Grace Potter moves up in the world

Jun 27, 2012

When Grace Potter & the Nocturnals take the stage at Paul Brown Stadium Sunday, they will become the first act to go from the 20th Century (capacity 400 or so) to the home of the Bengals (50,000, give or take a few).

“Oh, I love that, that’s a great statistic,” laughs Potter, who is getting some help on the change in venues from country superstars Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw

“But it’s actually encouraging and exciting to see how much changes and how much doesn’t change about me, the band and the people around us as we grow. Because you’re either true to yourself or a you’re a sellout. I think we’ve found a way to walk that line very carefully and maintain friendships with the people that matter the most to us.”

The people that matter the most include the true believers who were at the theater shows in Oakley over the years, but the success of 2010’s self-titled album that featured “Paris (Ooh La La)” made the band find a bigger boat. They played PNC Pavilion at Riverbend last summer, and after Potter appeared in the video for Chesney’s “You and Tequila,” there was another surge of popularity. 

“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” Potter says of the response to the stadium tour. “Our Twitter followers have increased by thousands and thousands and thousands. Every night, we can see people turning their heads, slowly and gradually, and (the fact) we’re doing it on our own terms is really exciting.

“I think that Kenny’s and Tim’s fans ... most of them know me as the blond chick from the ‘Tequila’ video.’ The moment of connection is that most of them have seen me in the opening set, but they don’t really realize that I’m the Grace Potter from the video ... they just think I’m there. Then later, when I come out to sing ‘You and Tequila,’ you see this collective ‘Ohhhh, that’s why she’s here, got it.’ ”

As word spreads on the Twitterverse that the blond chick from the ‘Tequila’ video has a pretty good band herself, the playing time increases. The official schedule calls for the Nocturnals to have 30 minutes, which could be two or three songs on a good night when they headline.

“It’s really sweet actually, they stretched it to almost 40 minutes for us because the stage manager is a big fan,” Potter says. “It started as a 30-minute set, then went to 35, and now we’re stretching it to a 40-minute land, where we can do about seven songs.

“We always try to make sure that the music is big enough to fill the stadium. It’s been really fun because it’s amazing how many of our favorite songs are also the songs that the audience is reacting to the best. We’re not catering ourselves to the country crowd, we’re just doing what we do, but it’s exciting to see how that reaction has been received because I think more people are understanding that there’s a very simple gray area between country and rock ’n’ roll. And we’re right there in the middle.”

The stadium tour is just part of Potter’s schedule. The Nocturnals are headlining their own shows on days off, and that’s where fans will hear more from “The Lion The Beast The Beat,” the new album that came out June 12. 

The group appeared on VH1’s “Storytellers,” which gave Potter – who is both blunt and charming, often at the same time – the perfect platform to be both. She spoke frankly about the evolution of her stage appearance. 

“Nothing that came up on ‘Storytellers’ was really on purpose,” she says. “I did feel like it (image) was up for discussion, I didn’t have a script, I didn’t have anything. I really thought I got all in the moment, I think I got very expressive and the producer told me that I might as well say more than less. Say anything and everything that you want to say, take the time that you need to express your thoughts.

“It was a topic that I’ve never really addressed publicly so it was nice to have a chance to do that.”

For those who follow celebrities obsessively, the transformation of a young woman  bundled up in blue jeans and pea coat on the cover of “Nothing But the Water” in 2006 to one wearing miniskirts and gauzy gowns four years later is big news. To Potter, it’s nonsense and she said so, then repeated it in case the message was misunderstood. 

“It (sniping) happens every day, every day,” she says. “I think that the focus really got off topic; not for me (because) the heart of it is the music is what always has directed everything else I’ve ever done, either on stage or in my personal life. But people forget that because they’re not standing here with me ... they’re not in the middle of it the way I am, or they don’t see it the way that I see it, or the way the band sees it, which is it is part of growing up, it’s part of changing, it’s part of getting comfortable with your body.

“And it’s something as a musician, it’s easier to wear what you want to wear. I think that when you don’t have the confidence, that’s when people see through things like ridiculous outfits and over-the-top glam stuff. But if you can put your money where your mouth is and look good doing it, then (screw) everybody.”

Right on, sister. If the music isn’t good, then no amount amount of glitter can make it sparkle. Potter has always had the substance; the style is her choice.

Brothers of the Sun Tour featuring Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, and Jake Owen, 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Paul Brown Stadium. $29-$259, plus service charges. 800-745-3000;;

Email Bill Thompson