Charese Fruge Talks To Grace Potter

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Women To Watch” series, written by Charese Fruge on January 5, 2021 

Grace Potter is nominated for two Grammy’s this year–for Best Rock Album “Daylight” and Best Rock Performance of the title track. “It was a stunning moment when I found out,” she says. “I was completely confused as texts began to pour in from people that I hadn’t heard from in 10 years… They were all saying ‘congratulations!’ and I was thinking ‘For what? For getting married? Having a baby? What the Hell?’ Then I went and found my husband Eric in the dining room and he had a big smile on his face and said, ‘Grammy nominations!’ Then we had an impromptu dance party.”

“Daylight” is a special album for Grace, not only because of the passion she poured into it and the recognition that it is Grammy worthy, but also because there are three special songs on the album that completely pushed her out of her emotional comfort zone when she wrote them. “Daylight’ is a Phoenix of a song,” she says. “It literally crashes and burns up and then becomes something new over the course of the composition. It was terrifying to write and even more challenging to perform. It was the last song we wrote for the album and feels very much like a culmination of all the pain and loss of my band breaking up, my personal life falling apart, and all the joy and exhilaration that comes with finding love, having a child and taking a breath for the first time in 15 years.”

“The song ‘Release’ is one of the most important emotional transitions I have ever made as a songwriter and as a human,” says Potter. “There’s infinite power in letting go. By disconnecting from the stories we tell ourselves over and over; the shame, resentment and fear that we carry with us, we are able to move forward. Then, (and this is the hard part) to find the strength to wish the same for your enemy. That is true compassion. It’s what we all need. Especially right now.”

“’Eachother’ is a song that reflects the year 2020 quite perfectly for me. It is all about recognizing the things right in front of your eyes. It’s good to fix our gaze a bit closer to home. It’s about gratitude for the simple things,” she says. In November Grace Potter released an updated video of ‘Eachother’ to CMT (now available everywhere) which features footage submitted by her fans. The song speaks to the challenges of the last year due to the pandemic and features hundreds of her fans singing along in it. It includes people of all walks including families, pets, health care workers, front line workers and more (NET NEWS 12/14).

Grace told CMT when it was released, “My favorite moment creating this video was the afternoon I spent watching all the videos the fans submitted. I cried a lot. I laughed a lot. That’s always a good starting point for creating a music video. With Joy and Love, Grace Potter Brings Fans to “Eachother (Together Mix)” | CMT

It’s hard to believe how far Grace has come despite being born legally blind and being very quiet until the age of three when she discovered music. “I was never a ‘student’ of music,” she says. “I learned it by ear and by watching my mother’s fingers when she taught other kids piano lessons. I feel incredibly lucky that my parents were so supportive and gave me a chance to experiment with who I wanted to become. From a very young age music was my refuge. If I’m being totally transparent, I probably found music to be the best way to get attention.”

“I started writing songs when I was around 11,” says Potter. “It was my way of coping with the pain of those early adolescent transitions; losing friends, being judged, feeling worthless, dismissed, invisible even. In my junior year of high school, I played a song I had written at the high school assembly. It was a really revealing moment.” Grace crosses over several different formats, but it’s not intentional. “I grew up touring in tiny towns in the Northeast & never got a crash course in radio formats or Pop charts…and even if I had, I probably wouldn’t have listened,” she says. “I don’t make a habit of breaking the rules…but I make an effort to not listen to the rules in the first place.”

In addition to being nominated for two Grammy’s this year for “Daylight,” Grace’s proudest career moment is one that not many artists get the opportunity to achieve. “Singing ‘Gimme Shelter’ onstage with the Rolling Stones,” says Potter with no hesitation.

She’s also experienced her share of challenges over the years. “There were many moments early in my career where I was faced with the reality that my loyalty to my bandmates could potentially be a limitation to my dreams,” she says. “I witnessed the heartbreak and pain caused when the stakes got really high – and it made me question whether I’d chosen the right career.” She adds, “The fact that I refuse to ‘pick a lane’ made it hard for anyone to really understand how to market me. I’m always a little discouraged when people focus on appearance – or the fact that I’m a woman – over creative fortitude,” says Potter. “I have always enjoyed being a shape shifter and exploring different parts of my personality in an outward way, often through hair, makeup and fashion. It’s a sumptuous side-effect of being a rock & roller. It’s safer than drugs and more effective for my happiness. Still, no matter how subtle the change, there’s always resistance. I wish we as humans could be farther along than that.”

That’s one of the reasons Grace has come to realize that mentoring in the business is important. “For me, mentors played a bigger role later in my career – when I was finally ready to actually listen. Sharon Jones was a huge mentor for me. I miss the shit out of her,” says Potter. Grace has her own great advice for women looking to get into the music business. “Come at your life with the lust of a sailor and bravery of a warrior. Believe in yourself even when you don’t know what the ‘right thing to do’ is. Generate your own, singular light, shine it like the fucking Batman beacon, and the moths will come.”

Despite the doom and gloom of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it wasn’t a complete waste of time for Grace. “I binge watched ‘Away.’ My dear friend (NASA Astronaut) Jessica Meir talked with Hillary Swank about the role when the show was being filmed. Jess was in space when the pandemic hit. She left one version of planet earth and came back to a completely different world. It’s just crazy!” says Potter. “So many good things came from it (lockdown). I stopped filling my days with hurry-up-and-wait energy and tuned in much more to the very few things I really need. Like my family. My health. My happiness…then again, I can see the bright side in a soggy gas station sandwich!!”

I asked Grace about the future, who she’d like to work with and what we could expect from her. “I wish I’d had a chance to work with Richard Swift before he left this world. That was heartbreaking,” she says. “Working with Lucius on my album “Daylight” inspired me to want to sing with female voices. And I’ve always admired my fellow Vermonter and nominee this year, Anaïs Mitchell. I think we could do something really cool,” says Potter.

As for what’s ahead, “I made a music video with an incredibly talented filmmaker named Catherine Fordham for my song ‘Release’. We shot it not soon after the co-writer and my beloved friend Busbee passed away. The emotions were palpable…almost electric. It was an incredibly cathartic, scary, freezing ass cold 2-day-shoot, but It’s a breathtaking piece I can’t wait for the world to finally see it.”

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