Heels & Picks: Nesting and more with Grace Potter
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Bursting out of the gate in 2010 with their hit single, “Ooh La La (Paris),” Grace Potter and the Nocturnals made it clear from the start they are a band with serious chops and staying power.
Great songs, strong catchy lyrics, a fantastic stage show, a bunch of cool dudes and one hot lady at the helm. What’s not to like?
Hailing from Vermont, the bluesy rock-pop band has headlined “VH1 Divas Live” and toured stadiums with Kenney Chesney. Most recently, Potter performed the National Anthem at the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl here on Oahu.
Potter’s chops as a singer, guitarist and songwriter are not to be overlooked in favor of femininity, but you know me — I can’t resist talking fashion with my girls and gays.
I caught up with Potter during her stay on Oahu, her first time to the islands, and we talked warm-ups, nesting while on tour and, of course, Pro Bowl and stage fashion.
ERIN SMITH: Pro Bowl players always need to warm up on the field before the game. What warm-ups took place for you before your performance?
GRACE POTTER: Mainly, it’s about adrenaline and pumping yourself up. To come on the stage and be ready to go as though you’ve been onstage for 20 minutes already. I like to listen to Hawaiian music, Iggy Pop and Zeppelin.
I have a tradition with the band where we get in a huddle, come up with a saying, or a mantra if you will, and we chant it until we get ourselves into a frenzy.
Also, I’m a girl, so I have the ritual of hair and makeup as well before stage.
ES: I wanted to talk to you about the female aspect of being on the road. You’ve spent many years touring with your band; I front a band as well and understand what it’s like to be the girl touring with the boys. What’s the best way for you to blow off steam while on tour with men?
GP: Pedicures are definitely one of the keys, and treating yourself to those female moments is really important. At the end of the day I’m a woman, and a girlie girl.
I have this weird thing, my sister and I do it, I rearrange furniture in hotel rooms and dressing rooms. I’m a nester and it’s like my nesting thing.
And candles, candles always come first.
I had this huge dressing room for the Pro Bowl, portioned off with the cheerleaders on the other side. It was great, and they were like “let’s give Grace Potter a nice big dressing room,” but I actually prefer something more intimate so I can make it my own.
ES: Can you tell us about the outfit you wore for your Pro Bowl performance?
GP: In this case, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have a Janet Jackson moment. I had four options and ultimately I went with the most conservative one.
ES: Do you know who the designer was?
GP: Yes, It was Max Azria. All of my show clothes are in storage in Nashville, so I went to my favorite shopping site to get the dress for the Pro Bowl.
ES: You and I have a very similar style — short skirts, lots of leg and heels. Can you tell us about some favorite designers of yours for stage?
GP: I really wanna check out your band! When I’m on stage I tend to not want to wear anything too (flowing) so it doesn’t fly up. When I know I need something great I tend to get Helmut Lang, sometimes Roberto Cavalli. For higher profile events I tend to go with Alexander McQueen. But I always customize it, tear it apart, put it back together and make it my own.
With the Max Azria for Pro Bowl, it was actually a longer muumuu, and I belted it and hitched up half of it so it looked different. I don’t like it to look exactly like the rack.
ES: Sometimes I find it challenging to rock out on stage while wearing heels. You are a pro at this, any tips on how to shred while strutting?
GP: Oh, that’s a great question. I actually use the heels to contain myself. I don’t want to get whiplash and not be able to play the rest of the show. It’s kind of a balance, the heels and the guitar. And then the guitar sort of swings like a pendulum, in front of me.
When I started wearing heels on stage, I actually found it to be grounding. When I would play barefoot, or in cowboy boots, I would be kind of a whirling dervish and I was on the verge of falling all the time.
With the heels, it’s allowed me to find my center. When your heels are up like that, it forces your upper body to find your center. But you know, it’s dangerous. It’s a dangerous game.
ES: What’s coming up for you and the Nocturnals?
GP: My husband and I, we’re headed to California and we’re going to have a little road trip action. I’m writing the new album right now. I love jumping in the car and writing on the road. Finding little places to camp out. I like having the freedom to write without any intention or direction.
It’s the early stages, so I’ll just write what I feel. Hopefully something good will come of it, if not, who cares, throw it all in the trash and I got a good road trip out of it.
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.