Grace Potter evolves with “Midnight,” comes to F.M. Kirby Center
Grace Potter’s poppy experimentation on her 2015 solo record “Midnight” is not a departure from her past. Nor is it a re-branding of the soul-rock festival darling as a pop star. It is simply Potter’s embracing of all of her influences and creative motivations in hope of being constantly progressive.
Potter performs at 8 p.m. July 29 at the F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. Her 2016 tour supports her latest release, and for the first time in over a decade, she tours with a band not solely comprised of members of the Nocturnals, the band with which she rose to notoriety.
For Potter, the change of pace, both sonically and in terms of her live collaborators, is about growth.
“By definition, if you’re an artist, you should be evolving and changing,” Potter said.
The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist said she has fond memories of dancing to Talking Heads, the B-52s and Lionel Richie as a child, and she thought those sounds were present even in her work with the Nocturnals.
“Maybe I was underestimating the amount of distortion we were putting on our guitars, because I thought it was coming through loud and clear,” Potter said playfully. “There was a lot of intention toward putting some of those influences more in the forefront, but they definitely had always been there in one way or another.”
Potter leads a seven-piece band she calls the Magical Midnight Roadshow. It features Nocturnals guitarist Benny Yurco, keyboard players Eliza Hardy Jones and T-Ben Alleman, drummers Daiki Herano and Matt Musty and bass player Tim Deaux.
The vocal powerhouse sang the praises of her fellow musicians.
“If every band in the world could have Eliza Hardy Jones, they would,” Potter said of the Philadelphia keyboard player and songwriter. Referring to Musty, she added, “He’s like John Bonham on steroids.”
The ensemble is heavy on percussion, Potter explained, because beats were at the heart of her songwriting process.
“I started with the drums, which I’ve never done before,” she said. “Instead of leaning heavily on my voice to carry the songs … I wanted to really construct and very tactfully and carefully be aware of the beats.”
Singles like “Alive Tonight” and “Look What We’ve Become” showcase distinctly dancier drum lines and synthier piano phrases than previous records, but thoughtful lyricism addressing themes of freedom, rebelliousness and personal development along with groovy and often heavy guitar riffs remind listeners “Midnight” is a Grace Potter record.
Her rootsy, authentic sound, Potter said, is more of an inherent part of her, instilled by her communal Vermont upbringing, than something she tries to maintain.
“We were raised to have a lot more responsibility for ourselves and take things seriously to a point and then to let it go and go see some live music,” Potter said. “That grounded me, and that element stays in me no matter what kind of music I make.”
Attendees of the July 29 Kirby Center show can expect songs from her solo album as well as cuts from several records in her catalogue with the Nocturnals, now played and interpreted by a different group of musicians.
“It’s incredible,” Potter said. “It’s completely seamless. Especially the older songs from “Nothing But The Water” and “This Is Somewhere,” to see them come to life with this band is really wild.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-665 or Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO
What: Grace Potter
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 8 p.m. July 29.
Additional information: Tickets cost $29.50 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, by phone at 570-826-1100 and online at kirbycenter.org.