She’s opening for Nashville nice guys Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw on tour this summer, but Grace Potter hasn’t been minding her manners. She howls. She thrashes. She stomps across the stage with a fury that will make you wonder if the stage said something nasty about her mother.
“I don’t know if it’s coming across properly,” the 29-year-old admits. “People might think I’m coked up because I’ve been everywhere on that stage. I run, like, 2 1/2 miles every night.”
After clocking thousands of miles on the road with her band, the Nocturnals, the effusive rock singer has earned a reputation for her fiery live show. But this is Potter’s first stadium tour — and the stadiums are filled with thousands of finicky country music fans, no less.
“I think there’s a real ferocious approach to what we do as a band, and I don’t like the idea of phoning it in, even though it’s a stadium of people who are there to hear country music, not rock-and-roll,” she says. “It’s really fun for me. ”
It’s also the latest break for a singer who has been heralded as an overnight success every night for the past seven years.
Potter first made ripples outside of her native Vermont in 2005 by adopting the business tactics of countless jam bands: incessant touring and lots of fan interaction. But that second part got trickier after she signed with Hollywood Records, a label owned by Disney. Her popularity swelled as she continued to plug away on the jam-band circuit, but she managed to retain the scrappy image of an artist who was on the verge of something bigger.
The fourth Grace Potter and the Nocturnals studio album, The Lion the Beast the Beat, arrived in June. And after recording a duet called You and Tequila with Chesney in 2010, Potter’s on the road with him through the end of the month.
“She’s actually brilliant,” said global business magnate Richard Branson backstage at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion last September. “It’s very nice to have Grace as a friend.”
She still calls Vermont home. She recently renovated an old structure on the artist compound where her parents raised her, a plot of land in rural Vermont they’ve jokingly dubbed “Potterville.”
It was a great place to grow up, despite being a bit of a musical no-place. Potter says Vermont’s lack of musical output made her ravenously curious about other pages in the American songbook, blues and gospel especially.
As a kid, when she had the chance to see live music, she soaked up every detail, sometimes through teary eyes. She remembers being 9 years old at a James Brown concert in Boston with her family, bawling because she wanted to be onstage so badly.
Twenty years later, she’s onstage most nights of the year but has no plans to change her permanent address. “For all the flack that we get for becoming successful, you get people who really respect how firmly planted our feet have been in Vermont,” Potter says.