Grace Potter has had an amazing year.
The young rock vocalist-guitarist toured with country titans Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, shared the stage with the legendary Willie Nelson and appeared at the recent all-star tribute to The Band's Levon Helm in New Jersey.
The 29-year-old rising star, who leads Vermont's Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, has also watched the band's latest album, "The Lion the Beast the Beat," hit the Top 20 of the Billboard 200.
Yet this is no ordinary overnight success story.
"I feel like in most careers that things shoot to the sky really fast," says Potter, who will bring her Nocturnals to the Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday. "All of sudden (the musicians) were big, big stars and people say, 'How did that happen?'
"There are different kinds of overnight success -- and we seem to be experiencing the slowest kind in the world, which I love. I wouldn' have it any other way. I really enjoy being able to appreciate everything that happens to us."
An unexpected twist of fate came when the band was hand-picked to open Chesney and McGraw's summer stadium tour. Unexpected, because Grace Potter and the Nocturnals is not a country band. Yet Chesney wanted them on the bill.
"When Kenny invited us, I was like, 'Are you sure, dude? Us?' " said the 29-year-old Potter, from a recent tour stop in Kansas City, Mo. "But Kenny understands his fans. Country has changed. Country music isn't that purist thing that it used to be. So many of the songs that Tim and Kenny are performing -- if you put a different backbeat on it, or changed a lyric, or took the fiddle out, it would be a pop song. I saw a lot more connections this summer than I was expecting."
Potter says country crowds are open to hearing more than just their regular favorites -- the fans also dig the likes of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. Yet, she points out, "We aren't Jack Johnson or Dave Matthews.
"We are definitely pretty edgy and we bring our own flair to the stage," she says. "We didn't want to change anything about what we did. We wanted to just be who we were and just kind of show people what we are capable of. And if they liked it, they liked it. And if they didn't, too bad."
The tour ended up being a grand success, with the acts playing before huge crowds at such venues as the Oakland Coliseum, and it was also a blast for the performers.
"It was so much fun," Potter says. "It was like a summerlong keg party. That's not an exaggeration -- that's exactly what it was. And I loved every second of it."
Another highlight of the year also came courtesy of a country musician -- Nelson, with whom the band shared the stage at this year's Farm Aid benefit concert in Pennsylvania.
Nelson joined the group for a rendition of Potter's "Ragged Company," which was originally released on the Nocturnals' studio debut (2005's "Nothing But the Water") then rerecorded by Nelson as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of "The Lion the Beast the Beat."
"It was one of those magic moments," Potter says of the concert. "It was very much a milestone for all of us."
To top it all off, Potter joined Roger Waters, John Mayer, Joe Walsh, My Morning Jacket, John Hiatt, Mike Gordon from Phish, Mavis Staples and others in last month's all-star tribute to Helm -- the former vocalist-drummer of The Band who died in April, and who had important role in Potter's career.
Potter started out as a folksy singer-songwriter, one "totally content playing coffee shops and playing by myself and collecting the donation box at the end of the night and not sharing it with anyone." She didn't have a band backing her -- and didn't want one.
Then her friend Matt Burr (now the drummer for the Nocturnals) showed her "The Last Waltz," Martin Scorsese's film that documented The Band's (then) farewell performance of 1976.
"That was the moment for me. Levon Helm, in particular, was the musician I signaled out as a beacon for what rock 'n' roll should -- and can -- be. All of a sudden, I said, 'If this is what being in a band can be -- sign me up.' "
It would take some time, however, for the Nocturnals to transcend from being a mellow, folksy act to becoming the rock 'n' roll juggernaut it is today.
"We kind of turned up the amp one notch at a time as the years went by, and finally got our wits about us and got the courage to knock it out of the park and get loud and fiery," she says. "But it was a very steady progression."
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland