Pop powerhouse Grace Potter heads to Houston for can't-miss, 'super spreader of joy' charity concert
Boasting a singing voice that conjures up a folk revival, blues hall jam, a coastal California road trip, and a little Janis Joplin, Grace Potter has been dazzling fans since she burst on the scene in 2002 with her band the Nocturnals. But who needs our description — when pop/R&B queen Rihanna summed Potter up so perfectly in a single Tweet: “A Victoria Secret model with a Mick Jagger swagger and that voice??”
Fittingly, Potter shared the stage with the Rolling Stones in 2016, completely holding her own — and at times upstaging — the strutting rock legend Jagger during a raucous version of the “Gimme Shelter.” Potter, clad in a shimmering dress, could be best described as Heidi Klum channeling Joplin that night. (Note to the Stones’ management: Please book her on the next world tour.) Little wonder why the iconic Bob Dylan cites Potter — an instant classic who was seemingly born in the wrong era — as one of his favorite singer-songwriters these days.
Now, Houstonians will get a chance to experience Potter and her powerful pipes when she and her band head to White Oak Music Hall on Friday, February 24 for The Beat Goes On, a special benefit concert. The show pays tribute to prominent Houstonian Michael Carroll, the young founder of Foxgate Capital who tragically and suddenly passed away from complications of the heart.
Tickets are still available online and start at $60, with 100-percent of the proceeds benefitting the American Heart Association, thanks to generous underwriter the Fields Companies. Mississippi-born country crooner Charlie Mars to set the stage for Potter and her show-stopping live act.
And oh, what an act. The Vermont-born Potter has become a live show must-see for her boundless energy, throaty, soul-dripped vocals (fans may notice her sultry version of 'Stuck in the Middle with You" as the theme song for the Netflix smash Gracie & Frankie), her shredding on her 12-string or electric guitar, and her fluid riffs on the organ. Now married with a young son, Potter has put her past band breakup and divorce behind her and is attacking life with gushing glee and bring-it-on zeal.
Her show at White Oak Music Hall — perfectly intimate but expansive enough for her scope — promises to be a teaser of what's to come on a new album due later this year — and perhaps, projects on different mediums. (We've been sworn to secrecy on her cool new developments.) CultureMap caught up with Potter while she was taking a much-needed break at the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood.
CultureMap: Congratulations on being married, being a mom, and the upcoming tour and album! You're in Hollywood — are you 'taking meetings' — as they say?
Grace Potter: Thank you! Yes, I'm in Hollywood, taking meetings. You know, doing the Hollywood shuffle.
CM: Speaking of shuffles, you seem perfectly fit for the screen. Does that interest you at all?
GP: You know, if I could be the type of rock star that could wander like Courtney love — drunk — into the middle of a movie. I think that's kind of my jam. Like, that’s me! I'm like the Koo-Aid Guy that comes crashing through the wall — and nobody knows what to do with the Koo-Aid Guy.
CM: Oh yeah! [See what we did there?] Nobody seemed to know what to do with you during your Grace Potter and the Nocturnals days and later, solo. Is it fair to say that you were somewhat packaged by the music industry?
GP: That's an interesting perspective that you have, one that I have heard much of — that I was just packaged. And I think that I absolutely was, but what people don't know is that the me — that Janice-sort of like homespun, shoegazer, cowboy boots and plaid girl? That was a spin. That was packaging.
Coming from Vermont, it wasn't even cool to have makeup on or like — God forbid — want the spotlight. Absolutely not — you were not allowed that. If you wanted it, you're shallow and they were sad for you and they really felt for you. That was genuinely my reality growing up, to the point I knew I needed to leave Vermont in order to establish and understand my belonging in the world that enjoyed a spotlight. Like there, I'm not kidding, there were no stages in Vermont with those pin lights — they're called follows — they don’t exist.
So, that humility and growing up in that was incredibly good for my character — but not for my show, not for my game, not for my look, not for my brand.
CM: That sounds like leaving was liberating.
GP: One-hundred percent. By the time I signed with Hollywood [Records] and actually had this incredible gift horse of Disney being like, ‘so, what do you wanna look like?’ I was like, ‘Fucking kung fu rock ‘n’ roll Barbie! Please? Right now!'
There was a lot of spin doctoring and way too much energy put into how I look — I'm talking way too much — but I loved it, and it was such a huge piece of the me that was able to express again in a medium — like the the medium of fashion, the medium of makeup, the medium of hair. God the hair, oh my god, the hair!
CM: So that va-va-voom bombshell in the ‘Paris’ video — that’s more the real you?
GP: That's me! But it was just a projection and it was a role I was playing, just like the girl in the cowboy boots and the plaid shirt.
CM: Do you think women's images in music are hyper-scrutinized, while men get a free pass to do whatever and express themselves in whatever way works for them?
GP: I don't think that women are given the opportunity to express those platitudes, you know? It's really fun to play with image. Bowie did it constantly. And again, like you said — and I think this is a really valid point you made — a man doing that needs absolutely no explaining.
But, a woman doing it causes outrage, confusion, dismay, a sense of alienation, and almost an ‘I don't want her anymore,’ — like the there's an ownership over it. Like, ‘that's not my Gracie, that's not the Gracie I know!’
Like, Harry Styles can be wearing an entire women's outfit on the cover of his record, in an upside-down living room, and it's just perfect and there's no explanation.
CM: Your charm, effervescence, and humility make you positively Texan — specifically Houstonian, you know.
GP: A lot of people mistake me for a Texan and I love it! I think it's such a compliment. I really do. There's nothing about that that doesn't track for me. And I think naturally, my influences and the sounds that I have conjured my whole life, whether on purpose or mostly by accident, are extremely steeped in in Texas, and country and western, also a little bit more wild, a little bit more California — there's a little bit California soul in there. There's always been this feeling of like a crossroads that belongs in my heart and it definitely feels like Houston, as a town.
CM: You actually have some fond memories of our fair city.
GP: Houston is the only place I ever got to go see Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers live, which was like life changing and ZZ Top was opening.Later, I get this call from NASA, because they'd seen a music video when my album Midnight came out and they saw some performance videos of me, and I had this NASA mug on my organ. So someone at NASA said, ‘let's call her and see if she wants to come by.’ They invited me to the Johnson Space Center and I brought the band and they gave us an incredible tour. We we actually met an astronaut is now one of my best friends in the whole world: Jessica Meir.
CM: Is it too bold to say that it almost seems like marriage and motherhood have helped you find your voice?
GP: No, you’re right — I've got a voice now… because I'm yelling over the four-year-old all the time! I've had to really, you know, isolate: what is my point? What is my voice? And how do I get to that point as quickly as possible? Because there's just less time and emotional space to indulge in the wondering — what am I, who am I, what do I want? Like, you have exactly three hours to be creative before you’ve got to go pick the kid up from school: get there, get straight to it. Just mainline that shit.
For me, music is an interesting medium to move through, because music is not my purpose. Healing and bearing joy is my purpose. That's what I was put on the planet to do. Music just happens to be the quickest funhouse ride that I got to jump on — because it was low-hanging fruit and it was an elemental thing that was in me.
I just got on stage and open my mouth and it was already there. But I don't feel ownership over it and I don't feel pride in, like, ‘look how great I can sing,’ because I'm not doing that — I'm just channeling it. but I am actively putting my mind and my heart towards the things I care about and that's the thing that is and feels like a contribution and the purpose.
CM: Grace Potter and her purpose is pretty darn exciting.
GP: Oh yeah, when I feel that I'm charged up by my purpose and the conveying of love, joy, respect, mutual respect, healing, medicine through music — that is a real, like, ‘you're on the planet doing a really good thing. Well done, you.’ And I can say it to myself and actually receive it, you know?
CM: Sounds like you're really ready to unleash all the love here in Houston.
GP: The pandemic of joy that is what I'm here to do. I'm trying to spread joy — like a fucking super-spreader event!