Listen to Austin 360 Radio

ACL Fest 2010 preview: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

Brian T. Atkinson

Grace Potter laughs righteously. Speaks jovially. Streams consciousness like an overfed water main. All buoyant qualities fortify her recent self-titled collection as it snakes between funk (‘Hot Summer Night'), rock (‘Medicine') and soul (‘Goodbye Kiss').

Expect the unexpected during Potter's early afternoon set Saturday. ‘We'll get everybody when they're fresh,' the Vermont native says. ‘Last time we played ACL, I dumped a gallon of water on my head onstage. Who knows what will happen this time!'

American-Statesman: You were in Austin recently for South by Southwest.

Grace Potter:The energy there was just crazy. South by Southwest always feels so scattered, but the energy is so high and you really have the one chance to do your thing, so we just rode it out and enjoyed it this time.

What do you remember most about your showcase at Antone's?

I remember every moment, everybody's face in the crowd, getting electrocuted by the organ (laughs). I remember all the guys from Hacienda were there and the girls from the Dixie Chicks side project (Court Yard Hounds) and Jakob Dylan. It was one of those really fun nights when it felt like we were really a part of a community.

Then your new album broke into Billboard's Top 20 three months later.

I wasn't aiming to chart, but then when I did, it's like, ‘Aw, (expletive)!' It's very exciting once you find your way into that world. I really wanted to enjoy it and not be miffed by it. That's sort of like being nominated for an Oscar; you don't care until you're nominated. Then you're like, ‘Yeah! I want to win!' (She laughs.)

The opening track (‘Paris (Ooh La La)') is pretty expansive.

Yeah, I wanted to open the record with something really jaw-dropping. The whole idea was that we wanted an up-tempo, sexually-charged soul record that wasn't cute or tongue-in-cheek. We wanted it to be true, honest music, but very lusty and full of life. ‘Paris' seemed like a perfect opener.

Did you write it with that intention?

I actually wrote it before our last record (‘This Is Somewhere') was even released. We tried to sneak that on last minute. I wrote it and said to the label, ‘This is a hit, you have to let me record this. It'll be a great breakthrough.' We went into the studio and nothing really clicked, but I knew it had the guts and the makings of a really great song.

Where did you find the song?

I was driving home from my birthday party, and I had been given my first (Gibson) Flying V guitar. The Kinks were on the radio with that song ‘You Really Got Me.' It's such a simple song, but the lyrics say so much. You don't need a big, fancy song with all the nuances and metaphors. Why don't you just say what you mean?

That directness seems to define this album.

There's more repetition on this record than usual. I had to get comfortable with that and the lyrics had to matter enough to be worthy of being repeated.

By ACL, your duet with Kenny Chesney (‘You and Tequila' on Chesney's ‘Hemingway's Whiskey,' released Sept. 28) will be out.

Right! (She laughs.) Oh, man, that was a fun adventure. I loved that song and wanted to do something different. It was a great opportunity to jump out of my shell and into somebody else's and just see what happens.

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals perform at 12:30 p.m. Saturday on the AMD stage.