Thanks to her Instagram post this past March, we get an off-stage peek at the moment powerhouse rocker Grace Potter comes up with the framework for her strikingly reflective 2020 single “Eachother.”
It was right before a family mac-and-cheese night of social distancing with husband Eric Valentine, and their young son, Sagan. Potter had been thinking about the sting of the COVID-19 pandemic but feeling grateful for the scene playing out in front of her in the living room and kitchen.
If Potter’s 2019 album, “Daylight,” was a journal of the roller coaster of her life in the past handful of years, her latest single, “Eachother,” is markedly present tense, encapsulating both the initial shock waves of the pandemic and the unexpected ripples of gratitude that followed.
“Streets are all empty. Shelves are all bare. The world is holding its breath like we’re running out of air … I don’t know where we’re going, but if the going gets rough, we’ve got each other, and for now, that’s enough,” Potter sings in the first verse of “Eachother.”
Back then, the song didn’t have a name or even all of its verses, but after a snippet of “Eachother” created a buzz on social media, Potter says she decided to tap into her contact list to share thoughts and invite possible vocal and instrumental collaborations.
“I said, ‘I’m throwing caution to the wind — this is my hail-Mary moment,’ and I just texted everyone in my phone,” Potter says. “And the people who responded were the exact perfect people that needed to be a part of this song.”
That guest list includes Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe from the indie-pop band Lucius, the soulful Marcus King and Jackson Browne, a legendary musical storyteller and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Each played their parts from their own socially distanced homes or studios.
Potter has known Browne for about 10 years, and he’s played her Grand Point North Music Festival in Burlington, Vt.
“He rocked out. He literally did an air kick in mid air,” Potter says, laughing at the memory. “It was the coolest rock ‘n’ roll moment. We have a lovely long history of making music and we’re like-minded in a lot of our causes as well.”
Browne, who sings the third verse of “Eachother,” was a fitting voice for another reason.
“He was one of the first artists to come out in the press and say, ‘I got the coronavirus, and this is how it’s making me feel and this is what I’m doing to heal.’ I felt that was not just apropos but healing and powerful for him to be a part of it,” Potter says.
Potter, who splits her time between California and her native Vermont, is back out on tour, doing a series of East Coast shows in August and September. Next up is a Drive-In Live concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Cheshire Fairground in Swanzey.
A side note: King, too, plans to play the Monadnock Region venue. The Marcus King Trio is on the schedule for a show Sept. 5.
With a trademark grit and rafter-raising reach, Potter has one of those from-the-gut voices that’s raw emotion. She can go from soft ache to uncaged wail in a heartbeat, and is one of those performers known for her high-energy stage presence.
She’s played major festivals including Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, and shared stages with Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Robert Plant, the Roots and Mavis Staples.
With the Vermont-bred band the Nocturnals, Potter blazed a trail with 2006’s “Nothing but the Water,” 2007’s “This is Somewhere,” a self-titled disc in 2007, and 2012’s “The Lion The Beast The Beat.” Potter also served up some sizzle on Kenny Chesney’s country hits “You and Tequila” and “Wild Child,” and collaborated with the Flaming Lips on music for a Tim Burton film.
Her first solo album, “Midnight,” produced by Valentine on Hollywood Records, followed in 2015.
That was the same accolade-drenched year she jokingly told the Union Leader that it might be time to hang up the mic. She had just shared vocals with Mick Jagger at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn.
“I remember really just taking account of my life,” Potter had said of the surreal stage moment. “I thought, ‘Look, if this whole rock ‘n’ roll thing doesn’t pan out, it’s all good, because I got up on stage and sang ‘Gimme Shelter’ with the Rolling Stones. I can quit tomorrow.”
But as it turns out, she wasn’t done.
Still, Potter contemplated walking away from the music during a tumultuous few years in which she grappled with the personal and public fallout from a messy breakup with her first husband, former band mate Matt Burr, and the disintegration of the Nocturnals.
Those darker days, as well as her subsequent marriage to Valentine and the birth of their child in 2018, informed the tracks on “Daylight,” which Valentine produced and co-wrote.
“The record is more like a journal that I never, ever thought I’d put out to the world. But I’m so, so glad I did,” says Potter. “The more personal I got, the more specific I got about my own life, my own feelings and the details surrounding my reality. It resonated with people, and I never expected that.
“And I never would have hit on that without my husband, Eric, listening in to what was in effect some self therapy and saying he would be honored to bring them to life,” she adds. “I needed that encouragement, because I was very much in the ‘licking-the-wounds’ phase.”
She took flak from some fans when the Nocturals disbanded, but Potter says she’s in a better place.
“I was an artist before that band and after that band. I loved that band. The fallout from the band breakup and my divorce was a stepping stone that needed to happen in order for me to really plant my feet firmly on ground,” she says. “People are starting to get the idea that if they’re going to listen to Grace Potter music, they may not know what they’re going to get but it’s going to come from the heart and with joy. I can’t do it any other way.”
Though music has been an effective way to process life’s up and downs, it’s not always easy to relive some of those memories.
“I do get choked up occasionally, but I think that’s OK. Those emotions and that roller coaster ride are part of being human. Life in its most present tense. These songs and the way we’re all sitting here together (at a show) … there is social distancing but there’s also a closeness of spirit, of heart and energy.”
But if she does find herself a little overwhelmed by a lyric, she’s got a foolproof trick to help her sing through it.
“Occasionally, I’ll think of Mick Jagger doing his adorable little wiggle dance. It’ll sort of snap me out of sobbing mode,” Potter says with a chuckle. “(The) show goes on. Music still resonates, and there’s nothing better than a live show.