The Set List

The Set List
By Brian Washburn
Talking with …John Butler
It’s the rhythm

Funky, distorted, bionic and “super up” are words not normally associated with a band’s sound at the same time. In fact, it sounds as if it would be coming from a car rather than a musician. However, Australian based frontman John Butler still says that’s how he would describe his trio’s sound.
“My influences come from blues, reggae, funk, folk and country, but it’s kind of zoomed up,” Butler said in a phone interview last week.
Butler rocked the Arkansas Music Pavilion last month when his band, the obviously named John Butler Trio, opened for G. Love and Special Sauce.
Butler describes his live show as an important experience between the audience and the band where they both come together to make something special happen.
Butler began playing music in the streets of Australia 12 years ago after he was given his grandfather’s guitar at the age of 16, he said. Then at the age of 21, Butler made a cassette tape and started a band with the songs he played on the streets.
But while 12 years in the music scene does seem like a long time considering today’s fast pace, impatient listeners, Butler insists he does not go with anybody’s flow but his own.
“It’s most important [to me] to have my own flow in the age of excess,” Butler said. “Trends tend to regurgitate themselves about every 20 years and a lot of people rehash [the same trends], but a few also come up with some new exciting stuff.
“Hip Hop has taken a dominant role [in the music scene] now and I don’t mind it because I like Hip Hop,” he said.
According to Butler, Hip Hop has not only taken a dominant role in the world’s pop music scene, but has also been an influence in his lyrics with “it’s truth and consciousness it had… not with the bling-bling stuff happening today, though.”
Even though Butler’s lyrical inspirations might come as a surprise, his music inspiration is quite simple: rhythm.
“It’s rhythm, no matter where it comes from as long as it’s real. It could be a drum beat in a Kanye West song or a beautiful rhythmic melody like Elton John or Fleetwood Mac,” he said.
Australia has proven to be Butler’s stomping ground, with over a million albums sold and several Arias awards (something like the Australian Grammy). Butler said there’s not much difference between the land down under and the land of the free, or the rest of the world.
“In the white, Anglo-Saxon world there’s kind of the same thing going on in pop-culture,” Butler said. “Amy Winehouse is big in the states, Australia and England, and people get inspired and then people copy it.
The rest of the world (mainly the U.S.) looks to be catching on, though..
The trio has sold over half a million albums throughout the rest of the world and have performed in such festivals as Coachella, Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz Festival amongst others. Currently, though, Butler and company are unsigned in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Previously they were signed with Atlantic Records.
“We are free agents right now, but we are going to see how things go,” Butler said. “We want to find very passionate people to work with.”
Butler is currently finishing up his tour in America. Afterwards, he plans on taking a holiday then recording a new album, in which he said he has a lot of stuff written and in the process of being written.
Even though he has dominated Australia, it looks as if Butler could dominate the rest of the world. With the popularity of his sound in the states (the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and others), it shouldn’t be too hard for Butler to bust into the mainstream. It’s only a matter of time.
Final Thought: Shows like G. Love, John Butler, The Black Crowes, OneRepublic, Ween and those still to come —Eddie Money and Ani DiFranco — have made this year’s season at the Arkansas Music Pavilion the best so far. The people running it, who also operate George’s Majestic Lounge, have done a phenomenal job. If it continues to prosper, the AMP might become something more than just the enormous, white tent in front of the mall.

Categories: LIVE! In NWA