour ?

we prepare the same as a headliner show except i try to remind myself that most of the crowd is there to see the main act & my job is to warm them up & feed them the best damn appetizer in my kitchen.

The song "One Short Night" helped me through a tough time in my life last summer. I listened to it non-stop. Can you tell me more about the song and what/who it is about?

Everybody has that moment in their life when the sh*t hits the fan romantically. The song is a tapestry of several sordid love affairs! I'm so glad that the song helped you. 

Thanks for all your thoughtful questions! My regrets to those I couldn't get to!! I did my very best!!! Farewell and I hope to see many of you out on the trail! xox - Grace

In This Chat
Grace Potter
Grace Potter is the eponymous lead singer of Vermont-based Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, who will be performing March 12 at the 9:30 Club and at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in June in Tennessee.
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