SALT LAKE CITY — Grace Potter makes her return to Utah this Friday, July 13, after a two-year absence.
Her Park City show, which is part of Park City Institute's St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series, is one of only a handful of shows that Potter is playing in 2018 after taking most of 2017 off following several years of commercial success both as a solo artist and with her previous band, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. It’s also one of her first shows since giving birth to her first child, Sagan, in January.
But success with the Nocturnals wasn't without its tribulations. And Potter said, ultimately, she needed to take a step back from the whirlwind of the past couple of years and reexamine what she was doing.
“Music has always been something I’ve felt is inherent to my spirit," she said. "It’s something that came from a very, very young age. It just was in me. … But as time went on and as (music) becomes your work … I started to feel that I wanted it to stay pure and I didn’t want to just grind back into another album because it just felt like I was creating a product at that point. It didn’t feel like it was coming from inside me."
Long associated with her Vermont home state, Potter talked to the Deseret News from her new home in Los Angeles about her wild roller coaster during the past few years, from the end of her marriage to Nocturnals drummer Matt Burr to finding love again with producer Eric Valentine to writing new music by going back to an old source — her heart.
"Art is when it comes from the inside and you’ve never felt or heard anything like it before. Whether that’s a comfortable sound that’s a little bit familiar and a little bit nostalgic," she said, "or something very positive and sharp and different and glossy or dark or edgy. Whatever it is, it can’t feel like it’s feeding from some formula.”
For eight years, Potter and the Nocturnals built up a solid fan base while staying mostly under the radar from mainstream radio attention. That relative obscurity changed with their self-titled 2010 album and continued with "The Lion the Beast the Beat" in 2012, which debuted at 17 on Billboard's Top 200 Album chart.
As Potter began writing what would become her second solo album, 2015's "Midnight" (produced by Valentine), the chinks in the armor of the Nocturnals' self-proclaimed band of Musketeers — particularly with founding members Burr and guitarist Scott Tournet — started to show, as media attention focused largely on Potter. Ultimately, she said being pushed into the next phase of her work ended up being for the best.
"Everybody (in the group) would put out a solo album of their own or go off and do a side project or they would sort of have these moments of reflection and stepping back," she said. "And some of the best music that’s created is when you give yourself that chance and you’re not grinding away just trying to sling radio songs. … That’s not what we were aiming for. But it certainly takes over when you have commercial success."
Just before her annual Grand Point North Festival in Vermont in September 2017 — after months of being out of the public eye — Potter announced that she and Burr were officially divorced, that she was engaged to Valentine and the two were expecting their first child.
When asked about the decision to start a family rather than jump right back into another album-touring cycle, Potter said she needed to stop and step back from the crazy ride she had been on for the past seven years.
"I was really in it with the separation, ultimately the divorce," she recalled. "And also with the burgeoning love and experience of life and freedom that I was having with my new partner. I just wanted to give myself a chance to have that and not dive into some of the darker feelings and some of the really catastrophic topics that were going on in my life.
"It was a really scary time, and certainly one where songs were being written. I was always writing and the music was there. But it didn’t feel like the right time to capitalize on something that was so traumatic."
Potter said she soon realized that while she had been a mother figure to those around her for many years, it was time to take a year off "and find out what it actually means to be a mother rather than project your mother instincts on everyone else around you," she said.
As for new music, Potter and Valentine are hoping to release an album next year.1 comment on this story
“We’re just making the record ourselves and taking the time to really carve out the artistic direction before diving into the whole music industry part of it," she said. "… I’ve learned that it’s better to kind of have your heart, have your direction, have your focus before you get into the meeting room and start talking numbers and all that other stuff that has very little to do with making music. So, yeah, we’re taking our time. But I think next year there’s going to be a record out and it’s going to be awesome.”
If you go …
What: Grace Potter in concert
When: Friday, July 13, 6 p.m., doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Where: City Park, 1354 Park Ave., Park City
How much: $49-$89
Note: Concert attendees will not be allowed to park at City Park for this show and should plan to take a Park City bus or park at nearby Park City Mountain Resort.