Grace Potter and the Nocturnals built a steady grassroots career over the last ten years and have started gaining the recognition they deserve, with hundreds of concert dates and festival appearances. They are currently touring behind last year’s The Lion The Beast The Beat, an impressive collection of songs that featured a contribution by Willie Nelson.
We caught up with up with guitarist Scott Tournet to talk about his new solo record (Ver La Luz), a decade in Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and their own curated Grand Point North music festival in their hometown of Burlington, VT.
Chris K. Davidson for You Hear This?: I listened to the solo record and recognized the translation of the title [See The Light] from Spanish classes in college. One of the interesting things about that record was the vocals that Grace did, specifically for the location of the recording. Where did that idea come from?
Scott Tournet: The idea came from practicality. It was mainly convenience. Everyone works hard and we’re on the road a lot, so it’s just hard to find the time to do stuff. I just had to do stuff like mix on the road and record vocals on the road. When we get off the road, the time is so precious. Grace wants to go see her family. For me, I want to see my girlfriend and parents, so sometimes you tour nine months out of the year, you don’t automatically want to go into the studio together. You just want to do normal human activities for a while. That’s why I decided to sandwich it all into that time on the road.
YHT?: I was reading about the comparisons to Wilco and it’s definitely more sonically experimental than the more straightforward rock of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
ST: That’s why it’s cool to have my own thing sometimes. I get to exercise my whims and try different [things]. With GPN, all of us are interested in other stuff, like Wilco or the Flaming Lips or Indian music, but the project of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals came from us wanting to go back to the simplicity and its roots. When we really got into music together, it was more simple music like blues and soul and early 70s rock and roll. So I think that’s what our music was founded on, and we’ve grown out of that. It’s gotten more complex. The new record has more weirder sonic stuff in it. We started from a place, but we’re not looking to turn into an experimental band. We keep more down the middle because that’s what it calls for with Grace’s voice and the band. With my own stuff, I was free to get as weird as I wanted to.
YHT?: It feels like you guys have been doing this a good while and are finally starting to earn some big recognition.
ST: GPN is about ten years old. We just celebrated our ten-year anniversary in upstate New York, almost on the border of Canada. That’s where the band formed, so we did a show there last winter. That was really cool and exciting. This summer is our ten-year anniversary of really touring. Matt and I have talked about ten years and what it means to be a band at that ten-year mark. It seems like a good mark for reaching some of your goals. If you’re doing things grassroots, that’s a pretty good place to be. We’re reaping the rewards. Headlining these shows for four to six thousand people has been so cool. We’ve been taking moments to appreciate because that’s the most people we’ve been able to headline for. When you’re a band coming up, you play those festivals and they’re exciting, but you’re always playing at noon, but to be the big cheese band and start playing when the lights go down is pretty awesome.
YHT?: I guess the last thing you could talk about is the festival you’re doing in Burlington, VT.
ST: We’re doing the Grand Point North Festival for our third year. It’s a big deal for us. Putting on a festival is a big undertaking. It’s fun, it’s cool and it’s on the water. It’s a beautiful setting. This year, we have Gov’t Mule, Trombone Shorty, a bunch of other bands, Charles Bradley and all of these local Vermont food vendors. It’s starting to turn out into all these cool things. Vermont is a very localized place. People are proud to be from there and proud of the local food and produce, so we’re trying to have the festival be something to that extent and shine the light on some of those local bands and local vendors. That’s always been a pretty big goal and something that we talked about a lot.
YHT?: Last question: five records you can listen to from start to finish at any point.
ST: I’m going to feel like the guy from High Fidelity. Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots by the Flaming Lips, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Revolver by The Beatles and Spiritualized’s Ladies & Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space.