Grace Potter & the Nocturnals are nearing completion of their fourth studio album for Hollywood Records, which will bear the title The Lion The Beast The Beat. The envelope-pushing new LP plays with reoccurring themes and big ideas. “I think there’s a Lion and a Beast within all of us – as humans. There’s also true goodness, and the appearance of goodness…” says Grace. “Maybe I’ve watched too much Mad Men, but I’m in love with the idea of a story with no heroes and no villains. I’ve never really even dipped my toes in the whole ‘concept album’ thing, but these themes just kept creeping into all the new songs and I didn’t fight it. I decided to embrace it.”
Among the song titles are “Stars,” “The Divide,” “Steady,” “Parachute Heart,” “Never Go Back,” and “Loneliest Soul,” both co-written with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and the title track “The Lion The Beast The Beat.”
“Each song stands upright on its own, but these songs really belong to this album. The way we’ve always made records is to put together a list of 30 or so songs, pick the best ones, throw them together and hope it congeals. I didn’t wanna do that this time. I came up with the track order before we recorded so we could really bring you in and out of these songs like scenes in a movie. I want to bring the listener into our weird fantasy and keep them there.”
The Lion The Beast The Beat has the scale of rock, the intimacy of blues, the wistfulness of country, and the imagination of psychedelia all tied together by an indelible voice. Grace can take you to church or the roadhouse, Nashville or Los Angeles, the penthouse or the pavement (or the barn) all in one phrase, and the band has the power and finesse to compliment her at every turn.
Potter co-produced the album with renowned studio artist Jim Scott. The band tracked the album live at PLYRZ, Scott’s studio in Santa Clarita, CA, far from the distractions of Hollywood. “When I first met Jim, I knew I wanted to make this record with him. He totally gets us,” says Grace. “He brought the perfect balance of sonic integrity and laid-back finesse. He clearly knows the ‘Zen Dance’ from many years with Rick Rubin and the countless records that he’s been a part of. His knowledge of working with bands runs so deep, from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to Wilco to Tedeschi-Trucks…Then we get to his studio, which is an F.A.O. Schwartz of vintage gear. I mean, the dude has enough drum sets for every single band member to play their own kit together, which we did—we’d go caveman apes**t every night before we left the studio.”
The Lion The Beast The Beat also contains the fruits of GPN’s collaboration with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. Auerbach co-wrote and recorded with the band in his Nashville studio in the midst of the pre-production, resulting in the songs “Never Go Back” and “Loneliest Soul.” Firing up his plethora of vintage amps, analog drum loops and “crazy kaleidoscope percussion,” as Grace puts it. “Dan has really hit his stride as a musician and a producer, making epic music the whole world is loving,” she says. “It was great to jump on his train for a few days and just let-a-rip.”
In April, the band will make their first-ever appearance at Coachella. “It’s great that we got invited. I love that it’s the first year they’re doing two identical weekends! I mean, who doesn’t want more of something great? It’s so right-on that they’re letting the party continue on. Most of the people who are gonna be there have no idea who we are. We’re fearless onstage, and I think Coachella is will be the perfect setting for us to be just that. And we’ll definitely unveil enough of the new stuff. I’m so looking forward to giving these songs life onstage.”
Following Coachella, GPN will embark on a summer stadium tour with co-headliners Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, a pairing inspired by Grace’s duet with Chesney on their CMA Award-winning single and video “You and Tequila,” which is also up for multiple Grammy and ACM awards and was recently certified platinum for sales of over one million downloads. Grace is fully aware of the fact that a good number of those in attendance will think she’s a country artist, and she fully intends to disabuse them of that notion.
“I’m sure there will be some people who come to the show thinking they’ll see that blonde from the Kenny Chesney video and they get me,” she says with a laugh. “But I love taking people by surprise, and as much as we take things out into deep space onstage, elements of country and roots music have been in my songwriting since the very beginning. Besides, I think today’s country fans like to rock, and we’re gonna find a way to fulfill our dream of tastefully straddling rock ’n’ roll and country.
As if Potter didn’t already have enough good things happening in her career, Gibson is working with her on the Grace Potter Signature Flying V, which she designed herself in partnership with the guitar maker’s luthiers. “A rep from Gibson brought it to the studio last week and it was way better than any Christmas morning I’ve ever had. He told me that Gibson has only issued one other Signature electric guitar for a woman, and that was Joan Jett. I didn’t realize just how big a deal it was until I opened up the case and looked at it. It’s beautiful to look at – but more importantly, it sounds badass.”
All signs suggest that 2012 will be the year Grace Potter & the Nocturnals take it to the next level, validating years of nonstop roadwork and fulfilling their immense promise, commercially and artistically. And The Beat goes on…