From his early days busking in the streets of Australia to currently headlining shows around the globe, John Butler has evolved as a guitar player, singer, songwriter and human being. Whether backed by his stellar band or solo, his music is uplifting and powerful and his grasp of a variety of stringed instruments is deep and well seasoned. His last record, 2010’s April Uprising, debuted at #1 in his native Australia and his fan base has grown considerably worldwide. In advance of that record, I had done an interview with him in Hollywood, CA and we had a great chat. However, the magazine I was interviewing him for wanted only the gear talk, leaving what I thought were the most interesting parts of the interview on the cutting room floor.
With Butler’s new album Flesh & Blood coming out on February 4th, I wanted to release this lost interview with a modern day roots master. Even though the discussion is about his last record, his sense of character and commitment to the craft shines through. If you have not experienced Butler’s music, it’s high time you be introduced! Lucky for you, he and the band are embarking on a world tour so you can see them live.
Robbie Gennet: Tell us how you approached creating April Uprising.
John Butler: My main agenda was to have something that was very focused, very powerful and very song driven. We just humbled ourselves to whatever it needed. The songs have to hold. At the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters.
RG: How were the creative duties shared amongst your band mates?
JB: The chemistry was so good between us and we all have a very similar library of music. We all love funk, reggae, soul and good songs and we kinda came together as three producers. Because I was doing the record at my studio, we had a different time frame to work with. I’d have an idea and it would kinda mutate into something else which was always better. Our rule was: whatever sounds the best. We don’t really care where the idea came from or how simple or complex. We just had to humble ourselves to the song. That was a real nice thing to do, just being mature with it and serving the art rather than having the art serve me.
RG: I read in the bio that you recorded twenty-two songs for the album before whittling it down. How did you decide which ones made final cut?
JB: Well, getting down to the focused song made a huge difference. A lot of times the songs were musically brilliant, some of the best music we’ve ever made as a trio. This is fresh, we were really proud of it. But because the song structure, either the arrangement or a lot of times just the lyrics, didn’t make the grade. We just felt that’s some of the best work we’ve ever done musically, but …read more
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