Grace Potter Recorded 2,732 Voice Memos To Make Her New Record, Starting With “Every Heartbeat”

Photo: Courtesy of Pamela Neal.
Welcome to The Drop, Refinery29's home for music video premieres. We want to shine the spotlight on women artists whose music inspires, excites, and (literally) moves us. This is where we'll champion their voices.
Since Grace Potter's last album dropped in 2015, her personal and professional worlds have changed dramatically. She separated from and divorced her husband, and bandmate in the Nocturnals, Matt Burr. She got married again, to producer Eric Valentine, and the couple had a child together. She left her record label and has been on an extended break. Now, she's ready to step back into the spotlight.
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Potter has a voice that you can't forget once you hear it. She's been making records since 2004 and fans have found her through her high-charting, Grammy, CMA, and ACM nominated duets with Kenny Chesney; her beloved Grand Point North music festival in Vermont; and her never-ending storm of barn-burning live shows.
Daylight, her first new album in four years, is coming out on October 25. On it, she's exploring radical changes — in her life, in her attitude, and in how she expresses herself. Potter spoke to Refinery29 in a phone interview to talk about putting together the video for her latest single, "Every Heartbeat," which is an ode to letting love and a little daylight into her life.
Refinery29: What got you started writing this song?
Grace Potter: "I had been writing a little bit, not for the record. A lot of my songwriting up until that point was for me. I didn't have a record company, any expectations, or anybody waiting for me to produce material. A lot of the early stuff I came up with was really sad and heartbreaking. I felt like I wanted to explore and express the happy parts of my life because there are so many. The reality is that I am happier than I've ever been and I am living my best life right now — but it took a tumultuous journey to get here. It was The Odyssey, but weirder [laughs]. This was an opportunity for me to celebrate not just a few good things about my life but specifically what love does to you when you let it come in and enjoy it. This song is me soaking up that every single morning when I wake up, this is how it feels. I think it's a clear artistic expression of my happiness."
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When you started pulling this song together, did a certain part of it come to you first?
"It was the chorus, I had it in its entirety and it came out all at once. For this whole project, it's been more typical. Songs have come in pieces, but the chorus or bridge or verse will come all at once, just like waves of emotion. I always record it, so there are a lot of Voice Memos where you can hear the entire thing. I think I was on the beach or coming back from the beach when I thought of this. I think I was in the car, which is not particularly safe, but I must have pulled over. I pulled out my voice memo and sang it, without a guitar at first, and then came home and started working out what the chords would be."
How long did it take to get together?
"All of these songs sat for a bit. They were for me, initially. When I signed a record deal, ultimately, we needed to find which songs fit in this collection of music and which don't. So, I started finishing things. [I did that] primarily by bringing them to my husband and producer Eric [Valentine] by playing him the voice memos and asking what he thought. I lost my feelings for what music is and what I needed from it. All I was doing was using it as therapy. It was hard for me to understand which parts of it were universal, special, and worth recording versus which parts were just for me. There were a lot of them, there are 2,732 voice memos in the last few years, just on this phone. So, it took a while.
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"This one was finished when Eric brought in a beautiful melody that became the verse melody. He sang it himself, which I always love because he's shy about singing. But he came in and sat next to me while I played guitar. I was going back on forth on how to start it and he came in with a magnetic, pensive, and thoughtful approach that allowed the chorus to open up and fly."
A lot of artists are writing music that's more reactive to the times. I'm wondering if it feels challenging to get into the place to perform such a lovely, uplifting, and warm song given the state of the world?
"I remember when 9/11 happened, suddenly music got really soft. It wasn't angry and I was so surprised — because I was angry. I felt emboldened by the experience of going through it and by the feelings I had at the time. I dug my heels in. I believed, naively, that rock and roll could still save the world at that time. It's not that I don't think that anymore, I just think it's not rock and roll ‚ it's music. Rock and roll was already dead in 2001, which means now it's super dead — which means it must be new again [laughs].
"For me, in this experience and this window of time, I've needed to go inward to understand and reframe where I was at with the outside world. I've been playing the superhero rock star who tries to help everyone out and feeling like I was helping by speaking some common truth. When my whole life unraveled and I was building a new life for myself, it was important for me to not project or scold the outside world for anything I was feeling because it was a very private experience for me. That helped me to reframe my understanding of the good in people. That's why this album is called Daylight. Nothing is ever black and white. If you can get to that place emotionally where you're okay with not having very definitive feelings and you find your center, then you can look at the rest of the world in a more centered way. That's been important for me, especially in these wild times."
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I love that idea. It feels like a healthy way to deal and process.
"We all have our own truth, and we believe it to be so true. But sometimes we can become an echo chamber within ourselves and our group of friends, with people who are like-minded. This has been a huge shift for me, because I've always been pretty self-righteous. It's good to step back from that and educate yourself. I've done my share of feeling things and waxing poetic on them in private. Right now, especially with a song like 'Every Heartbeat,' if it felt fake I just wouldn't put it on the setlist that day."
The video feels so raw and real. Did you choose to shoot it this way to create a sense of intimacy?
"We started this process with those videos as placeholders for a real video that would eventually come out. But, what happened that day was so magical — we actually made four or five music videos in one day. What I love about that is that I'm such an in-the-moment person. All the fussing around that happens in the creative process sometimes leads to the most magnificent things, but at this moment I think we all felt it was important to capture my true spirit in an instant. Everything about the video is super honest. It was a total accident that my baby wandered into the frame, he was not supposed to be in the video. Lord knows he'll be asking for his union scale pay.
"I wasn't supposed to be wearing that jumpsuit either, those are my leisure clothes. I sewed a NASA patch on the back of it, because I'd already worn it in another video with my friend Jessica Meir who is an astronaut — she's actually up on the International Space Station as we speak. So that was my flight suit of solidarity that I was wearing. It's since become my mom uniform.
"So much of what came out through those shoots is the real me. It has been so long since I've been out in the world playing, touring, and sharing new music that it felt like a great way to kick open the door for the Daylight album."
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