Grace Potter has no complaints about her life today, but she could easily have offered a different assessment not long ago. "I'm living my best life, as they say," Potter remarked in a recent phone interview with Orlando Weekly. "It's just pretty magical."
The journey that has taken Potter to this place, though, was anything but easy. She saw her long-time band, the Nocturnals, decay and dissolve; went through a divorce from her first husband and Nocturnals drummer, Matt Burr; took a major left turn with her music, became estranged from music altogether and eventually found new love, a new marriage and had a baby son — all before re-emerging with her stirring and uncommonly honest current solo album called Daylight.
Potter was eager to spend much of 2020 on tour, performing in front of fans who had waited five years for new music. She did some shows early in the year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, putting her touring plans on hold.
Now Potter is getting the chance to perform again, doing a string of socially distanced shows this spring including a solo acoustic show April 22 as part of the Frontyard Festival series at the Dr. Phillips Center.
Potter figures she'll have plenty to share in her concert, especially the songs from Daylight, which chronicle some of the life-changing events and emotions she experienced in the several years that preceded the album.
The saga began before Potter released her 2015 album, Midnight, her first solo effort; its more modern pop-oriented sound marked a considerable departure from the soulful, rootsy and rocking music that Potter had made with the Nocturnals.
Potter had initially planned to make the Midnight album with the Nocturnals, but that didn't happen. While Burr remained supportive of the Midnight project (and played in Potter's Midnight touring band), guitarist and songwriting contributor Scott Tournet objected and left the Nocturnals. As she dove into recording and then touring behind Midnight, Potter began to realize there were issues in her marriage to Burr.
"I think whenever you live on the road with somebody and your life and career are tied up, those complicated layers start to reveal themselves, and that's what happened," Potter says.
Potter made Midnight with producer Eric Valentine. They got along famously, but it wasn't until after touring Midnight that she started to realize she wasn't just attracted to Valentine for his producing skills.
"I didn't know what it was," she says. "And when the record was over, I was kind of left by myself to think about everything that had just occurred, from feeling a little bit abandoned by the people I'd been hanging out with for the last decade to feeling empowered by my choice to take my own music and do something with it and claim it as my own. And then on top of that, just this feeling of 'I don't like how I feel' ... That's when I started exploring the thought that maybe there was something going on with Eric."
It took a couple of months, but Potter concluded she was in love and had to reveal her feelings to Valentine. He was blindsided by this revelation.
"He didn't know what to do with me when I told him that," Potter says with a hearty laugh. "He needed time when I told him how I felt. He took an evening to think about it before he was able to reciprocate and kind of acknowledge what he was feeling."
The couple has been together ever since, and in January 2018, they had a baby boy, Sagan Potter Valentine.
Potter, after a period where she wasn't interested in making music, began to write songs in late 2017 about what she had been through. Potter initially thought they were too personal to release, but eventually she decided she wanted to share them and began working in earnest on Daylight.
Musically, Potter wanted Daylight to be different musically than Midnight, and that meant a shift back to the leaner, more organic, guitar-oriented sound she made with the Nocturnals. Daylight has ballads like the slow-burning "Love Is Love," the stark piano-based "Release" and the country-ish "Repossession," rowdy rockers like "On My Way" and the sensual "Desire," and tunes that fall between those extremes such as "Back to Me" (which boasts prominent backing vocals provided by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius) and the earthy, acoustic "Every Heartbeat."
Potter, who plays keyboards and guitar, is looking forward to a return to normal touring, but for now she's happy to be able to play socially distanced concerts.
"I'm really excited to get it out on stage," she says. "That's always the best way to express for me."