Our new video series presents a closer look at -- and an exclusive performance from -- the cool artists hitting the Billboard Tastemakers chart, which brings you the top-selling albums each week based on an influential panel of indie stores and small regional chains.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Live
To kick off our Tastemakers video series, we caught up with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, whose new self-titled album debuted at No. 6 on the Tastemakers chart. The bluesy retro roots rocking Potter and her band have been making music together for most of the last decade, but 2010 has already been a huge year for them. In addition to the eponymous album's chart success (it also reached No. 3 on the Rock Albums chart), Potter and company also saw their cover of Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic classic, "White Rabbit," aptly land on the soundtrack for Tim Burton's 3D, Johnny Depp-starring extravaganza, "Alice In Wonderland." Potter's annus mirabilis continues next month as her duet with Kenny Chesney appears on his Sept. 28 album, "Hemingway's Whiskey."
The band's Tastemakers session went down on a white-hot New York City afternoon. Potter shimmied between shaggy-haired bandmates Scott Tournet (lead guitar), Matt Burr (drums) and latest additions, Cat Popper (bass) and Benny Yurco (rhythm guitar) as her raspy vocals intertwined with the instruments.
Video Below: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals perform Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit."
Potter has gotten more than a few complimentary comparisons to female lead vocalists like Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, but she bristles at the idea that women, no matter how different their individual styles are lumped together into one genre. "I always think it's a little bit of a challenge when people sort of associate female artists as their own genre," she says. "It's funny, when I was a kid, my mom would reorganize the record collection all the time. She'd have classical, she'd have Celtic, she'd have rock and roll and then she'd have female singers. And I don't like it that female singers are their own genre."
Video Below: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals perform, "Medicine" and chat with Billboard.
No strangers to the road, GP&N have toured relentlessly, building up their fan base on the festival and jam band circuit. Although Potter doesn't consider her band to "scream jam", she gives credit to such dedicated music communities. "I'm always appreciative of anybody that's going to get their ass up out of bed, pack their bag, buy a ticket, get on a plane or a bus or get into their car, and make it to a live show."
"Being a rock and roll band is about spending time on the details so that you can hone your own identity. It takes a while to really hone your craft, and I think we've had, almost going on eight years of honing. So I think we finally kind of figured it out. The most important thing to me is that we, at the core of it all, have great songs. So it always comes back to singer-songwriter. So song, songs. It's all about the songs.
As for working with country superstar Kenny Chesney, Potter says she jumped at the chance. "It was like 2 a.m., and I called immediately and I was like, 'We have to do this. This is amazing. There's no question in my mind that this is the right thing to do.'" Chesney, for his part, recently told Billboard, "she's a great person and I know that she is a hell of a singer. I heard her voice and I knew I would love to sing with her one day. I didn't know it would be this soon... When she came in and we put our voices together, wow."
Text by Lisa Binkert