Grace Potter's Return to the Stage Is a Boon for Rock Music

Grace Potter
Grace Potter
Photo by Pamela Neal
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For many parents, having children becomes the alpha and the omega of their existence. Careers are altered, vacations get delayed, long-term plans are reassessed. For a couple of years, it seemed the start of a new family had made a similarly seismic impact on roots-rock singer-songwriter Grace Potter. However, the bluesy artist says her first album in four years, October 2019's Daylight, was made possible thanks to the birth of her son Sagan.

Following the dissolution of both her longtime band the Nocturnals and her marriage to drummer Matt Burr, Potter found herself with an entirely new family comprising her son and new husband, record producer Eric Valentine. Over the past year, Potter has said repeatedly in interviews there was a point she would have been content to retire as a recording artist and settle down as a house painter and mother.

However, in a conversation with PopMatters in the summer of 2018, Potter revealed the wonderful truth about Daylight and the accompanying tour.

“It needed to come from this place that when you stare at this little soul with these big eyes, that's like, What's the world all about? I'm like, 'Aw, I want to show you what it's all about and what your mom can do,'" she said. "It makes me want to be the best version of myself, and music definitely brings that out in me."

Thus Potter's creative fire was lit once more. Initially, according to the album’s press release, it was “raw” and therefore “terrifying” for her. The first song she wrote for Daylight was the “confessional” opening track and single, “Love Is Love.” It’s a song about succumbing to the power of love regardless of the consequences. Equally affecting is the single “Release,” a simple, piano-driven number centered on her imposing vocals.

As it's been throughout her career, Potter's voice is the crux and greatest strength of Daylight. Her vocals combine the ragged edges of Janis Joplin with the silky, heavenly beauty of a gospel singer.

Daylight allows her voice to breathe more fully than it did on 2015's Midnight; both albums were produced by Valentine. Though the somewhat divisive Midnight elicited intrigued remarks of "Oh, shit. This is Grace Potter?" the reaction to Daylight has been more along the lines of, "Oh, shit, this is Grace Potter." Of course, that’s not to disparage Midnight in any way: It's an excellent, girls-night-out-on-the-Vegas-strip type of record, clad in varying amounts of leather and sparkles. It’s just that Daylight deals, head-on, with the aftermath of the bad decisions inevitably made during such outings.

Midnight is a record meant for bar-hopping; Daylight is about stumbling upon the perfect dive bar. They represent different kinds of energy and scratch different sorts of itches.

That being said, if Potter had never released another album, it would have been bearable as long as she kept touring. From coffee shop to concert hall, Potter rules any stage she struts onto. She's the sort of powerhouse who reaches her full potential only in front of a packed crowd. As good as she is on record, she’s ten times stronger with an audience alongside her. Miami experienced that for itself when she last visited South Florida in 2016 for a stop at the Faena Theater in Miami Beach.

It would have been a tremendous loss not only for her followers but also for rock 'n' roll had Potter decided to remain, essentially, retired. Luckily, she realized the best way to set an example of how to be happy with your true self — whether for her son or admiring fans — is to show them how it’s done.

Grace Potter. 7 p.m. Saturday, January 11, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-449-1025; jointherevolution.net. Tickets cost $33 to $38.50 via ticketmaster.com.

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