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Repossessing Life

Following years of upheaval, multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter steps into the soulful "Daylight" of a fresh start with a perspective that has changed her as an artist, wife, and mother.

G.K. Hizer
January 28, 2020

Early on, Grace Potter established her powerful voice and an undeniable magnetism that comes through in her writing. Shortly after debuting with her initial, independent solo album, Original Soul, in 2004, her band started to gain traction. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ 2005 album, Nothing But the Water, established the group within jam band circles and led the band to being signed by Hollywood Records, which reissued the album in May 2006.

Throughout four albums, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals evolved into a rollicking tour de force, intertwining its blues and soul-based roots with a big rock swagger and dance-driven beats. While Potter’s 2015 solo album, Midnight, still reflected a few of her roots (most specifically on the guitar-oriented “Empty Heart”), it largely dove even deeper into the experimental and dance-oriented direction that the Nocturnals’ last album, The Lion the Beast the Beat, had pointed to.

In the four years since Midnight’s release, Potter’s world has shifted dramatically. Following her divorce from drummer Matt Burr and the official dissolution of the Nocturnals, rumors swirled that Potter considered walking away from music altogether. As it turns out, those considerations were more than mere rumors, but this past fall, Potter emerged with a solo album, Daylight, that returns to her more soulful roots and a fresh start.

With a reconfigured band, Potter revealed her new compositions and a fresh outlook with select shows and a few festival appearances in the latter half of 2019, before setting out on a 2020 tour that brings her through Tulsa for a return to Cain’s Ballroom (Feb.12).

“On Original Soul, there were some songs from my teens. I wanted to go there, with all of the emotions [when writing Daylight],” she says. “When you’re writing for a band, you have to have some swagger and bravado; as a teenager, I didn’t worry about that. When I was moving, I found a bunch of old songs, books, and journals tucked away and a piano bench that was chock full of notebooks. That made me remember not feeling like I owed anyone anything.”

Those discoveries helped redirect the return to a soulful and stripped-back sound on Daylight.

“That’s my baseline as a songwriter. I don’t think I knew how far I had strayed from that,” she says. “I’ll never forget when Scott [Tournet], my guitarist [with the Nocturnals], got into LCD Soundsystem, and he was listening to them all of the time, or when Michael [Libramento], our bassist, got into Africali and the quirky instrumental stuff. Subconsciously, I guess it all creeps in, and sometimes a reset is what’s needed.

“When you mention reset, though, to me, it’s more a debut. It feels like this is maybe more me than before the band. Now I feel like I have some of that teenage swagger back; the fearlessness and openness, being unafraid of putting it out there.”

That fearlessness is something that Potter had to grow into, however. After stepping away from music, it was a journey for Potter to find her way back.

“People have asked if I thought about quitting,” she says. “The thing is, in my mind, I did. I spent more than 10 years with a record contract and 13 in a band. In the end, all I saw was the people that got hurt, and I decided I don’t want to make music if it hurts the people I care about. I was done and thought I should go back to painting.”

For Potter, coming back to music was part of a healing process.

“Once I started writing, all of the vulnerability came out in surplus. I had to welcome that,” she says. “If I was going to heal, I had to go all the way and dive in. The thing is, I didn’t expect to put a record out. I was writing for me, sort of therapy, if you will.”

When Potter tracked the songs with her husband, engineer, and producer Eric Valentine, they were intended to be demos and sketches of things to come. Ultimately, things didn’t work out that way.

“When we took the demos to the label, they thought it was an album. I was hesitant as the songs were far too personal,” she says. “I just wanted to get a sense of direction sound-wise. I was enjoying the more organic, garage sound we were getting. The label loved what we had so far, and it ended up becoming the record.”

The result is the most vulnerable, open, and emotionally raw record of Potter’s career. With the opening strains of “Love is Love,” you can tell this is a different woman, opening herself up to all.

By the end of the record, Potter channels everything she’s gone through in the past four years: loss, pain, love, and redemption. Whether this is a reset, a debut, or a rebirth, Daylight shines on Potter as she steps into her own with a new authority and freedom radiating from her soul.

Grace Potter
Cain’s Ballroom
423 N. Main St. | Tulsa
Feb. 12: 8 p.m.