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Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' lead vocalist is multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter, who attended St. Lawrence University for two years before pursuing music professionally. In addition to lead vocals, Potter plays Hammond B3, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer Electric Piano and electric and acoustic guitars. The other members of the band are Scott Tournet, on guitars (including slide guitar) and harmonica, drummer Matthew Burr, Catherine Popper on bass guitar and vocals, and Benny Yurco on electric guitar and vocals. Bryan Dondero played bass guitar, upright bass, and mandolin with the group until his departure in early 2009.
The band was originally formed in late 2002 when Burr saw Potter perform folk songs in a student-run venue called The Java Barn on the St. Lawrence campus. Burr approached Potter about starting a band, citing James Brown and The Band as musical influences he heard in Potter's voice and original songs. In the spring of 2003, Burr invited guitarist Tournet to join the group, thus cementing the founding members of the band that would become Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
The group independently recorded and released one album, Nothing But the Water in 2005. An older album, Original Soul (2004), was a solo release from Potter. Following extensive airplay on Vermont Adult Album Alternative radio station WNCS the band signed a deal with Hollywood Records in December 2005 and re-released Nothing But the Water on May 23, 2006.
There is the legitimate concern a major label will push Potter hard and the Nocturnals will become the blurry guys on the t-shirt like in Almost Famous. She's easy on the eyes and her stunning vocals have been compared to greats like Janis Joplin, Mother Earth's Traci Nelson and Koko Taylor.
"We've been fighting with that one for years. It's a tricky thing, and it's still sometimes a touchy issue, but Grace is so damn cool about it," Tournet offers. "She really wants us to be a band, and announces us like 20 times – sometimes too much – on stage. So, I feel bad when I get frustrated with something because it hurts her a lot. Even without Hollywood [Records], local people do this stuff to us. We were on Vermont Public Television recently to help [during a pledge drive]. I was born and raised in Vermont but we were just 'the guys' behind Grace. When we're in the van together it's so much fun, and there's not that kind of energy. We all have our voices. It's pretty democratic, but when we get outside of our little world it's funny what people try to put on you."
"It's not really a label thing. We've been fighting this battle since the beginning," adds Potter. "[Hollywood] has been really supportive of the band angle. There's times when the label would fly me out separately without the band. That stuff freaks me out. But, I think they've learned their lesson because the meltdown occurs from the inside out. Our band is such a core, and there's such a molten center to it that they've figured out they can't play that card with us. It's not a Gwen Stefani scenario."
Grace was recently asked by Holly Hatch from Outfront Coloardo, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender newspaper in the Denver metropolitan area, if she was ready for all this stardom". Her reply; "FUCK YEAH! (Laughs). I’ve been ready for it since I was four-years-old. (Laughs). It’s time for me to fly the coupe, and I think the world is ready for us."
You appeal to men, women, gay, straight and everywhere in between. The audience threw boxers and bras onstage at your performance at the Ogden Theatre. When did you start getting the audience “involved” like this? "Oh, they love the undies", Potter replied. "It’s funny because I don’t demand it at all. I think that the panties on stage really got started when I received unsolicited panties onstage. Maybe two winters ago, I noticed that it started to happen around the song, “Paris (Ooh La La).” And that’s the hanky-panky part of it, it started becoming central to the song. I began to think, this is a completely naughty song. So, I went with it."
Potter was asked in the same interview if she considers herself bi sexual. "Oh yeah. Oh fuck yeah! I have sex with Cat (Popper, female bassist) every day. You see me, (laughs). You see how much I touch her ass. I might as well have grabbed it out of her dress, with my teeth. I think sexuality is a big thing with the Nocturnals. We’re all very sexual creatures, and we’re very open about that. Um, so it is a little ambiguous, but we just have a ball. And definitely, sexuality plays into our music, in a big way."
Potter admits to being bullied as a kid growing up. "There’s so much we can do as adults that have been through hard times. Ya know, I was bullied as a kid and definitely had my awkward years, and I think that there’s a responsibility for people who’ve been through it, like me, to explain to the younger generation, who might feel stuck in these moments, that it really does get better. That you define and create your life. Everybody is faced with resistance in their lives. It’s our responsibility to take control of our own fates."
In 2006, the band won the Jammy Award for "Best New Groove" and was nominated for two more Boston Music Awards: Album Of The Year (major) for the re-release of Nothing But the Water, and Female Vocalist of the Year (for frontwoman Grace Potter). Potter played Hammond Organ and sang lead vocals alongside Joe Satriani, Steve Kimock, Reed Mathis, Willy Waldman, and Stephen Perkins during that appearance. They played a cover of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer", to a standing ovation.
"Everybody, especially when you're in a band and tour for a living, is always trying to find that place they're getting to, but we figured out a long time ago, on the road traveling around, that's not the point," Potter says. "Getting to the destination usually sucks. It's not just the journey that matters, LIFE matters. It's not just about goals."
"When I wrote 'Paris,' I was listening to the Kinks nonstop, and I was going for something with a big, primal riff, like 'You Really Got Me.' It was the first time I ever really just said, 'I'm not going to try to tell a story, and I'm not going to try to communicate an emotion. I'm just going to say, basically, "I want to have sex right now."' It's my favorite song to perform. That and 'Medicine' are the sexiest, feistiest and the most fun of anything we've ever done."
The group released its second album, This Is Somewhere, on August 7, 2007 on Hollywood Records and toured that fall supporting Gov't Mule for its October and November North American tour.
"This is what we do," says Potter. "We're balancing it out a little better now, slowing down, working our way up in the world, being healthy about touring. As long as we can do that we can do this forever. People aren't stupid. They can tell if you're emulating 'performance' rather than joy. I see bands all the time where the guy in front is a ringmaster trying to keep everybody excited but the look on his face is one of terror. He might be smiling but I don't believe it. I just think, 'Dude, you could be working at Kinko's right now.' The other thing is that fame hungry bullshit trip. Some people get off on themselves so much they need that buzz from thousands of people."
Their song "Apologies" was featured on the American television shows All My Children, Kyle XY, One Tree Hill, and Brothers & Sisters, and the song "Falling or Flying" was featured on the hit drama shows ER and Grey's Anatomy and appeared on Volume 3 of the latter's soundtrack.
On August 2, 2007, the band made their network television debut on NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. This was followed by appearances on ABC's Good Morning America on August 7, 2007 and CBS' The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on August 10, 2007.
In 2008, the group opened for the Dave Matthews Band for three dates: a two-night stand at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga, New York June 20–21, and June 24 at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The band played a full set at the Mile High Music Festival on July 20.
In November 2008, Bose began using "Ain't No Time" in their North American iPod SoundDock sales displays.
Hollywood Records released the news on May 11, 2009 that T-Bone Burnett would be producing a new project with Potter, tentatively scheduled for fall of 2009. The project was deemed as a solo collaboration and both Potter and Burnett spoke very highly of the project to the press. By November 13, the band posted a new release date for the album, pushing it back to spring 2010. Hollywood Records shelved the T-Bone Burnett album in favor of a true band album, released June 8, 2010. The album was produced by Mark Batson, with "Tiny Light" as the first single. The video for "Tiny Light" was shot in Los Angeles during February 2010 with director Paul Minor.
During the 2009 Bonnaroo Music Festival, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, along with playing their own set, joined Gov't Mule and moe. on stage for their shows. Potter and Tournet joined Gov't Mule onstage, while with moe. they one-by-one replaced the band during moe.'s five hour set and played four of their own songs to be replaced back by moe. in a musical collaboration known as "A Hostile Takeover".
In 2010, the band appeared on Almost Alice, the companion soundtrack for Tim Burton's feature film Alice in Wonderland, with a cover version of Jefferson Airplane's song "White Rabbit".
The band appeared at Hangout Music Festival on May 15, 2010 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Potter appeared as a guest on stage with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, singing vocals for "St. James Infirmary Blues" and joined Gov't Mule on a cover of "Gold Dust Woman".
In late May 2010, Vermont specialty chocolate maker Lake Champlain Chocolates created a new chocolate bar in conjunction with Grace Potter called Grace Under Fire. The dark chocolate contains pistachios and red pepper flakes.
On the eve of their eponymous album release date, the band announced on Facebook and Twitter that they were going to perform a free concert on Burlington, Vermont's Church Street Marketplace the following day. The hour-long concert attracted thousands of viewers and became a huge local media story. The band sold merchandise and hosted a meet and greet with fans for three hours following the concert.
The group released their third studio recording, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, on June 8, 2010. The album peaked at #5 on iTunes Top 100 album and #2 on iTunes Rock Albums Chart. The opening track, "Paris (Ooh La La)", and iTunes bonus track "Fooling Myself" was in the Top 40 and Top 100, respectively, on iTunes Rock Songs Chart. On July 19, 2010, as a launch to their second single from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the band premiered the video to "Paris (Ooh La La)" on Hulu.
Potter also wrote a track titled "Something That I Want", which was performed on One Tree Hill. In 2010, she re-wrote some of the lyrics and Disney chose it to be featured during the closing credits of their 50th animated feature Tangled, which Potter sung by herself. The movie soundtrack was released on November 16, 2010. There are good weekends and then there's the one Grace Potter had to kick off December. After stealing the show at the 'VH1 Divas Salute the Troops' special, Potter and the Nocturnals rode that wave of publicity to the top of the iTunes album charts, knocking off the Beatles. She also has a key song in the new Disney animated film, 'Tangled,' which toppled 'Harry Potter' at the box office.
On February 9, 2012, Grace Potter announced the title of their upcoming fourth studio album, The Lion The Beast The Beat, noting that they collaborated with The Black Keys member Dan Auerbach. Song titles such as "Star", "The Divide", "Parachute Heart", "Never Go Back", and the title track.
Recorded between tours during the summer and fall of 2004 at the band's Waitsfield rehearsal space, Depart So Slow featured the songwriting of singer/guitarist Scott Taylor with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals providing musical backing. It was engineered and mixed by Nocturnals guitarist Scott Tournet.
In 2008, Potter recorded a version of "I Want Something That I Want" with Bethany Joy Galeotti (One Tree Hill) on a track from the acoustic sessions from One Tree Hill. In addition to this collaboration, Potter also served as guest composer in the seventh episode of the show's sixth season, "Messin' With the Kid". Potter appeared as herself on the show, performing "I Want Something That I Want" with Galeotti's character Haley James Scott. She also performed "Ah, Mary".
In 2009, Potter was featured on the track "Ordinary Man" by fellow Vermont singer-songwriter Gregory Douglass on his album Battler.
Potter contributed again to One Tree Hill in the show's eighth season. Various artists covered Gavin DeGraw's hit song "I Don't Want to Be" to be played over the show's opening credits. Potter contributed her cover for the eighth episode of the season, Mouthful of Diamonds.
Potter sang on the track "You and Tequila", on the September, 2010, album Hemingway's Whiskey by country music singer Kenny Chesney. Chesney joined the Nocturnals when they opened on October 30 for The Avett Brothers at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
She also found a friend and inspiration in Chesney. "I thought I knew everything there was to know about country music. I kind of wrote it off and filed it away. But doing that record with him, and that song in particular, 'You and Tequila,' really opened my mind to how amazing that whole world of songwriting is," she says. "I went down to Nashville and the process of songwriting in Nashville, I loved it. It's really organic. I made a lifelong friend in Kenny. He was texting me all night in 'VH1 Divas' telling me how proud he was of me."
That concert, which featured Potter teaming up with Heart, might lead to even more collaborations, though nothing is definite yet. "There was a lot of jiving going on backstage, a lot of good girl time, so you never know," she says. "The thing I really loved about the show was it really was a genre-bending moment for everybody. There was pop, there was soul, there were pop princesses and Paramore comes in and has sort of the younger crowd, alternative vibe. There's a lot going on there and a lot musically that could be done."
In 2011, their song "Paris (Ooh la la)" was featured on the season 2 promo for the TNT television series Rizzoli & Isles. In July, 2011 Grace was with Chelsea Handler on her T.V. show. She is also launching a line of chocolates along with her band, The Nocturnals. Grace provided the voice of Carol, the owner of Christmas Carol's, a bar in the Disney Christmas special Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice in December 2011.
Nothing But the Water (2005)
Live Oh Five (2005)
This Is Somewhere (2007)
Live In Skowhegan (2008)
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (2010)
The Lion The Beast The Beat (2012)
"Ah, Mary" (2007)
"I Want Something That I Want" (2008)
"Tiny Light" (2010)
"Paris (Ooh La La)" (2010)
"Never Go Back" (2012)