“We were covered from all angles,” Potter jokes.
The hard part, she recounts, was working with Daly, who pushed her to whack and rewrite parts of tunes to make them more accessible. “It was frustrating for me and involved some creative heartbreak, because I really believe in everything I leave in a song when I finish it and take it to the band. But when we were finished, I understood that was part of making the album we really wanted to make from the beginning.”
On The Tonight Show, they played the protest number “Ah Mary,” which turns on a metaphor for America’s current self-destructive streak. That song and others — like “Big White Gate,” with Potter’s darkly angelic wailing and Tournett’s high, singing guitar carrying its protagonist to the grave and beyond, and the more intimate, piano-driven “Apologies,” a subtle portrait of emotional conflict — don’t just straddle pop’s past and present. They sound remarkably spare and honest despite their meticulous production and huge blasts of guitar.
Part of that is due to the album’s old-school approach to recording and mixing. Potter and her cast understood that raunch and fuzz can be tempered in the studio without sacrificing power, and that recordings then become mixable in a way that lets listeners hear the nuances of each instrument and the open sonic spaces without sacrificing spirit or energy. That’s the way such classic discs as Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On and Young’s Harvest were crafted.
The heart of the album, however, isn’t the production but the performances: Potter and the Nocturnals possess that intangible quality called “soul.” So, for all their mainstream accessibility, it’s no surprise that they’re sharing a bill at the Pavilion with openers Earl Greyhound and headliners Govt. Mule — friends from the jam scene.
“We love coming back to New England, and especially Boston,” says Potter. “Sometimes, when you’re on the road, especially playing big places, it’s easy to get all rocked up and feel like you’re from Texas or something. But it took us a long time to build a following in Boston, and now we feel like a home-town band there. It’s centering.”
GRACE POTTER AND THE NOCTURNALS + GOV’T MULE + EARL GREYHOUND | Bank of America Pavilion, Northern Avenue, Boston | September 7 | 617.931.2000