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Grace Potter’s a new mom with a new outlook

Grace Potter is back on the road after putting her career on hold for a few years.Pamela Neal/ICON

Grace Potter thought she’d quit music, thought she’d return to her first love and zen: house painting.

But something happened a few years ago while she was writing in her journal, scribbling on the chalkboard-painted walls of her apartment: She found she was writing songs.

And so, after a divorce, a breakup with her band the Nocturnals, marriage to record producer Eric Valentine, and a new baby, the powerhouse vocalist is back with a new solo album, “Daylight,” and a new tour bus passenger: her toddler, Sagan.

“You can probably hear him right now, drawing for the band,” says Potter, 36, from the road in Charleston, S.C. Her voice pulls away from the phone for minute: “Sagan, did you draw a rocket? Are you drawing a rocket? You’re drawing Nemo? Wow!”


She comes back: “Yeah, he inspires me. The song ‘Every Heartbeat’ on the new album is about him, and also about Eric — it’s about celebrating the joy of really finding home,” she says.

The Vermonter, who founded her own New England music fest, Grand Point North, will play Bonnaroo in June as part of an epic lineup. But first there’s the current tour and a stop in Boston at the House of Blues Jan. 31. It’ll be a homecoming of sorts.

“Boston was the foundation of my touring life beyond farmers’ markets and craft fairs in Vermont,” she says.

Q. I’ve been listening to your new album. You had a lot of chaos going in your life during that time, you’ve said.

A. Yeah, I suppose crisis leads to breakthrough in any form of life, not just art and music. I wish I didn’t have to blow my life up in order to write great records but I think it just stands to reason because those really intense emotional states of being conjure the most honest, raw, edgy, real version of a human. I think there’s something really cathartic about it.


Q. And weren’t these songs just for your journal? You never expected to share them.

A. Oh, I was in full therapeutic processing mode. If I had known that these songs would go out into the bigger, wider world, I wouldn’t have written them. Or they would’ve been very different songs. I was really hurting, and music became a friend to me again. Because for a long time, I was really upset at music.

Q. And you were going to quit.

A. I did quit. In a way, I quit the way music was in my life. Because music can be inspiring; it can also be kind of a volatile beast. In 2016, that’s when I really de-iced. “OK, I need to pull the curtains and give myself an infinite amount of time to reflect on this.” So I did things like traveling and cooking and house renovating.

Q. You house-painted for a while.

A. There’s nothing that makes me happier. Ask my band. We were just in rehearsal in Nashville for four days — they were rehearsing, I was painting. I’m not kidding. I was painting the set, working on the stage concept. That is my happy place. I would say that it’s the closest to connecting myself with the universe.

Q. Do you paint artistically, too?

A. Mostly it’s more functional. I was a general contractor. I did a lot of nurseries when I had my paint company back in the day. I also painted a lot of walls with chalkboard paint. In the year or two that I wasn’t really thinking about music, I put chalkboard paint all over the bathroom in the apartment where my boyfriend and I were living in at the time, and I would write things down on the wall, while I was taking a bath, or sitting on the toilet.


Q. [Laughs] That’s great.

A. [Laughs] Something pops into your head, write it down. Many of the lyrics that ended up on “Daylight” were written on those walls.

Q. Benmont Tench is on your new album.

A. Yes! I thought I knew how to play the organ until I saw Benmont Tench play the organ. And then I was like, “Never mind, never mind. I know nothing.” [Laughs] The first time we played together was at a Linda Ronstadt tribute concert a few years ago — it was the only thing I did during the time I was taking off from music.

Q. [You’ve recorded] with Kenny Chesney. How did that connection happen?

A: It’s another Linda Ronstadt connection, I did an essay about Linda once in a book called “Women Walk the Line,” by Holly Gleason. Holly is Kenny’s publicist. She knew me through family friends on Martha’s Vineyard when I was out there painting houses. As a teenager, I had a demo CD and gave it to her because I knew she was in the music industry. She probably threw it into the back of her car; it probably sat there for a long time. But ultimately, she threw it into another pile of CDs on Kenny Chesney’s boat down in the Keys. As he tells the story, he’s out there floating somewhere between the Florida Keys and St. John, and this voice came on his shuffle, and I was singing “Apologies” from my first record, and he sat up and said, “This is the voice I want.” So it was a really fortuitous, cosmic thing.


Q. Your son is another big change for you.

A. Having spent 13 years of my adult life on a rolling bus, as opposed to an apartment or a place where I could ask myself, “Where do I want to live? Where is home?’’ finding myself a mom and a wife and in a garden, just like, planting basil and having one precious moment after another, it really came home for me that I was who I wanted to be, and I embodied all the things I envisioned. I was finally there.

Interview was edited and condensed. Lauren Daley can be reached at ldaley33@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurendaley1.


At House of Blues, Boston. Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $41-$55, www.houseofblues.com/boston