It appears that Grace Potter and The Nocturnals must be working days, too.

The Vermont-based band has been working overtime lately building a national reputation for an innovative, bluesy rock sound. It was recently chosen as VH1’s “You Oughta Know” Artist on the Rise, and members performed at the network’s “VH1 Divas Salute The Troops” concert, which aired on Sunday.

In March, Rolling Stone magazine named the group one of the Best New Bands for 2010 (even though they formed in 2002 at St. Lawrence University, in upstate New York).

So life must be very different for Potter and the band now, right?

“Nothing has really changed, expect maybe for the fact that after working at this for eight years I can really appreciate it and soak it in,” said Potter, 27. “Some people get success so fast, and they don’t realize what a big deal it is. But things for us have not changed. We rode in a limo once, but our manager did that as a joke.”

In building a fan base, Potter and her band have played clubs and smaller venue in Maine before. But on Saturday they’ll play the newly renovated, 1,500-seat State Theatre in Portland.

The band’s appearance on the VH1 “Divas” special Sunday helped vault their latest album, a self-titled work released in June, to near the top of the iTunes album list on Monday. (You can view clips of the band performing on “Divas” at

For Potter, the gig was a blast, especially when she got to sing with rock legend Heart (Ann and Nancy Wilson).

“During rehearsals I couldn’t stop touching Ann, but then I just resolved that I couldn’t be groping her during the show, so I got control of myself,” said Potter.

Potter grew up in Mad River Valley, Vt., and was exposed to an eclectic array of music thanks to her parents. They ran a business putting together multimedia slide shows for events ranging from weddings to the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Her musical heroes range from Michael Jackson and Madonna to Kurt Cobain. But when she’s not performing, she often likes to listen to music that’s very different from her own — Frank Sinatra is a favorite.

Her vocals can range from slow and bluesy to loud and raucous. Her sound has been compared to Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, and the band’s sound definitely has a 1960s and ’70s vibe to it.

Potter plays a throwback instrument too, a Hammond B-3 organ. She says she began playing organ on stage because she needed a louder instrument than guitar (which she also plays) to be heard above her loud voice.

The band formed partly because of the isolation of St. Lawrence University, near the Canadian border. Potter says there wasn’t much to do there when she was a student, so she’d often look for people to drive to Ottawa with her and go browsing record stores. Two of her record-store browsing pals were Scott Tournet and Matt Burr, who joined her to form the band that became The Nocturnals in 2002.

2006, after a ton of gigs, they had built a loyal regional following and played the Bonnaroo Festival. In 2007, the band signed with Hollywood Records, and spent the next three years working hard enough to become one of Rolling Stone’s “best new” bands of 2010.

The Nocturnals have also played on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and did a cover of “White Rabbit” for the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” film last spring.

When the band plays Portland, the opening act will be Blues and Lasers, a spin-off of The Nocturnals featuring Tournet and Burr. The music is more “like art,” said Potter, and often features a little bit of a light show.

Potter will not sing with them, but she’ll still be loud.

“I’m their biggest groupie, yelling from the front row,” she said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]