Playing alongside huge acts such as Kenny Chesney, Ben Harper, and Lynyrd Skynyrd at the inaugural Tortuga Music Festival is a notable band with a lesser-known name but no lesser amount of soul. Poised to amp up the crowd and blow the LandShark-beer-toting concertgoers off the sand with a high-energy, genre-crossing, no-holds-barred performance are Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
The five-piece, alt-folk, bluesy jam band that hails from Vermont has been together for ten years. Led by the down-to-earth, barefoot-dancing multi-instrumentalist Grace Potter, they've been steadily gaining a Dave Matthews-like cult following; jumping up the U.S. charts with their latest album, The Lion the Beast the Beat; and recently returning stateside after a decidedly triumphant tour across Europe and Australia.
In anticipation of the Fort Lauderdale-based Tortuga, Potter took time away from enjoying a sunny tour stop in L.A. to give us some advice on relationships and let us in on some war stories from the road.
New Times: The Sydney Morning Herald recently wrote that Grace Potter
and the Nocturnals were the "stand-out, knock-down, jaw-dropping"
performance of the Bluesfest there, where you just played. That's
Grace Potter: Yeah, baby! That's Australia for you. You
know, it's amazing. It just goes to show that you don't really know what
you're capable of until you get out of your comfort zone a little bit.
Touring Europe and Australia has never been top on our list because, you
know, we have so much work to do in the States. But getting over there
was a real affirmation that you just gotta put in a little leg work, and
if you're doing something that people can get behind, it's totally
Was this also your first European tour?
toured in parts of Europe before -- we've done a very brief stint in
Switzerland, and we also toured in the U.K., a tiny bit in Ireland. But
this was our first full-throttle tour where we kinda let it all hang
out. And it totally worked. You just gotta get in front of people, and
that's how the fire gets started.
We've been touring in the U.S. for
so long that I think it's easy to forget how new we are, how rare we
are to other people. We kind of take it for granted because our crowd
knows what we do. So going out there and being in front of people who've
never seen us before, it's a really refreshing perspective for
Did it meet your expectations, or were you thinking it was
going to be one thing and it ended up being something completely
Yeah, I mean, I wasn't ready for the reaction. We had a
pretty dramatic reaction from people, just basically saying, "Where have
I been and what have I been doing not knowing about you guys?" And
that's, you know, I hate to even toot my own horn. [laughs] I don't like
to brag. It was just really killer.
And also, one thing that
surprised me was a big troupe of Americans that flew over for the whole
tour and actually followed us. That was another unexpected twist that
was just superfun and just cool to see those people on an intimate level
and see them every night and go, "Hey! It's you again!"
Do you have any outrageous highlights or memorable moments from your time overseas on tour?
yeah! [laughs] Some are not printable! One of the most exceptional
nights and days was St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, Ireland. We just
happened to be there. I mean, it was a full-on accident. But it was an
epic night -- a night to remember on every level. The whole band was
together, and we went out pubbing and just basically let it all hang out
because nobody knew who we were! We were just like every other crazy,
freewheeling, drunk Irish person who was out on the streets that night.
There's a video, actually, of me street-dancing with a stranger. I just
broke into dance at one point, and you can see it online -- I actually
tweeted it. I was just completely possessed by the Irishness of it all.
But it was a really great night.
You and your drummer, Matthew Burr, met at a Java Barn on the St. Lawrence campus while you were playing out?
He's also your boyfriend. Is that still true?
[laughs] I don't comment on my personal life. I'm sorry.
was just going to ask if you have any advice or secrets on how you've
done so well. You must have good chemistry playing together for so long.
of course. I think a big part of music is about being around people
that believe in you and that you believe in, and having mutual respect.
One of the greatest things about our band is just how much we all
respect each other and enjoy each other's company. It takes a lot to
stay together for as many years as we all have. Me and Matt and Scott
got together over ten years ago, really, at college. And now we've added
Benny -- four years ago, Benny joined. And then Michael came about a
year and a half ago.
And, you know, every single piece of the puzzle
that builds the band and makes the band who we are comes from
respecting each other and loving to be around each other. Because we
really are a family, and it's like a marriage. And I'm not saying it is a
marriage [laughs], but there is a sense of commitment that you really
put toward not just one person, but the entire group. And that's really
all I have to say about that.
The Tortuga festival is coming up.
You've already worked and toured with some of the headliners, like Kenny
Chesney and the Avett Brothers. Are you excited to all reunite down
Absolutely, I can't wait to see everybody. It's been too long.
Well, with the Avetts, we've been in Europe, so we're totally sick of
each other. [laughs] I'm just kidding. No, it'll be great to see Kenny
and the Avetts.
Is there anyone you're dying to work with next, maybe in a different genre, maybe to branch out your sound somewhere new?
you know, I'd love to get a remix. I always thought that would be cool,
to hear kind of like a dance-floor version of what we do and to also
get some other producers' perspectives on what we do. Because it's hard,
for me anyway, to go into the club and hear some of the music that they
play. Some of it's awesome, but a lot of times it's like, Ugh, I just
want 'em to remix one of our songs! I think it would be fun to get some
tunes that work for our modern disco era. [laughs]
Tortuga Music Festival. With
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Kenny Chesney, Eric Church, the Avett
Brothers, and others. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 13
and 14, at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, 1100 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort
Lauderdale. Visit tortugamusicfestival.com. Tickets cost $99 to $649
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