"I went to my neighbour's house, told them my name was Lola Vasquez, an orphan from the 1930s, and could I please come inside and have a Pop-Tart." Six things you need to know about Grace Potter

Grace Potter carrying a guitar
(Image credit: Adrien Broom)

Formed in 2002, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals made their reputation via boldly eclectic albums that showcased the forceful talents of their lead singer and guitarist. Potter went solo in 2015, though nothing in her back catalogue quite prepares you for the emotional punch of Mother Road

An intense set of songs – triggered by a miscarriage, clinical depression and a quest for some kind of peace – it was conceived during a cross-country road trip. It also rocks like a beast, fusing soul, country and blues into something audacious and cathartic. 

“This is my dick-swinging record,” she says. “Actually, I guess it should be some other word. Tit-Rock, man! Why not?”


Mother Road developed into a rock’n’roll album by accident

Potter says she learned many things about herself during the writing and recording of the new album. 

“But the big revelation is that rock’n’roll lives and dies inside me. I really thought this was going to be a folk record, like Springsteen’s Nebraska. But it just came out differently. It was a surprise to me that I couldn’t just put on a costume, or a genre, and stick with it. The rock’n’roll spirit came through more honestly and more clearly. The voice and volition behind it were undeniable. It just took over.” 

Many of the new songs deal with deeply personal themes. 

Potter’s long journey to absolution is typified by vivid rites-of-passage drama, Masterpiece

“So much of this record is about denial. I’m often summoning an attempt at acceptance, while completely running in the opposite direction. Masterpiece is the most autobiographical. I wanted to tick the boxes of the most embarrassing, unspoken pieces of myself, the parts that you’re taught to not be proud of: puberty, being a kleptomaniac, losing your virginity, getting bad grades and misbehaving. But they’re also the most character-building pieces of me, the ones that really forged who I became.” 

The album is alive with ghosts from country music’s storied past. 

During the recording of Mother Road at Nashville’s fabled RCA Studio A, on rambunctious outlaw rocker Lady Vagabond, Potter claims to have had a paranormal experience. 

“So much of that song was informed by the ethereal presence of something other than me in the studio. There’s just sounds in the headphones and the piano sort of plays by itself sometimes. When I was riffing in the vocal booth, it was like somebody was whispering in my ear and feeding me these amazing visuals. The vibe in that studio is crazy. I think it might be [country singer] Porter Wagoner or Waylon Jennings. Or the coked-up ghost of one of Waylon’s lovers.” 

Potter ran away from home aged nine. 

One of Mother Road’s most affecting moments is Little Hitchhiker, which documents the tale of a runaway child. 

“Yeah, that’s me. I did run away from home. I took off my glasses, had this little red suitcase, a blue Speedo bathing suit, a tutu and a pair of red socks pulled up above my knees. Then I went to my neighbour’s house, told them my name was Lola Vasquez, an orphan from the 1930s, and could I please come inside and have a Pop-Tart. The neighbours were parents to my best friend, Caitlin, so they knew me. But they just played along.”

Potter and her band once helped set aGuinness World Record

In June 2012, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals were on the bill when The Flaming Lips entered the record books by playing eight shows over 24 hours in different US cities. 

“Wayne Coyne had seen us play at the High Sierra Music Festival. My organ broke down during the show and when he saw me kneeling down to fix it, he thought I was tripping on acid, playing with the little mossy children that he thought lived in there. We exchanged numbers and stayed in touch, then he had this idea for the concerts. VH1 had a camera crew on the bus. In the moments when Wayne needed to sleep, he wanted me to be the host of the whole thing and just keep the energy going.” 

The Nocturnals won’t reunite anytime soon

After The Nocturnals split in 2015, Potter threw herself into a solo career that also included TV and film work. 

“I’ve been in close contact with my ex – the drummer and founder of the Nocturnals with me, Matt [Burr] – so we’re on good terms. But I think there’s just these eras in life where you have to move on. There’s no pretending that it wasn’t a very special thing, or that what led people to discover me as a songwriter came through that band, but I wrote all the damn songs. I guess I hadn’t really thought that part through at the beginning of my career. Looking back, there’s little pieces of advice I might’ve given my 22-year-old self.”

Mother Road is out now via Fantasy.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.