Grace Potter’s Golden Compass
RR: How did you get Alex Crothers’ involvement with the band, and what has been his influence on the festival and its details while working with you?
GP: Yeah, good question. Alex and I and the band as a whole have been working together for coming on almost a decade; basically, since we’ve been touring back in Vermont. When we moved back to Vermont in 2004, he picked us up pretty much right away, and brought us into the showcase lounge for a New Year’s Show from 2004 turning over into 2005. He invited us in, and since then, we basically have not left Higher Ground. He’s a great promoter and he, obviously, has a great vision, a clear vision, of how a festival should run, and how a concert should be run. We’ve been talking about it all along. We’ve always wanted to do a festival. This is many, many years of daydreaming finally coming to fruition.
RR: You’ve got some diverse and fascinating acts on the bill, as well, which you referenced earlier in our conversation—young and veteran acts. You just played at Red Rocks with the Avett Brothers, and I remember seeing them in a small bar where Jessica Lea Mayfield opened for them. Now, she is on your GPN festival bill. I love the fact that you’re the veteran moving someone else’s career forward now.
GP: Absolutely, and she deserves that spotlight. I think she’s really a talented person and somebody that the second I heard her voice—I think it was on a Black Keys album [“Thinks Ain’t Like They Used To Be” on Attack & Release ]—and that was the first time I had heard about her and I was like “FUCK!” (laughter)
There are a lot of those opportunities at a festival like this because it is intimate and our friends are attentive. I think they are really going to be sponges for it, no matter what. Like I said, my favorite thing is always to discover new bands. I might be going to see the main act, but I’m always pleasantly surprised by the opener, and that is what I end up taking away with me from a concert—“who was that band? That band was so good.” The same goes for a festival like Bonnaroo. My favorite thing to do is just wander around at Coachella or Bonnaroo and some of these festivals and wander into the smallest tent on
the site because you’re sure to find something really special in there. That’s basically what we’re trying to curate here, in a smaller and more definitive way, hoping that our friends are going to appreciate it. And I think they will.
RR: In 2009, I saw the band at a festival in Arizona. What struck me wasn’t just the performance, but the fact that there was a CD-signing afterwards, and I have never seen a line so long. You were there at the beginning with a big smile on your face, and you stayed right through the end, and I wondered how much time people must want from you, and yet, you have such a positive attitude while giving something back to the fans. Is that something over the years that you’ve had to stop and think about as your fan base has grown and other people have needed your time?
GP: No. If I’m going to dive in, you’ve got to dive all the way in. I think the only thing that I would ever do is to…I certainly have to organize my schedule a little more carefully, and know that if I am going to jump in and do a signing, I need to devote the time to the people because those people care enough to be in that line. They walked their asses from their car, they parked their car five miles away, they bought the ticket, they carry their backpack, they sweat it out, and so, really, I’m the one in the air-conditioned trailer backstage—why the fuck shouldn’t I go out and hang out with everybody, and give them the time of day? (laughs)
It’s a no-brainer. It’s also an incredible and emotional experience for me. Actually, I remember that McDowell Mountain signing because someone came up to me and said the song “Big White Gate” saved their life. They were in a pretty dark spot and that song brought them back and helped them to snap out of it. Those are moments where why wouldn’t you go out and want to hear those stories? They are so incredible. It’s a gift, and certainly, you have to have the energy for it, but I do. I was just born this way. I get it from my dad, for sure (laughs), but I think it is just a part of my nature to try and make that time even if my time is getting a little bit busier.