Grace Potter and the Nocturnals will make House of Blues its lion’s den when the Roar Tour comes to Houston on Sunday night. We caught up with the band's namesake and charismatic front woman, Grace Potter, to talk about the group's busy summer, the new record and the prank Kenny Chesney pulled during their summer tour.
Though Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have been making music for 10 years, Potter jokes they keep being referred to as the next big thing.
“It’s a wonderful situation to be in, because we’re constantly considered this hot new band even though we’ve been around forever,” she says. “It’s great.”
“Because the record is called The Lion The Beast The Beat, we’ve been kind of channeling our inner animal instinct and having a ball,” Potter says.
In June, the hot but not-so-new-band released a new studio album and began feverishly spinning the odometer on their tour bus to promote the new music.
“We’re calling this the Roar Tour — we’re in all of our fury,” Potter says. “We really have been roaring from place to place. Because the record is called The Lion The Beast The Beat, we’ve been kind of channeling our inner animal instinct and having a ball.”
The new album was a labor of love for the band. At one point, unsatisfied by the direction the project, Potter halted the recording to do a little soul searching. After a solo road trip, she returned to the studio with a more clear vision and a few new songs. Everything fell into place.
She says the finished product explores “the duality of human nature” with a sound she describes as a bit more arena rock than expected.
“When I wrote the songs, I thought they felt much more intimate and subtle and dark. But then we take them out of the road, and they just light up,” she says. “The crowd has reflected that, and we’re getting a lot of people jumping up and down.”
Despite being a band steeped in rock-'n'-roll, GPN’s lyrics and melodies often cross genres — from blues to gospel to country. The band got a real taste for country crowds this summer after being invited to open for Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney on the Brothers of the Sun Tour, which sold out stadiums across the country.
“That whole tour was a highlight for me this summer — especially when I got to sit in with Kenny during his show and watch how he controls the energy of 50-some-odd-thousand people,” she says. “It’s a pretty inspiring thing to see.”
“I invited fans to make requests over Twitter, and we fulfill as many requests as possible,” Potter says.
The band landed the gig after Potter recorded “You and Tequila” with Chesney, a country crossover hit last year. Potter says the tour exposed her and her band mates to a whole new audience, and she was impressed by how well they were received.
“My inside joke with Kenny is we didn’t get a single beer bottle thrown at us, so that’s a good thing!”
Chesney is a known practical joker. After performing “You and Tequila” with Chesney on her first night on the job, Potter got a taste of his pranks.
“As I’m trying to leave the stage, Kenny goes, ‘Hang on a second.’ And all of the sudden a marching band comes out,” she says. “He brought in a high school marching band to play me happy birthday! That was epic. And they brought out a flaming birthday cake that was in the shape of my signature flying V Gibson guitar, so it was just like a double-whammy prank.”
Though the band enjoyed the tour, Potter says it was exciting to get back out on the road as a headliner, expanding the shortened 35-minute set they played as an opening act into a two-and-a-half-hour rock-and-roll marathon that takes a different shape each night.
“I invited fans to make requests over Twitter, so actually this whole tour has been all-request, believe it or not. Every single show we’ve played, we fulfill as many requests as possible.” The all-request format keeps things fresh.
Potter promises she and her Nocturnals will coax the Texas crowds out of their comfort zones and onto their feet.
“People come to a rock concert to get lost in the moment and to lose themselves,” she says. “The best way to do it is to dance, shake off your inhibitions, just really let go and sing at the top of your lungs, whether you know the words or not. That to me is a true visceral rock-and-roll experience.”
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals play House of Blues November 11. Fans are encouraged to tweet requests to @gracepotter with the hashtag #GPNSetlists. Include "Houston" and the show date in the request.