Grace Potter: Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong (Relix Revisited)
Admittedly, Potter will tell you that she has in one way or another groomed herself for this life since she was a child dancing around her hippie parents’ living room in Waitsfield, Vermont. Her environment only encouraged such creative expression: She grew up amid a cluster of buildings that her parents built on acid in the 1970s. “It was all Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Rings, ” she says. “It looks like Rivendale from Lord of the Rings, but not really well-built—because they were on acid. It’s like a big, coffee-flavored wedding cake.”
Ironically, she would sing along to the “the cheesiest of cheesy Disney songs” as a kid: “I was always, like, ‘I’m way better than them. If they had a competition, I would win.’ I was always like this little attitude of a kid.”
Embracing a 360-degree approach, she delved into theater in school and would design a set, then act, sing and dance in the same production. And she is very much that girl in the metaphor she used earlier to describe the band’s evolution: “That was me. I had serious, mega-ugly duckling moments in my life. I was never popular. My sister was always the hot one with all the cool friends. I was always the smarmy, braces-wearing little kid that liked to do gymnastics in front of her friends to impress ‘em.”
At 16, she wrote a song and performed it in front of the 750 kids in her high school, where she also performed in the school’s production of Cabaret and sang in music competitions. After graduation, she began honing a “folky, angelic” style born out of her love for the likes of Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. It was a sound that would coalesce at St. Lawrence University, where she began playing open-mic events originally with Burr and Corey Beard, a bassist friend from high school.
Three months after the Joe’s Pub show, the band members are back in Manhattan for a gig with Gov’t Mule. Backstage at the Summerstage facility in Central Park, they’re crammed into a paneling-coated dressing room smiling as friend, one-time bandmate and tour manager Jen Crowell roasts Potter.
“The first time Scott and I met her, she came into this video store where we were working [near St. Lawrence, in upstate New York] wearing a turban and screaming, ‘Who owns these cars? Who owns these cars!’” Crowell says, doubling over the entire band in laughter.
“Okay!” Potter says, grinning with embarrassment. “Can I just say something? When I pulled up, the only cars in the parking lot were these three red cards with Vermont plates. There was this Volvo with a million hippie-ass bumper stickers with things like ‘Hangover From High School’ and ‘Bare Feet Not Arms’ written on them”—Crowell starts to blush—“and a red Ford truck with a cap on it. So, I’m like”—taking on her best British schoolmaster voice—“‘Hmm, three red cars from Vermont in a row,’ and walked in…”
“But you were like screaming! ‘Who owns these cars!’” laughs Crowell.
Tournet, meanwhile, is trying to change the subject: “Shhhh!,” he whispers, embarrassed of his Clerks past. “You’re not supposed to tell the enemy this.”
But Potter’s not letting up: “He had this signature facial hair,” she says, earning her own round of laughs, “the biggest, blackest, thickest soulpatch you ever saw, a big French nose and perfectly pronounced chin. And he always wore a black beret! He was just this walking piece of France!”
At 31, Tournet is the eldest member of the group, and the most senior musician. Behind Potter’s, his is the strongest personality in the band, and he isn’t afraid to voice his opinions on the band’s creative and/or business decisions. “He’d sooner be honest than cordial,” says Dondero. “He has that intensity which I think comes through in his playing, too. He has kind of a no-bullshit attitude, which, to me, is very rock and roll.”
Eight years Tournet’s junior, and fairly new to the guitar, Potter looks to him for support, which he gives without being asked for it. It was through Tournet that the band was introduced to Dondero. Quiet and stoic, the 29-year-old Dondero fulfills just about every rock-bassist cliché. He’s affable and book-smart, and probably the least likely to rock the boat. “Bryan is like the pragmatist,” says Daly. “He keeps the peace and never really has another agenda. I think he’s a little bit more like, ‘I like this, and I don’t like that,’ for no other reason than because he likes it.”
But that doesn’t mean he’ll just roll over, notes Potter: “About three years ago, we were in Florida, opening for Robert Cray, and I was writing the set list, and I was like, ‘Let’s do that song we did at soundcheck, and Bryan was like, ‘Grace, this is absolutely ridiculous,’ and got really fucking angry,” she says, as the band, Dondero, included, begins to grin. “It was like our second huge gig, playing in front of 1,000 people,” he says, in defense.
“Right. And I’m like wanting to just fuck it up and open with a song that we’ve never played,” she says, laughing. “We ended up doing the song and fuckin’ nailed it. But we’ve all played the bad guy and the good guy. I’m drama queen number one, he’s drama king number two”—she says, pointing at Tournet, who nods in approval—“and these guys are tied at three.”
What could be argued as one of Potter’s great strengths and weaknesses is the democratic way in which she leads the band. She only takes publicity photos surrounded by the other band members, and all four get equal say in creative and business decisions.
Ultimately, and somewhat ironically, that meant that there was a lot of unhappiness in the studio during the making of This is Somewhere : “Nobody was sitting there in their corner not getting their way,” she says, “it was just that everyone wasn’t quite getting their way. And you can hear that, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”
That said, Daly says he watched her grow into a band leader during the making of the record. “She’s really good at being the benevolent dictator. She wants to keep the peace, she wants everybody to feel included, she wants it to be and feel like a band, but she is the leader of the band, and it is her band. Ya know, somebody has to make the final decision, and it falls on her shoulders, and I think she’s really good at making people feel involved.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
- Relix Live Fridays: Trey Anastasio at The Fox
- Grace Potter & The Nocturnals "The Lion The Beast The Beat" (Official Video)
- The Allman Brothers Band Before Gregg?
- The M & Ms: Medeski, Mali, Mercurio, Moore at (Le) Poisson Rouge (A Gallery)
- Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger "The Pequod"
- Trey Anastasio with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center
- More Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- A Blowout for the So So Glos
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll