It could have been enough for Grace Potter to conceive and record her new Midnight album over the past two years, but she also experienced a game-changing truth about herself.
"As a grown-ass woman, I realized that I had never really truly dived into the deep end by myself, without a safety net," says the Vermont rocker, who with her band The Nocturnals has proven herself to be a spell-binding singer, guitarist and keyboardist. "I think people show up for a certain time or space for a reason. And it's definitely not to make other people happy and just for me to stay in my place and do my bit."
Having recorded and toured with her band for more than a decade, Potter decided to take a break and try something different.
"I don't ever want to run a carnival," she says. "There are a lot of bands that do this, where the show is the same every night, and they're essentially the dude that pulls the lever on the roller coaster. The roller coaster always feels the same. And it's always fun, and people always get their ya-ya's out, and they always go home saying, 'That was great. Totally worth the money.' I don't want it to be about that."
So is Midnight a sell-out bid for pop stardom? Potter admits that she did write the song "Delirious" in order to prove to her label that she could write a top 40 hit. Other tracks like "Alive Tonight," "Hot To The Touch," and "What We've Become" veer toward programmed dance-friendly beats, electronic instrumentation, and hook-heavy choruses that could mesh with the sound of today's top 40.
But the album is actually more diverse than that: "Empty Heart" is a sassy rocker with a little funk. The breakup song, "The Miner," is a soulful pop ballad. "Let You Go," the standout closing track, is a stark piano-based ballad with a dramatic vocal melody.
Potter says she originally intended to make Midnight with The Nocturnals. After all, the group had gained considerable popularity with its two previous albums — a 2010 self-titled effort and the 2012 release, The Lion the Beast the Beat — and Potter was reluctant to sidetrack that momentum.
But while working in the studio on some new material, she and producer Eric Valentine found themselves recording most of the instruments themselves. It soon became clear that this was going to be a solo album.
Still, Nocturnals fans shouldn't worry. Potter says she intends to make more albums with the full band, and her current touring group includes long-time Nocturnals Benny Yurco on guitar and Matt Burr on drums. And of course, there'll be plenty of songs from past albums, including some selections fans won't expect.
For the moment though, the musician is excited to have made an album that might well be risky, but is also genuine.
"This could completely blow up in my face," she admits, "or it could be incredible."