By MIKE CHAIKEN
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were known for their live show.
However, now, The Nocturnals half of the equation are on hiatus as Potter mines a solo career.
But when Potter heads out on the road to support her new solo album, she said fans should not expect her to sit quietly alone on stage, singing gently to the crowd.
“It’s not just me on the piano,” said Potter, in a phone call from Florida. “It’s basically a supercharged version of every stage show we’ve ever done.”
“The band is bigger,” said Potter. “There are more instruments. There are more singers… It’s not just my voice… There’s a lot of awesome support (on stage),” she said.
“It’s so fun,” said Potter of the new stage show. “It’s in your face.”
When she pulled the band together for a solo tour, Potter said, she didn’t know how they would handle the material from the Nocturnals and from her solo tracks from her new album, “Midnight.” Potter said she thought she would have to structure the set list so that one half of the show would just be Nocturnals’ tracks and the other half only solo material.
However, Potter said this didn’t prove to be necessary.
“The band learned the music really quickly,” said Potter. They quickly were able to adopt the energy she always brought to the stage show and then they expanded upon it, said Potter
Once she saw how the band cooked in a live setting, Potter said she realized that she no longer needed an artificial divide of old vs. new and the songs from throughout her career could intermingle.
For Potter’s fans, the live show has always been key.
“I like to engage the audience. I do feed off the energy of the audience.”
To understand Potter’s live aesthetic, all you have to do is ask her who she admires in concert.
“Bruce Springsteen,” she said without a beat. “That guy’s crazy. That’s the energy I want to take to the stage.”
Additionally, Grace said, “Mavis Staples is bad ass.” And Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Radiohead, My Morning Jacket are other favorites.
“My show, it’s just got to be about living in the moment (and reveling in the audience’s energy),” said Potter.
Grace Potter’s latest album, “Midnight,” has been described as her “pop” album because it sounds decidedly different than what she had been doing with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. But Potter said what is found between the grooves on “Midnight” still finds its roots in what she always has been about musically.
Potter explained, when she first founded the Nocturnals, the intent was to form a group with a 1960s/ 1970s kind of vibe. As time went on, they expanded that sound—allowing more modern influences to seep in. Albeit, these other influences did not shape her sound to the degree found in “Midnight.”
The music on “Midnight” is still her, said Potter. (If you’re in doubt, just listen to how her voice approaches the material.) Whether solo or with the Nocturnals, Potter said she still writes the music. That means her touch as a songwriter is still there—the lyrics, the melodies, the themes. Whether the music is more “pop” or whether it’s the Nocturnals—it still is Potter at its heart.
As for why she thought this was the right time to go solo, Grace said she initially wasn’t intending for “Midnight” to be a solo effort. She went into the writing process thinking it would be a Nocturnals record.
Potter said this isn’t the first time when the thought of going solo had arisen. In 2008, she recorded an album with T-Bone Burnett. But the time wasn’t right to leave the Nocturnals. She decided to shelve that album and stuck with the group.
But once she heard the songs coming out of her for what would become the new record, and she saw where her muse was taking her, she realized the time was right…Grace Potter and the Nocturnals was put on the shelf and Grace Potter, solo artist, was ready to take her bow.
Potter made it clear that the decision to go solo wasn’t the construct of a record company marketing department. “If I ever fit into a formula, it was by accident.” This was her decision alone, Potter said. “This is where the road took me.”
As a solo artist, Potter said she finally had the opportunity to work with other artists. On “Midnight,” she worked with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Noelle Skaggs of Fitz and the Tanturums, and Nick Olivieri of Queens of the Stone Age. The guests were people Potter had met through the years and who she had respected. Their presence on the record kicked the proceedings up a notch.
As for the future now that she has gone solo, Potter said, “No one knows what’s going to happen next.”
She added, “Life is way too short to play it safe and comfortable.”
Grace Potter performs at the College Street Music Hall, 238 College St., New Haven on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 to $38. For more information, go to CollegeStreetMusicHall.com or GracePotter.com.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN