STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Spunky singer/songwriter Grace Potter’s new backing band, Magical Midnight Roadshow, has a crazy amount of Philly flavor.
In a pre-tour phone interview, Potter said Magical Midnight Roadshow features personnel from the band Dr. Dog, The War on Drugs’ drummer Charlie Hall, Eliza Hardy Jones of Buried Beds, plus members of the band that put Potter on the map, The Nocturnals.
The coolest side projects happen, she said, when you enlist the “god-I-gotta-play-with-these-guys” that she’s encountered over the last 10 years. It’s also an excuse to shake up the status quo, which began with the recording of her new, sexy, more-overtly-pop solo album, “Midnight.”
Still, when rehearsals commenced, she made every member of the new band prepare one song from each of her albums.
“I owe Philly a great debt of gratitude,” said Potter, who was one of the headliners of this year’s WXPN XPoNential Music Festival. “Philly’s been one of the best places we try (introducing and performing) new music. ‘XPN has been good to us. Philly is one of the cities that feels the heartbeat; it’s the City of Brotherly Love.”
Potter is set to play at The Fillmore Philadelphia Dec. 11. Although she calls Vermont home, she’s already been to the Fillmore — which opened in October — as an audience member at one of the concerts.
“I started out as a jam band girl. I grew up going to Phish concerts,” Potter said of the attraction between her and the music festival circuit. In her career, she’s played Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonaroo.
When asked about the new song “Biggest Fan,” Potter said she had Blondie’s female-perspective stalker song “One Way or Another” on her mind. “I’m the one on conquest a lot. Life is too short to not wanna go get it,” she said of her love life, pursuing her goals, etc.
Then she framed “Biggest Fan” from another angle — getting so excited and obsessed by certain movies, albums and books that you stop and ask yourself: “Am I being creepy right now?”
The urge to pursue a different musical direction is happening because she’s in the middle of a time of personal/professional growth and change, and a realization that nothing is permanent. “I had a family member that passed away. It was someone that was close to me, and I was just getting close to them. He had picked up his life and really turned it around,” Potter said, adding that the relative successfully completed everything on his bucket list.
Critics have had good things to say about “Midnight,” but some Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fans may take some convincing that the new stuff, in Potter’s words, “portrays my soul and my spirit.”
“This album was a palate cleanser. I knew the fans were gonna be freaked. This was a big shift,” she said of the release of the single “Alive Tonight.” “That was intentional … not relying on the security blanket of a band. I wanted that discussion to be had. Let them receive the music in their own way.”
Besides music and entertainment magazines, Potter’s recent press includes a write-up in the October issue of “Popular Mechanics.” “I found my niche, which is nerds dig me!,” she laughed.
Because her father was a building contractor, “I grew up around a lot of gizmos and gadgets and tools.” In fact, Potter and her sister were flipping houses for a while. “Real estate is really a great way to go,” she said.
And if HGTV comes calling about being on a show? Potter replied: “Maybe we could do a tour bus (renovation) special, and have it be all tour buses.”