It’s easy to draw a straight line from the confessional anthems of Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon to the unapologetic ballads of Grammy-nominated musician Grace Potter. In particular, to Potter’s two most recent albums, Daylight, from 2019, and Mother Road, released just last week, in which she has mined her experiences as a woman, a wife, and a mother to write unfiltered, honest songs.

“There was a lot of denial going on,” Potter, 40, says of writing Mother Road. “I think that’s just part of my creative process: I have to go through denial in order to find acceptance.”

At the start of the pandemic, Potter, who was pregnant, unexpectedly moved to Vermont, where she grew up, with her husband and young son. Then came the profound grief and isolation of the miscarriage of her twins. Suddenly, “my honest and most uncomfortable truths were staring me in the face every single day,” says Potter. “I didn’t have room for any of the feelings or creative cycles that I would normally go through.”

Grace Potter performs at the site of the original Woodstock festival, in New York, on its 50th anniversary, in 2019.

The album, steeped in pain, came together in the summer of 2021, when Potter embarked on a solo, cross-country road trip that began in her former home, Topanga Canyon, in California, on Route 66. (John Steinbeck dubbed the highway “Mother Road” in The Grapes of Wrath.) The stretches of blue sky and pointed rocks transported Potter back to a more primal and untamed time, how she imagined the early days of America felt.

“There was a lot of denial going on.”

“I mounted this wild Thelma & Louise [trip], except that I’m both, all by myself,” she explains. “It brought me deeper into the discomfort, and, in some really amazing and revealing ways, it brought the music of Mother Road,” says Potter of the 10-track album.

“I realized that I needed to round up all of my influences,” from Miles Davis and Bob Dylan to Blondie and Beck. “It’s a photo album of my life.”

It’s a life that has zigzagged. Born in Burlington, Vermont, Potter began her career in 2002 fronting Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. In 2011, she founded the Grand Point North music festival, which supports local Burlington bands and businesses. Over the years, it has attracted big names, such as the Flaming Lips and Kenny Chesney.

Performing songs from Mother Road “feels extremely comfortable” for Potter.

In 2015, she parted ways with her band and released Midnight. After that, Potter went through a messy divorce from her first husband, dropped her longtime label, and, briefly, stopped making music altogether. Her comeback album, Daylight, released four years later, earned Potter two Grammy nominations.

The hiatus never could have lasted. For Potter, who has released eight albums and shared the stage with everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Allman Brothers Band, and whose music has served as the theme song for the show Grace and Frankie and the closing track for Disney’s Tangled, music is simply what she does.

Now, as she begins her latest tour, things have finally fallen into place. “It feels like an arrival for the first time in a really long time,” she explains. “I don’t feel like I’m coming up onstage being like, ‘I hope you like it.’ It’s not like I don’t care. I really care. But it feels extremely comfortable.”

Grace Potter will be on tour throughout the U.S. beginning September 1

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Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor at AIR MAIL