Grace Potter: Keeping the rock and roll edge

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17: Grace Potter of the band Grace Potter and the Nocturnals performs at Beacon Theatre on November 17, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Mike Coppola

Grace Potter's career could be described as a slow, upward climb. And the singer-songwriter, who fronts the Nocturnals, wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's been the most deeply frustrating path and also the most wonderful path," Potter said. "But it's great because we are that young. We are the most famous unknown band. It's like 'Almost Famous.'"

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals' 2005 debut album, "Nothing but the Water," arrived in 2005. Two more followed in 2007 and 2010, as the band's popularity began to grow and critics started to take notice. All along, Potter has been touring the country, playing small gigs and festival alike.

But Potter says things really started coming together with this year's tour.

"It takes a long time to get the machine as well-oiled as it can possibly be," said Potter, who describes the latest run as her best tour. "We're in lock-set with one another. It takes a few years to get your feet off the ground and figure out what exactly you're capable of and then to learn how to have fun with it...and really relish these moments. We finally found this perfect line between being super-professional and also keeping that edge. That rock and roll edge is what makes people continue to come out to the shows because it's that unexpected territory that we wander into. About midway through the set, things start getting a little crazy."

Known for her live shows, Potter commands gigs with a powerful singing voice and overall stage presence.

Potter is on the road behind "The Lion the Beast the Beat," an 11-track set that features the fan-favorite track "Stars."

"It's about a friend who passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. For me that song -- it's not mine anymore," said Potter. "Even though I wrote that song with someone in mind in my life, I knew that the second I put it out to the world that it doesn't belong to me; now it's everyone's. And the stories that I've heard from other folks that have taken the song and woven it into their own lives -- it's a pretty phenomenal thing to watch."

"Stars" comes on an album that ended up testing Potter's limits. It was a painful record to make, she says.

"The record was the most challenging piece of work I ever put my mind to. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I was being really hard on myself," Potter admitted. "I made it difficult. When facing sort of the insurmountable hill of trying to make a record that you're going to tour on for a couple of years, you're really setting yourself up for disaster if you don't love every single song. So I was toying with genres and you can hear that on the record."

It's a different approach than she has taken in the past.

"A bunch of the songs early on were really beautiful, really pretty," Potter said. "They were a great platform for my voice. They were kind of like show-off songs. I didn't want that kind of record. I didn't want to be a show-off diva vocalist. I was more interested in tying together the themes and feelings that me and the band had together over the years. Basically, it's a record about growing up musically and personally."

Potter will continue to tour through 2013 and she also has some collaborations in the works, though the tight-lipped star couldn't dish on specifics.

"I write all the time. Right now I'm working on a couple of projects that are separate from the band and there's all kinds of fun collaborations and ideas," she said. "Usually it comes fast and furious...I'll fly home to Vermont and I'll sit in the studio until a song is absolutely done. "

Potter isn't a stranger to collaborations. She performed with Kenny Chesney on his 2010 hit song "You and Tequila" and also sings on his new track, "El Cerrito Place."

"No matter how many walls we climb over, there's always going to be another wall. And I love that," Potter said. "That's what makes music good. That's what makes people humble. It's a reminder that everywhere you go in life, no matter what your job is, there's always a way to improve. It's not just about fame and money, or image."