Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Grace Potter: A sense of Grace

American rocker Grace Potter talks about her colourful career ahead of her festival set.
Grace Potter will be perdorming at Auckland City Limits this weekend.
Grace Potter will be perdorming at Auckland City Limits this weekend.

The phone finds Grace Potter at the Beverly Hilton but she sounds amusingly embarrassed by her current abode.

She played a benefit gig the night before at the very showbiz Los Angeles hotel, she explains, and they gave her a complimentary room - "so I'm just milking it", she laughs before pondering if she might need to crash on someone's couch when she heads to New Zealand for Auckland City Limits.

Potter, who started off as an acoustic strumming singer-songwriter in her home state of Vermont, where she now runs her own annual Grand Point North festival, is something of a contradiction.

She's a seasoned act in the US and a relative newcomer to the rest of the world. She's a big-voiced rocker who's recently released the poppiest music of her career.

Potter released her first album in 2004, then a further four of bluesy, folky, rock under Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Last year she put her first-post band solo album Midnight.

Along the way she's racked up some impressive credits on the side. She's duetted on hits with mainstream country star Kenny Chesney. She's worked with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips (who guests on Midnight) on songs for Tim Burton films. She's sung Gimme Shelter (a song the Nocturnals covered) on stage with the Rolling Stones after opening for them.

That's some crazy CV you have there.

"I know. I thought about that the other day. This is just the weirdest spread. Collaboration is a happy place for me. I love being part of something bigger than myself."

Oh and her rock credentials include having a signature model Gibson Flying V guitar.

"I remember when the guitar thing happened it was a big deal because it was the first time I ever got painted on the side of a building in LA. A friend texted me and I was literally 8ft by 12ft. It was just my face holding my guitar. I thought, 'Oh boy, maybe I have taken it one step too far here'."

There is plenty of that guitar - and that of others' - on Midnight. But the album is a departure from the Nocturnals days, throwing in shiny pop production and nods to disco and other styles.

"I am chasing down a poppier sound for a couple of reasons. It's always been an influence which has been underlying my writing. If you listen to any of my previous work you can definitely hear Cyndi Lauper buried under layers of guitar and distortion.

"I wasn't trying to make a pop record. I just wanted to join the pop conversation. Compared to Taylor Swift or Katy Perry or Kesha or whoever, I don't think anybody is going to listen to this and say this is a pop record. I don't follow formulas and there is a formula for pop music. You can very clearly hear it if you jump into a car in LA and drive around the streets for five minutes.

"I'm not trying to be Britney Spears. I think it's impossible that I will ever have a bunch of back-up dancers. It's not going to happen.

"Rock 'n' roll and blues and gospel and soul music and R&B are really at the base of everything I do. That is the fire that is still burning."

Who: Grace Potter
Where and when: V Energy Stage 1, 5.45pm

- TimeOut

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