The town of Waitsfield, Vt. (pop. 1,659), is dotted with small businesses led by creative do-it-yourself types. Among them is Grace Potter, 22, a singer and keyboardist who, with her band, The Nocturnals, is on her way to becoming the state’s first breakout rock star.
"There’s a lot of sculptors, a tea company, a lot of homemade entrepreneurial companies," Potter says of Waitsfield. "I think that affected how we’ve approached the growth of the band."
Indeed, Potter’s organization is homegrown: Up until now, all of her albums have been released independently, distributed through manager Justin Goldberg’s Indie911 company, self-promoted locally or sold over the Internet. She and the other band members even live on the same property, in buildings that her parents, Sparky and Peggy (who live just down the hill), constructed for businesses they operated in the 1970s.
Those buildings are also where Potter grew up and started playing piano at age 7, feasting on her parents’ collection of 4,000 LPs and performing locally by her late teens. Today, they’re where she writes and rehearses the mixture of rock, soul, blues and funk that’s drawing rave comparisons to Bonnie Raitt and Norah Jones. "There’s just a certain sense of truth that she seems to be able to connect with, a pure soulfulness that shakes you to the core," Goldberg says. "I think her potential is unlimited."
That potential was recognized in December by Disney-owned Hollywood Records, which signed Potter to a contract. The label will re-release her latest independent CD, Nothing but the Water, in April. The deal could make her a superstar, but Potter’s ultimate goal is for her music to share a certain characteristic with some of the other solid, well-made items that come out of Waitsfield: durability.
"My long-term goal is to be long-term," she declares. "We’re not going with the trends. The music we’re making is timeless."