HitFix Interview: Grace Potter on her inner-Beyonce, Radiohead, cartoon

06.22.11 8 years ago

Grace Potter looked, well, immaculate after her major stage performance at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts fest earlier this month, despite the 95+ degree days and rising dust for feet into the air. The rock singer and songwriter had told AP earlier in the month that she was in the middle of unleashing her “inner-Beyonce,” shedding her jeans for micro-minis and owning the stage like a Tina Turner.

It”s a good look for Potter (and yes, that”s her real name), and it”s a good time for Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, who released their self-titled album last year with the help of Queen B helmer Mark Batson. They”re hitting “Leno” and Cee Lo”s new show “Talking with Strangers” this month, are taking the stage at Lollapalooza for the first time in August and are headlining their own music festival off of Lake Champlain in Vermont. She”s also sharing the stage with Stevie Wonder, Sharon Jones and Janelle Monae at Los Angeles” Hollywood Bowl on July 24 for KCRW”s World Festival.
This winter will mark a new step for the singer, as well, as she voices and sings as a cartoon in ABC/ABC Family”s holiday special “Prep & Landing.” It”s an opportunity she says she”d never have if she wasn”t attached to Hollywood Records, a Disney imprint.
“I wrote a song for it,” the vocalist laughed, “called ‘Naughty Naughty Children.” You know I can”t really fully adhere to the Disney thing.”
Below is my chat with Potter, on her Beyonce thing, her Radiohead thing and splashing against rocks like Ariel.
How do you unwind after a big stage thing like Bonnaroo?
My favorite thing to do is to pick out my next outfit to put on. [Laughs]
I feel like I”ve seen you in a few costume changes today.
Technically this is my fifth change, because on stage I had three. It helps that I”m in a cape phase.
Who were your original “people” at Hollywood Records?
We have a lot of A&R people who are in an argument over who really found us. The truth of it is is that we don”t have any A&R guy. Bob Cavallo – the head of Hollywood – has always kind of been the connoisseur of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. He”s guided us and had his faith in us from the very beginning, and he”s the only one who has been working beside us the whole entire time. But there”s a lot of people who have been involved. Give credit where it”s due.
With Hollywood, though, of course it”s got the straight Disney offshoot thing. You guys were not part of that world, no pun intended. Where are you at with your contract with Hollywood, and your impression of the label on the whole? What is it to be attached to Disney?
Nobody”s ever asked me that before. It”s the most bizarrely beautiful relationship because they”re just far enough off from what we do. We”re the oddity at the label, the exception to all the rules, because I wasn”t brought up through the Disney community. Normally, you”d be on the Disney music label and as you grow up you”d sign to Hollywood and develop your adult career like that.
They had the Polyphonic Spree on the label when we first signed. The Indigo Girls, Queen, plenty of people on the label that aren”t Disney people… But what I love about Disney is that I”ve attached myself to things that I never would have been able to, like “White Rabbit” in Tim Burton”s [“Alice in Wonderland”] and I had the end credit song in “Tangled,” which was a total childhood dream come true. So as much as I love the rock star side of it, I also get to tap into the kid channel in myself. Because I will always be a Disney kid. It was like seeing Ariel [in “The Little Mermaid”] splashing against the rock with the water, when I was a kid — I was like, “That”s me!”
Bob Cavallo is by no means is a man to be trifled with. When he came to us, we totally scoffed at him, we were like, “We”re not going to dinner with Disney, no way.” But it”s actually turned into the most incredible relationship. I hope to work with Disney forever. I really do. No matter where our career goes, that I can still attach myself to Disney animation projects. Like, I”m gonna be the voice of this Christmas special…. I hope to never lose that connection, because we”re made for each other.
When you were taking those meetings, you must”ve considered going with the indies, and what distribution you wanted, but now you have this big network.
We always pictured ourselves as an ATO band. There was interest there, but at the time we didn”t want to join the ranks. We wanted to be the exception to the rule. I think that this band had to forge our own path and we needed a label that could be patient with us, and had the pockets for us. Because I mean, we need a lot. We come from Vermont, we like to do things ourselves, we”re grassroots. We have our own idea of how to run things, so we needed a label that said, “Cool, do that. Good luck. See you in a year.” And then we all could say, “We told you so.”
You”ve talked before about unleashing your inner-Beyonce. But you guys have some good instrument and cool toys you play with. Don”t think I didn”t see your many, many guitars, like your flying V…
You”re lucky I haven”t gotten into the pedals yet. All the boys and Cat [Catherine Popper, formerly of Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and Hem] now have pedals. But I”m staying away from them. Because if I got into pedals, I”d never been singing into the pedals. Nels Cline all day long.
That”s for your latter-day Radiohead era.
We”ll do a Radiohead record.
No more smiling, get real dark.
Jeans and t-shirt and you”ll never see my face. [Laughs] This is just phase two of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.

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