Grace Potter took a road trip. It wasn’t just any road trip, but a trip to reclaim her soul after a year of pandemic lockdown that found her moving back from California to her native Vermont and some personal crises that led to a plunge into clinical depression that drove her into treatment and a desire to find the comfort and relief always present on the road. And it also inspired her creatively.
“I used the rental car shortage as an excuse to go get our car out of storage in Topanga,” Potter muses of the decision to set out across country in 2021, just as the world was just coming out of the pandemic. “But the truth is I was going to probably have a full mental breakdown if I didn’t step away from the pressure cooker of judgment I’d placed on myself and my environment.” Although she initially felt guilty, thinking she was practicing “escapism,” Potter eventually made peace with the fact that she was doing what she needed to do to be whole and, in the process, reconnected with the life journey that led her to be the wife, mother and creative force she is today.
“Mother Road [Potter’s new album] is a reframing of my understanding of my history,” says the album’s creator. “It’s an important and powerful perspective I’d never had until this record, and the heart of it is my journey to self-reliance and a sense of worthiness.”
The resulting album is a mostly rollicking, sometimes poignant, novelistic adaptation of Grace Potter’s life in song, with lyrics inspired by her trip across country, following Route 66, establishing the literary connection (John Steinbeck called Route 66 “the mother of all roads” in The Grapes Of Wrath). The genesis of the project came as, at the end of every day on the road, Potter would jot down song ideas that came to her on the day’s ride. After a few trips like that, she gathered her husband, producer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Valentine, keyboardist Benmont Tench, guitarist Nick Bockrath (Cage The Elephant), bassist Tim Deaux (The Whigs, Kings of Leon), pedal-steel player Dan Kalisher (Fitz and The Tantrums) and her longtime drummer Matt Musty at Nashville’s RCA Studio A to hash some of it out.
“I didn’t have any real intention of making a record; I just thought I’d get into a room with some friends and mess around with these unfinished ideas I’d been gathering,” Potter says. But then all the songs came together almost spontaneously, “like my subconscious had created finished sentences spoken distinctly from the perspective of all these characters that were living inside me.”
All those characters helped forge a record that is fun and thought-provoking, while musically dynamic and a clear descendent not just of its predecessor, the Grammy-nominated Daylight, but also Grace’s very first release Nothing But The Water, a connection that echoes the stories in the songs. Listeners of KBCO, WXPN, KPNW, The SoCal Sound, KRVB, Radio Milwaukee and too many more to mention are already connecting with Grace Potter’s Mother Road.