During the two years that went into making her 2015 album, “Midnight,” Grace Potter realized a game-changing truth about herself.
“I figured out that I’m here for a reason,” she says during a telephone interview. “I think people show up for a certain time or space for a reason. And it’s definitely not to make other people happy and just for me to stay in my place and do my bit. I don’t ever want to run what I call a carnival, essentially. There are a lot of bands that do this, where the show is the same every night and they’re essentially the dude that pulls the lever on the roller coaster. I don't want to be about that."
Potter was looking for something more substantial, more rewarding with the new solo album. "Midnight” made a statement about taking risks and challenging fans who are accustomed to the tuneful, potent and decidedly American-sounding guitar rock Potter created with her long-time band, the Nocturnals, over the course of five studio albums.
Potter and her band will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21, at the Britt Pavilion, 350 S. First St., Jacksonville. Tickets are $49 for reserved seats or standing room only, $36 for lawn seating, $26 for kids 12 and younger, and can be purchased online at brittfest.org, at the box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford, or by calling 541-773-6077.
Some might consider "Midnight" as a sell-out and Potter's bid for pop stardom. The songs "Delirious" — one she wrote to prove to her label she could write a Top 40 hit — "Alive Tonight," "Hot to the Touch" and "What We've Become" are filled with programmed dance-friendly beats, synthetic instrumentation and hook-heavy choruses that certainly fit with the sounds of today's top-40 music.
Yet a few other tunes seem less tailored to fit pop trends and help diversify the album. “Empty Heart” is a sassy rocker with a little funk; the breakup song, “The Miner,” is a soulful pop ballad with a striking vocal melody; and “Let You Go,” the standout closing track, is a stark piano-based ballad with a dramatic vocal melody.
Potter admits that "Midnight" indeed seeks to reach a Top 40 audience.
"I thought that if I was going to stand and be counted in the pop mainstream, I better do it soon," she says. "I'm getting too old," adds the 33-year-old. "I realized I still had so much I wanted to do."
Despite her ambitions, Potter says that for a while she fully intended to record "Midnight" with the Nocturnals. However, once she changed up her writing process at the beginning of the project and worked in the studio with producer Eric Valentine, it became clear that “Midnight” was going to be a solo album.
Potter emphasizes that “Midnight” does not mark the end of the road for the Nocturnals, and she fully intends to make more albums with her band. In fact, the band for her tour behind the “Midnight” album includes two long-time members of the Nocturnals, drummer Matt Burr and guitarist Benny Yurco. And Potter promises that in addition to songs from “Midnight,” her set list will include plenty of songs from the albums made with the Nocturnals, including some selections fans won’t expect.
“There are some cool songs that we haven’t played in a long time, like some of the early 2005, 2006 stuff that literally never saw its way to the stage and was only on a record,” she says. “We’re bringing some of that up and kicking up the dust. It’s been a fun experience on a musical level just getting back into some of those older songs.”