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Grace Potter on fire

25-year-old singer focuses her energy on music, performing



Maybe it's because she's home for a break from touring, but even at "hello" you can tell Grace Potter is energetic and fun. While many bands may get burned out after constant touring and years being on the road, Potter sounds like she has a fire inside her that is only getting bigger and nowhere close to burning out.

The 25-year-old is calling in from her guitarist's Burlington, Vt., home where she interrupts the interview twice to say hello and goodbye to random people or wish someone a happy birthday. You can't blame her -- so far, Potter says they've only had about 3 weeks off from touring since the album was released last year, including Christmas.

"My energy is constantly going towards something, so it might as well be something useful," Potter says. "I'm not a busybody for the sake of being busy, but if it's something I believe in and I feel strongly about, then it's pretty easy to continue putting my time and energy into it, but I can see how at a certain point there may be a bit of a burnout, but I'm trying to avoid that."

Part of what is fueling her fire is the increase in success and popularity that comes as listeners discover her music. Her major label -- Hollywood Records -- debut, This Is Somewhere, was released in August of 2007 and it's been slowly building since then. It took the band three years to make the decision to go to a label, but, these days, Potter says the growing popularity of the band is "one of those feelings of arrival."

While the band has only recently swarmed the mainstream, Potter's group has actually been around since 2002. Their debut album, Original Soul, was released independently in 2004 and a follow-up, Nothing But the Water, hit in 2005.

Potter says most fans are having reverse discovery where they hear This Is Somewhere first and then go back to check out the old stuff. "There's always been a sincerely-awesome, small group of GPN fans that have been around since 2002," she says. "A lot of [new fans] have been digging back into our old stuff and seeing where that comes from. That's been cool to watch the backwards discovery."

She says the setlist has been focused on the new album since it was released, but now that more than a year has passed, the band is starting to bring out more of the older tracks, while mixing in some of the new stuff as they write it.

Luckily for her, Potter has always remained true to "her sound" and the old songs blend in easily with everything she's done since. She just hopes that they don't start to sound the same, a spell that Potter thinks even the greatest songwriters fall into. "A lot of Elton John's songs sound the same," she says with a laugh. "I mean, come on. 'Tiny Dancer' was a good song, but we need to move on. I want to realize what my sound is, but make some adjustments."

She has always focused on keyboards, especially the Hammond B3 organ, but recently picked up the guitar so she could get out from behind the keys to let loose. "That's exactly why I picked up the guitar -- I felt like I was in a cage," she says. "I'm a much better organ player than I am a guitarist though, and I don't want to sacrifice the music just so I can get out from behind the keyboard. It's just nice to mix it up and do both."

While, in the past, Potter was offering more new material in shows as soon as songs were finished, she says she's been trying to hold back more. Part of that is due to a new writing process that had her editing and re-working songs for This is Somewhere more than she had done in the past.

"When you get in a studio you have to turn on a different part of your brain, where the live show is more about living in the moment," she says. "I find myself being more critical of my lyrics now. I'm focusing more on keeping lyrics appropriate to the song now. The songs also sound different whether I'm writing on piano or on guitar." She hopes to return to the studio early in 2009 -- hopefully after another 10-day break.

As far as the music is concerned, even Potter herself doesn't quite know how to describe it. There are moments when the band is in full-on rock 'n' roll mode, but there are moments of soul and the blues mixed in. You can also catch them on the "jam band" station on satellite radio.

"It's weird, but I think it's good," she says. "We're not that indie band that's only going to have one hit. I think we were independent for a lot of years, but that didn't make us the 'hip, new thing.' I think we tend more toward the idea that music should be timeless and not seem uber-current. By doing that, we've appealed to a broad group of people. I think that will impact the longevity of our career because I don't want to be a flash in the pan. It's nice to be a buzz band, but the buzz quickly comes and goes."

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will perform at the Visulite Theatre at 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 16 with The Wood Brothers. Tickets are $15.

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