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Grace Potter On 'Daylight' And Grammy Nominations: 'I Do Belong Here'

Grace Potter's <em>Daylight </em>was a nominee for Best Rock Album in this year's 63rd annual Grammy Awards.
Pamela Neal
Courtesy of the artist
Grace Potter's Daylight was a nominee for Best Rock Album in this year's 63rd annual Grammy Awards.

The 63rd Grammy Awards were held on Sunday, but even before the winners were announced, this year's ceremony already made history. For the first time, the nominations for best rock performance and best country album were predominantly women, whether as solo artists or female leads of a band. One of those nominees was Grace Potter.

Her latest record, Daylight, was up for two Grammys — best rock performance and best rock album – and it's no surprise why when you hear those vocals. With the event being coordinated partially online, nominees made the most of it at home or in their studios. "It's a really interesting thing. I still go through the same rituals even though it's not really happening in person," Potter said. "You know, I actually cut my hair and I filed my nails. And, you know, it's feeling like ... something to celebrate."

Grace Potter spoke to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the emotional origins of Daylight and what the Grammys mean to her in the long run. Listen in the audio player above and read on for highlights of the conversation.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro: I want to take you back to the beginning of this album. I read you almost didn't release it. Why not?

Grace Potter: I didn't see it as an album. I saw it as a therapy session, and a very personal one at that. It was the kind of vulnerability that I didn't associate with myself as an artist. I thought of myself as, like, this strong goddess rock star. I've got to always sort of be badass. And when my band broke up and ...

The Nocturnals.

Yes. My band and also my marriage sort of simultaneously fell apart. You know, a lot of people got hurt. And I couldn't help feeling like it was music's fault or something. So it didn't really make a lot of sense for me to just say, oh, well, you know, buck up? Your band's gone, and your husband's gone and — but, you know, you'll be fine, so let's get into the next record. I was not ready for any next — at all.

I want to listen to the song "Release." That's one of the very first songs you wrote for this album. This is so powerful. I think it speaks to anyone who has had to leave a relationship. Tell me about where and how you wrote this song and who it's about.

I wrote it in the bathtub, and I had been closing up the house that I had lived in with my ex. It was a home that we bought — sort of all of our dreams of California and sunshine and rock 'n' roll. And the very last thing I did was I took a bath in my favorite bathroom — bathtub that I actually had constructed myself and suddenly sort of having these words come out through music. And I guess I had the presence of mind to record it. I don't remember pressing record. But then that sat in, you know, my tape recorder and was not touched for another year and a half or so because I wasn't ready to release. I was just sort of trying to manifest that through my voice.

I'm thinking of the song "Repossession." [...] One of the things that I think is so interesting is that you do move between genres, right? And it brings up this question about what is rock 'n' roll now. Last week, I was speaking with one of the quintessential rockers, Alice Cooper ... You know, who basically said that rock 'n' roll has now become sort of outside of the mainstream. And I wonder what you see it as considering, you know, this album.

I — yeah, I mean, I see it as sort of the jazz of our time. You know, what happens for a lot of people who are in the rock 'n' roll community — there's a bit of a head scratching, you know, where do we belong thing. And I think with the Grammys as well, there's some head scratching. For a long time, the rock category was just sort of a catch-all for when things weren't quite alternative or weren't quite pop and nobody else knew what to do with them. And I think there has been a bit of a turn of events for me creatively, because I really wanted to stake my claim as a rock 'n' roll musician. It is the most natural medium with which I am able to process things. I like the muscular, powerful, intense, peculiar energy of rock 'n' roll. And the fact that it is sort of the ugly duckling or strange outsider now, as Alice Cooper said, I love that.

How do you think that fits in with more women taking up sort of the accolades in this category?

When I look through the nominees - and they're so incredible and all of their music is — it's just wildly varied. The talent is undeniable. And yet if you listen to all of us in a row or in any particular scrambled order, it's hard for me to sort of understand how we all ended up in the same place. But that much good music happened and was being created by women in a time when it is so overdue that it just boiled over.

I'm going to ask you, if you win ... What do these nominations mean to you and your musical journey?

Oh, God. It is a musical journey, and I do feel ready. It's like, when I opened for the Rolling Stones, they asked me to come up on stage and sing "Gimme Shelter." And I'm standing there backstage, and I'm getting ready to go on. We're in a stadium full of people, and there's Mick - you know, doing his Mick Jagger thing. And I had this really real gulp moment of like, oh, my God. I do belong here. I'm absolutely 100% supposed to be doing this. I've worked my ass off. So instead of, you know, letting that pressure overwhelm me, I took it, and I just, like, put it smack into the middle of my stomach. And all the butterflies went away, and all the strength just came, like, burbling up from under me.

And I certainly hope that that kind of thing would happen if I win. But for me, this is the album that needs to be recognized. If I'm never recognized ever again for anything, this is that moment. This is that record. This is the most terrifying journey I've ever been on, and so wouldn't it be nice to see it through and just, you know, wrap it up with a little ribbon?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.