For Grace Potter, and her band the Nocturnals, reaching the level of success and fame they have now has been a slow, steady race since their creation in 2002. Now, hot off the heels of their most successful album release ever, the band is set to change the face (and sound) of modern music. But, how did this unlikely group of musicians from Vermont become one of the hottest alternative music acts out there?
Well for starters, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have stood out from the pack thanks to their refusal to confine themselves to any one genre. They’re a little bit country, with some definite old school rock n’ roll thrown in, and a fantastic bluesy quality that has become their signature. They’re able to transcend genres and appeal to listeners far and wide with their foot stomping beats and Grace’s soaring raspy vocals. Potter explained the diverse sound of the band to Pop Matters back in 2010, saying “We’re really dynamic. This band does not do one thing—we do a lot of things. Some people may walk in and hear a song and think, ‘Oh God, I hate this song,’ and the next song that they hear can be their favorite song and change their life forever. It’s really interesting how much we change from song to song. That comes from our band [being] new and still honing our musical sound together. But also there’s a stream-of-consciousness thing with our concerts, I don’t like to stop very much, I don’t like empty space at all. I’m very much into the flow of a show. A show needs to feel like something that doesn’t stop.”
That honing of their sound started when Grace Potter first met Matthew Burr in a coffee shop on the St. Lawrence University campus in 2002. Matthew approached her after being thoroughly impressed by her set. The two started a duo based on their mutual admiration for each other’s sound and were soon joined by Scott Tournet, thus creating Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. In 2005 the group recorded and released their first album, Nothing But the Water. The album gathered enough attention on Vermont radio that Hollywood Records signed them and re-released the album in 2006.
The group soon released their sophomore album in 2007, This Is Somewhere, featuring the singles “Apologies” and “Falling or Flying”. To promote their album, the band started making the rounds on the talk show circuit, which helped to introduce them to the American public. They scored a coup in 2010 when they were picked to be featured on the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland covering “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. Later in 2010, the group released their third studio album, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals which featured their biggest hit, “Paris (Ooh La La)”. Hot off the heels of that release, they were asked to write and record the credits soundtrack for the Disney film Tangled, which was released in late 2010. The contribution to Tangled increased the band’s visibility tremendously, as it performed well in the box-office, is a popular streaming option on some websites, and it’s also sold well in the home viewing market.
Their latest album, The Lion the Beast the Beat proved to be their most successful to date. They kicked off their promotional tour with an appearance on the cult favorite Direct TV’s Guitar Center Sessions in December. The album hit #17 on the US album charts and #2 on the US Taste charts – both new highs for them. Their second single off the album, “Stars” also proved to be their first single to chart in both the US and Canada.
What makes Grace herself such a likeable figure is both her perseverance (she’s legally blind, unbeknownst to many) and her ability to stay in touch with her roots despite her success. She explained to The Boot her affection for her home state of Vermont: “Those people are my home and every time I come home, it reminds me that there’s something to be said for being in the spotlight but it can never be a whole part of me. So much of myself is consumed with earning my way, doing it myself and never feeling like things are being handed to you. Growing up that way was humbling.“
It just goes to show, that no matter how much fame or how many awards she may win, Grace Potter will always be a small town girl at heart.