After clocking thousands of miles on the road with her band, the Nocturnals, the effusive rock singer has earned a reputation for her fiery live show. But this is Potter’s first stadium tour — and the stadiums are filled with thousands of finicky country music fans, no less. The stakes are high, and the stage is sprawling. There’s even a catwalk, allowing Potter to stomp a little closer to 50,000-ish ticket-holders as they search for their seats, wondering who let this blond hurricane into the building.
“I think there’s a real ferocious approach to what we do as a band, and I don’t like the idea of phoning it in, even though it’s a stadium of people who are there to hear country music, not rock-and-roll,” she says. “It’s really fun for me. ”
It’s also the latest break for a singer who has been heralded as an overnight success every night for the past seven years.
Potter first made ripples outside of her native Vermont in 2005 by adopting the business tactics of countless jam bands: incessant touring and lots of fan interaction. But that second part got trickier after she signed with Hollywood Records, a label owned by Disney. Her popularity swelled as she continued to plug away on the jam-band circuit, but she managed to retain the scrappy image of an artist who was on the verge of something bigger.
The fourth Grace Potter and the Nocturnals studio album, “The Lion the Beast the Beat,” arrived in June. And after recording a duet called “You and Tequila” with Chesney in 2010, Potter’s on the road with him through the end of the month. (The tour touches down at FedEx Field on Sunday night.)
Potter says there’s a purpose to her party-crashing. “Think about what makes a band burn out,” she says over the phone from a recent tour stop in Portland, Ore. “They get too successful too fast. And then they take it for granted. And they get entitled. And they get picky. We don’t ever allow ourselves that possibility.”
Which means she’s constantly sniffing out new turf in hopes of converting new hearts. And it’s working. Her brand of rootsy rock-and-roll is familiar enough to gain entry with an array of audiences, and her stage presence is rowdy in a way that’s tough to forget.
“She’s actually brilliant,” said global business magnate Richard Branson backstage at the Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion last September. “It’s very nice to have Grace as a friend.”
And everyone seems to want to have Grace as a friend. While Branson was swooning, Potter was strutting across a Merriweather stage, windmilling away at her Gibson Flying V. Less than a year later, she has her own signature model of the guitar. She also has her own brand of Lake Champlain chocolate bar. Cabot Cheese paid for her first tour bus. And she’s hosting a music festival in Burlington, Vt., next month that’s sponsored by Green Mountain Coffee.