Grace Potter once contemplated trading life as a touring musician for her previous job as a house painter.
In 2015, the Vermont native released her sophomore album “Midnight” and enjoyed a busy touring schedule. However, following the dissolution of her longtime band The Nocturnals and her marriage to one of its members, she decided she needed to take to get away from that life.
“Between making ‘Midnight’ and touring on the album ‘Midnight,’ and all that sort of dissolved in my life in the midst of all that, it just caused me so much anxiety about what role music plays in my life and why everybody seems to be getting hurt,” says Potter. “Whenever I would make an album, it would be the sort of tumultuous, crazy process on everybody’s lives and it can be intense as the stakes got higher and higher. So, I just thought, ‘I don’t want these things if this is what happens.’
“Ultimately, I needed to completely remove music from the conversation of my life in order to understand what else my life could be,” she continues. “I really wanted some time to just be a human, get my feet on the ground and figure out what kind of a life I would have had for myself if I hadn’t become a musician.”
Her time away ultimately gave her much-needed clarity. Aided by a positive series of events — marrying record producer Eric Valentine, moving out to Topanga Canyon, and having a son — she began writing songs that would ultimately be part of her latest solo effort “Daylight.”
“It was just a really effortless passage of time and when the lyrics started coming back into my life, I didn’t even really realize that these were going to be songs early on,” says Potter. “They were just the way I was feeling at any given moment.”
Free of a label’s demands or pressure from other controlling factors, she was able to take her time writing and recording ideas and feel comfortable expressing her emotional roller coaster, such as on album openers “Love is Love” and “On My Way.”
“When I finally was able to make music again, it was because I wanted to,” she says. “It wasn’t because I had to or if there was pressure from somebody else… It needed to be because in the heart of my spirit, music still had a place and, happily it does, but it took a very long time.”
She wrote the songs from her own perspective rather than generally from a universal perspective, which allowed her to fully process her feelings.
“Because I thought these songs were just for me, I wasn’t thinking about how they would be received by anybody,” Potter says. “It was a very intimate exercise in expression, and it was incredibly liberating. But at the same time horrifying and very scary… I don’t think I could have written them the way that I wrote them had I known that it was going to become an album.”
While “Midnight” featured a more pop-oriented and polished sound, “Daylight” offers a more eclectic sound and captures the soaring energy of Potter’s live performances. Valentine recorded her live in his studio. As a result, she was able to be herself and get back to her roots.
“Parts of my life that didn’t work are revealed and very much exposed like a wound that everybody can see, and that raw energy needs to be translated into the sound on the record,” says Potter. “And Eric was incredibly creative in realizing… that my voice would be the most important and compelling character in this. He really stepped out of his comfort zone in order to help me fall into mine.
“This record was so much a result of just me being more comfortable in my own skin. The more comfortable you are in your own skin the less makeup you need. So, some days, it was like stripping off all of the makeup and all of the glitter from ‘Midnight’ and, and just sort of allowing me to just be and hold the vessel.”
These days, Potter has an added appreciation for life between gigs and cherishes the chance to tour with Valentine and their now two-year old son Sagan. Every day presents a chance to go on new adventures.
“If I’m going to be out there on the road again, the only way this is going to work is if it works as a family. It’s so much fun,” she says. “It just makes everything worth it and it’s why I’m doing it. I started making music again in a big, big way because I was about to have a kid and I didn’t want to bring him in a world where I have this thing that I don’t do anymore.
Joshua Miller is a freelance writer.