In-depth Interview with Dyanne Potter Voegtlin of Potter’s Daughter

At some point last year, I became aware of the band Potter’s Daughter, and their lead singer Dyanne Potter Voegtlin. I can’t remember who reached out to who, but we have been talking to each other through Facebook, and I was lucky enough to hear the wonderful debut album. At some point we discussed undertaking an interview which was promptly forgotten by both of us until a mutual friend tagged me in a video of Dyanne playing a grand piano, which made me realise that we hadn’t spoken about the idea since. Here is the result of the ensuing conversation, with someone who follows some very different musical paths, but it all comes together in this amazing band. If you have yet to hear these guys you are missing out, and I know by the end of this piece you are going to be searching for them, and your ears will thank you forever.

Who, what, when is Dyanne Potter Voegtlin?

I have spent my life searching for the answer to this question and I am still working on it! But what am I like? I am both outgoing and reflective; I love performing on stage and interacting with the audience, but also require solitude. I am a wanderer; from an early age I knew I wished to live in many different places and experience the richness and variety our world has to offer. Being a musician has made it possible for me to live in several countries, immerse myself in their cultures, and befriend many different people. I am fascinated by people and their stories. Practically speaking, I’m a pianist, composer, singer, entertainer, lyricist, traveler; I love being outside in nature, I love animals, I love feasting and celebrating, I love hiking, mountain streams, sailing, I love hearing people laugh and sing, I love doing yoga at sunrise, I love sitting around a campfire, I love drinking my morning coffee. I love my family and friends. 

The most important thing for me, for my Life, is to seek depth in my relationships, in my connection to others, to Music, to Life. I am so grateful to be a musician because music encourages connection in so many ways!

Who first influenced you to start performing music?

I was born into a musical family. My mother directed our church’s choir (for over 50 years!), my father played in the army band, my brothers and sister each played an instrument. I thought it was something everyone did. I was able to play piano by ear very young, so when my sister’s piano teacher heard me plunk out a tune on the piano, she recommended I begin taking lessons to avoid learning incorrectly. I was three years old. I began performing at age five. I played in a recital at Carnegie Hall that same year. I remember the only reason I really liked playing in all those recitals as a young child was because after the performance, cake was often served! My parents took us to see many concerts and performances, I loved them! I remember specifically, seeing “Up With People” and begging my mother to let me audition. She thought I was too young, alas. I remember seeing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and being moved beyond words. And then, I discovered Yes, Genesis, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer!!!!!

What inspired a classically trained pianist to start working with rock bands, and how did that come about?

Even though I studied classical piano my entire childhood, I still loved popular music. My older sister had a few albums and I listened to them; Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, also Rufus and Chaka Khan. My brother and I would play all those songs together, he on electric guitar, me on piano or organ, and singing at the top of my lungs! Good thing we lived out in the country!!! 

I had the opportunity at age 16 to audition for a successful cover band in the area, East Coast Revue. They were really good and played every Friday and Saturday night. I had to play “Hold the Line” by Toto to prove my keyboard skills and I had to sing “I Will Survive” to show my vocal skills. I luckily got the job and started working with them every weekend. What a wonderful and fun time!! I thought I was so cool, working in bars when I was just 16. I felt like such a rebel!

Then I moved to NYC to attend the Manhattan School of Music. I continued my dual musical life, studying and practicing the classical piano repertoire, listening to Yes, King Crimson, Laurie Anderson, Kate Bush, and performing with a band of fellow MSM students at different colleges and venues in the city. 

After I graduated from MSM, I was hired as keyboard player for Shirley Alston Reeves, the former lead singer of the famous girl group, The Shirelles. I toured with her for two years, and it is from her I learned how to engage the audience. The Shirelles were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996! Not long after leaving Shirley, I toured playing keyboards with Noel Redding, the bass player with Jimi Hendrix. During that tour, we did a show with Ginger Baker. What a thrill!! We also opened for Blue Öyster Cult in NYC with Tico Torres playing drums with us. Very cool!!! I then started working with an agent who booked me to play and sing in fine hotels and piano bars in Europe. I traveled 6-8 months out of every year, playing in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Greece, Japan. Then I would return to NYC and perform with Potter’s Daughter.  Twice while playing in Lugano, Robert Palmer came to hear me and sang some songs with me. Really fun!!!!

Then I met my husband in Switzerland, moved there, and lived in Switzerland for 14 years. It was during that time I got in touch with Jon Anderson. He was accepting submittals for a new project and I sent him an orchestration I had done. He loved it, and I did several arrangements for him. After we moved back to the USA, I reconnected with my friend Amit Chatterjee, and restarted Potter’s Daughter!

Since releasing our debut album, The Blind Side, in 2018, we had the honor of recording a single (Blood and Water) with the fabulous Annie Haslam, and have also recorded a still-unreleased single featuring Jon Anderson which we hope to include on our upcoming second album.  

You trained as a classical pianist, toured with Shirley Alston Reeves and Noel Redding, then went back to playing piano and hotels. Why the switch?

That was a function of survival. I was a young musician in NYC struggling to make enough money to pay rent. I worked while attending MSM at whatever sort of job I could get; waitress, concert hall usher (this one was great because I heard amazing concerts for free!), I worked in a health food store, sold office supplies over the phone (hated it!), worked as a live-in nanny. I lived in an illegal basement apartment for a time. I would move from one short-term sublet to the next since the rent was cheaper. I moved so many times, my brother Dave claims he only knows his way around NYC with my futon on his head!! I used to have to take my DX7 and Memory Moog on the subway to get to gigs because I could not afford a cab. I lived once for two weeks on frozen spinach and rice I was so short on money. 

So, when I had the opportunity to travel to Europe AND get paid PLUS expenses, it was a no brainer. My bags were packed, and I was out the door!

You say that when you came back to NYC you used to play with Potters Daughter. How different was the band then to what it is now.

I think the band is more of a group now than it was then. In the beginning, the band was more of a support to me. Now, we are a team; Jan-Christian is a huge part of the composition process, both Amit and Jan-Christian help me arrange the songs, and certainly, the amazing instrumental prowess of both Amit and Jan-Christian have a huge effect on our sound. As far as the name, Potter’s Daughter, well, my maiden name is Potter. When I was in my early twenties, I played dinner music in several different restaurants. One of them was the Elmhurst Country Club, where my parents are still members. Whenever I would play there, some of my Dad’s golfing buddies always came up to the piano to ask me, “You’re Potter’s Daughter, aren’t you?” I guess it just stuck!

How would you describe Potters Daughter to someone who has never heard you before?

My friend and Melodic Revolution Records labelmate, Joe Deninzon, said it best, I think. He says our music is a lovechild between Joni Mitchell and Bela Bartok. Haha!!! We call it Art Rock/Prog Fusion since our vocal music is quite different in style to our instrumental music. But this is known in Prog, with bands like Frank Zappa and ELP, whose instrumental music was often quite different than their vocal songs.

I am aware our music is difficult to fit into one genre, which poses challenges, mostly for marketing. However, in my opinion, it is exactly our diversity that makes our music interesting and exciting. I come from a classical background, Amit from Jazz Fusion and World Music, Jan-Christian from Jazz, blues, classical. We bring all these sounds and influences into our set. 

What do Amit and Jan-Christian bring to the band?

AMIT CHATTERJEE PRODUCER, ARRANGER, GUITARIST

Amit Chatterjee has produced all our recordings thus far and arranged all the songs on The Blind Side. He also plays most of the guitar solos on our recordings. Amit played guitar in jazz legend Joe Zawinul’s band for 11 years, performed in international performances of Zawinul’s symphonic masterpiece “Stories of the Danube” and is featured soloist on the recording of the work on Phillips Classics. Other stellar musicians with whom Amit has worked include: Peter Erskine, Victor Bailey, Manolo Badrena, Badal Roy, Eric Johnson, David Liebman, and many more.  

Born and brought up in India in his early years and living in the United States since his teens, Amit has acquired knowledge and experience in both modern Western music (jazz, funk, blues, rock and pop) and North Indian Classical music. It is this rich palette of sounds, harmonies, rhythms, and posture, which Amit brings to all his musical projects. Amit’s playing is passionate, virtuosic, expressive, and sensitive.

JAN-CHRISTIAN VÖGTLIN COMPOSER, BASS, BASS SYNTH

Jan-Christian co-composes almost all our material with me. He is a multi-instrumentalist, primarily playing bass in Potter’s Daughter. Jan-Christian focuses on unrelenting groove, and his wide knowledge of modern jazz harmony, melody, and rhythm allow him to effortlessly combine and move between genres ranging from progressive rock to jazz and fusion to world music. Classically trained in Switzerland (where he was born and raised), his compositions build upon poignant melodies and chordal movement along with a strong rhythmic presence, and are influenced by classical, impressionist, jazz, and fusion schools. One of the most unique aspects of Jan-Christian’s bass playing is his combination of traditional and non-traditional approaches to bass. He solos on the bass as effortlessly as if the instrument were a guitar; he is featured soloist in many of our songs, especially in live performances. Jan-Christian is endorsed by the Ribbecke Guitar Company, with whom he is developing an innovative one-off 7-string bass. He is also known for playing R-Bass and Zon Fretless basses.

How did the collaboration with Annie Haslam come about?

We have been lucky to work together with Billy James from Glass Onyon PR since releasing our debut album. Billy has been a huge help to us. It was he who suggested we approach Annie. We had just recorded a single with Jon Anderson as guest vocalist (we plan to include it on our second album!). Jon was at that time getting ready to go out on tour for his 1000 Hands tour, so there was no time to finish that single and release it. I spoke to Billy about it, and he suggested we record a different song and ask Annie. Billy introduced us and set it up for us. We sent Annie a demo of Blood and Water along with our vision of the collaboration and she loved it! She said she was intrigued to sing on something which showcased her lower register for a change! Annie phoned me and we had a lovely chat, and we arranged the details. She was getting ready for the Strawbs 50th Anniversary Concert, so there was a bit of a time pressure! We quickly sent her the tracks and she recorded her vocals with Rave Tesar at his studio. The whole experience was a great honor for us.

How did you become involved with Nick Katona?

I actually reached out to him! I had been in touch with several record companies; I was interested (and still am) in building a dynamic and enthusiastic team. What makes Nick Katona stand out from the crowd, in my opinion, is his heartfelt style and approach to music and people. I want to work together with motivated people I truly like and respect. And I love Nick!! He is absolutely motivated; he lives and breathes music! And he is respectful, fair, approachable, and open-minded. I am so grateful to be working with him and Melodic Revolution Records!! 

You mention the second album – what is it going to be called and when are we likely to be hearing it?

We are playing around with a few different titles at the moment. We have been prolific during quarantine and the songs we want to present on the album keep changing! Jan-Christian and I are spending May/June 2020 organizing the songs and arrangements. Once that is completed, we will decide when we can get everyone together to record. I am old school in that way. I want to record the second album with the band all together in the studio, playing as a unit, just as we recorded ‘The Blind Side’. The energy is just different when we all play together, and I believe it affects the sound. I imagine we will release the album in spring of 2021.

Where can people discover your music and find out more about you and Potter’s Daughter?

We do our best to be present online as much as possible. There are several opportunities to connect with us! Here are our links:

Potter’s Daughter Online: 
Website: https://pottersdaughterband.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PottersDaughterBand/
MRR Artist Profile: https://mrrmusic.com/potters-daughter/

Listen // Buy // & Share:
Amazon: amzn.to/2qsUdKn
Bandcamp: bit.ly/2Mqk1PM
iTunes: apple.co/2P1hTQm
Spotify: spoti.fi/35O57uo

Media & Booking:
pottersdaughterband@gmail.com

Label Contact:
Nick Katona
nick@melodicrevolution.com

Interview by Kev Rowland

FAINT SIGNAL – FORMULA – INDEPENDENT

Faint Signal originally came together when a post on Craigslist asked if prog rock was dead in Cincinnati. As a result, Henri Eisenbaum (guitars, keyboards, vocals, percussion) and Randy Campbell (vocals, basses, pedals, keyboards) started working together and in 2014 they released their self-titled debut. I do not know why it took so long for the second album to come out, but in 2018 ‘Formula’  was finally released. This involved nine musicians and five recording studios, and like many these days was supported by a crowdfunding campaign. As a way of paying forward, the band set aside a portion of all proceeds from this release to purchase for instruments for school children and the school music programs. I have never known any music program get the funding they need, as arts seem to be the first things cut in budget rounds, so this is something which definitely strikes a chord with me.

This is polished prog which has a great deal in common with the Nineties American neo-prog scene. When they want to turn up the guitars they do so with gusto, and they immediately reminded me of the lost-lost (and much-missed) Ilúvatar, with some Saga, plenty of Pink Floyd, plus The Flower Kings and post-Neal Spock’s Beard. The songs are well structured, with good vocals, and there is a quirkiness throughout the album, starting with the album artwork itself where we see band member’s heads in jars. I would have preferred more “real” drums on the album, but this is a long-standing gripe of mine and actually the sequenced drums here are not nearly as bad as they could be, I’d just rather have a human at the back as the music to me always seems far more honest and direct. Most songs are relatively concise, there is no room here for the guys to go on extended solos but instead, they concentrate on the job at hand, which makes the album very immediate indeed.

I did see a review that likened these guys to Gandalf’s Fist, and although I do not necessarily agree with it, I can understand where it is coming from as there is a similar approach in some areas. The use of additional musicians just for certain songs really does add to the interest, and the result is something which is incredibly polished and enjoyable from the very first hearing, and that only grows the more time it is played. Great songs, superb vocals, I can only imagine there was a dearth of progressive bands in the area when Henri and Randy first came together given how that transpired, and hope they have inspired many more in their area to get out there as this is a really enjoyable album. Refined, relaxing, I can listen to this all day. This album may have been out for two years, but with no reviews yet on Prog Archives it has been missed by many, and that certainly needs correcting. For all fans of well-structured commercial progressive rock, this is a delight. 
 8/10 Kev Rowland

FERNANDO PERDOMO – THE CRIMSON GUITAR – INDEPENDENT

It isn’t a new idea to undertake a work that is dedicated to covers of already known and loved songs, but it is somewhat unusual for one person to take the music of just one band and translate it into the classical form. Again, this isn’t exactly without precedent, and while everyone is fully aware of the many full-blown orchestral attempts over the years (some of which have been incredibly successful, such as David Palmer’s work on the likes of Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd, others not so much), there have actually been a few other attempts with far less bombast, and I am still a huge fan of the two albums by Yngve Guddal & Roger T. Matte where they translated Genesis for two grand pianos. But, racking my brain and my personal library I cannot think of another quite like this.

Here Fernando Perdomo combines his love of classical guitar and King Crimson to create something which is a worthy tribute, and successful on all counts. One thing I particularly like is that this recording does contain a few slight fluffs, which allows me to think that each recording is solid without any drop-ins or overdubs. Indeed, with the resonance of the strings, it would be hard for that to take place. Ten songs, with a total length of just 25 minutes, this is a delight for any fan – as to whether it works for those who don’t know any of the pieces I am unable to judge, as this is like meeting old friends who are familiar, but somehow quite different as well.

Fernando Perdomo says of the release: “’ The Crimson Guitar’ is my passionate love letter to the amazing King Crimson music that fascinated me when I was first learning classical guitar in my early teens… I created these arrangements with the utmost respect for the music and legacy of the band. My hope is to bring light to the delicate beauty of the songs”. I think he has achieved that with some ease, as these are a delight, making them somehow more original and also inviting the listener to go back to the original albums and compare the two. Sheer class from beginning to end and essential for any fan of King Crimson.
8/10 Kev Rowland

LES PENNING WITH ROBERT REED – RETURN TO PENRHOS -TIGER MOTH RECORDS

To fully understand this album, one first needs to provide a small history lesson. Les Penning a famed folk musician who first started working with Mike Oldfield with ‘Ommadawn’. He also introduced Oldfield to medieval music when they were working together at Penhros Court, hence the title. For this album he is working again with Robert Reed, continuing a collaboration which has been taking place over the last few years (I love their version of the “Doctor Who” theme). Here we see the pair returning both to medieval music and the stylings of Oldfield, where Penning plays a large variety of woodwind instruments (reneaissance treble and soprano recorders, alto crumhorn, garklein, owl ocarina, tenor gemshorn, low F and D whistles) plus the bowed psaltery, while Reed plays everything else. I must admit, I had to trawl google to understand what some of those instruments were, as there are a few there I had not previously come across! There is virtually no percussion on the album, with Reed providing a bodhran here and there, but it used sparingly. 

Although the album is bookended with originals from Penning, this album is based heavily on music from Playford’s Dancing Master, a dancing manual containing music which was first published by John Playford in 1651, while other songs are marked “Medieval”, “Old English 16th Century” etc. Penning is of course known for his research in this area, and one of the numbers included is “Argiers”. Again, this is originally from Playford’s Dancing Master, but this arrangement is by Oldfield, and appeared on ‘Ommadawn’. With this all being taken into consideration it is not a surprise as to what this album sounds like, namely medieval music being performed by Oldfield in the mid to late Seventies. Reed has even captured that distinctive electric guitar sound, and together the two musicians have created something which is entrancing, beautiful, beguiling, and almost hypnotic (in “The Fall of A Leaf” there is even a tubular bell). There is no rush, no desire to get from one place to another, the joy is in the journey, as the musicians become magicians and cast a spell.

This is music to be savoured, for the listener to sit down and enjoy without distractions as the world goes by. It takes us back in time, promising sunny days and smiling, happy faces with no fear of catching a virus by stepping outside. It is summer in fields, the light reflecting on a babbling brook, it is a joy and sumptuous delight which keeps on giving. Simply put, if you have ever enjoyed classic Mike Oldfield and the style of music he was producing some 40+ years ago, then this is absolutely essential.
10/10 Kev Rowland

LIFE IN DIGITAL – SIGNS TO THE FAR SIDE – WHITE KNIGHT RECORDS

Life In Digital were formed in 2016 by John Beagley and Robin Schell, and this is their second album together. Doing some research, it appears that Robin Schell was in the running to become singer for Yes at one point in the late Eighties, and if that is true it wouldn’t have surprised me as she is very similar in some way to Jon Anderson: I actually thought it was probably Jon Davison singing until I looked at the press release. I don’t know who played what on the album, but the result is something which is very synth-driven, and when the band say the album is inspired by 80’s Yes together with Buggles, I couldn’t have put it much better myself, although probably more to the latter than the former. The vocals are great, and the songs interesting, but there really is too much in the way of synthesisers, and the lack of proper drums is a real issue here. I would like to see these guys morph away from being just a duo and become more of a full band with less reliance on studio overdubbing and layering, using more real instruments.

I have seen some absolutely rave reviews for this album online, but for me this is interesting and enjoyable without ever stepping up to the next level. I enjoyed it, and I am sure any fans of the two aforementioned bands will get something from it, but there is not enough depth and solidity within this for me to say anything more positive about it. There are some string guitar lines and solos here and there, but not enough to be consistently powerful and driving. I haven’t heard the debut so don’t know if there has been any change between the two, but it will be interesting to see what the next one is like and if they have moved on, as then it could be very good indeed.
6/10 Kev Rowland

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