Interview: Grace Potter and the Order of the T-Bone

Full of Grace: Potter and the Nocturnals in Savannah

(The Guide, 6/5)

There were days in the dead of Grace Potter’s winter, a thick blanket of snow surrounding her parents’ farm in the New England countryside, when she would get pictures from a friend in Savannah. The friend would have his shirt off and be barbecuing on a roof, with a smile on his face that indicated just a bit of gloating.

“We’d be up in Vermont freezing in three feet of snow. I was very jealous,” Potter said by phone Monday from Memphis, where her band, the reconfigured Nocturnals, was recording a performance for PBS.


Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St., Savannah

Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 day of show

Information: 912-233-1192, www.livewiremusichall.com

Needless to say, Potter is looking forward to a stop in Savannah for a show at LiveWire Music Hall on Saturday. But in addition to enjoying the “beautiful southern weather,” Potter and her band will be passing through the region of the country that serves as the pater familias for the sound the band dances with. Though Potter was born and raised in Vermont and the band formed at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, their music bellows with the spirit of the Georgia roadhouse and the twang of the county fair, with a slight tinge of a church choir.

“I just think I listened to a lot of those records and I really liked them,” Potter said. “I don’t like Northeastern music. There’s no Northeastern sound. Everybody’s kind of trying out their luck at a few different noises. I happen to love gospel and blues music and soul and R&B.”

In addition to the geographic contrast, there’s the age one: though she sings with the power of a white soul singer with a voice echoing a darker-toned Patty Griffin, Potter is only 25. That youthful energy is present throughout all the band’s reinvigorated 70s-rock tunes, as well as off-stage. In fact, they turned down their first offer from a major record label because they were doing fine touring and releasing independent albums on their own.

Eventually, they caught the attention of fans in the jam-band scene, opening for Dave Matthews Band and winning a Jammy for Best New Groove in 2006. They’ve been hits on the festival circuit (they’ll hit Bonnaroo next week), with TV producers (their songs have appeared on “One Tree Hill” and “Grey’s Anatomy”) and, most notably, legendary producer T-Bone Burnett. Burnett is producing the band’s fourth studio album, still untitled but scheduled for release in October.

“It’s kind of a crazy pipe dream come true,” Potter said. “We’ve been wanting to work with him forever. He was always on our list.”

Burnett’s weight of experience and musical knowledge to balances Potter’s youthful energy, and the product is a tight, fast and intuitive effort that takes the band’s music to new levels, Potter said.

“The structure of the songs and the approach of making the record was less formulaic. It was more like some of our earlier records, when we would sit around in a garage or bar or studio and just play,” she said.

“The band kind of really gets lost into this trancelike unit and I get to soar over it. The second you put on the record… I get a very soundtracky sense, a very cinematic sense to it.”

Still, even if most folks do assume she’s from Texas or somewhere in the South, Potter still lives on her parents’ farm in Vermont when she’s not on the road. “It gives me that humble quality I need to be out on the road,” she said.

_______

And, I just saw that the band’s tour is sponsored by fellow Vermonters Cabot creameries, makers of my favorite vegetarian (as in: no animal rennet) cheese. mmm cheddar cheese…

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