Music and activism go hand in hand for John Butler
June 16, 2015
Award-winning singer and songwriter John Butler can’t wait for his trio’s concert at Park City Live this weekend.
"Looking forward to getting back there," Butler said during a phone interview from Brisbane, Australia. "I’m stoked to be coming to Park City and play some music. Come one, come all."
The John Butler Trio — guitarist/vocalist Butler, bassist ron Luiters and percussionist Grant Gerathy — will perform its blend of roots-jam at Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Saturday, June 20. Anderson East will open the show at 8 p.m.
Butler’s set will be a mix of both old and new songs, the most recent being culled from the bands most recent album, "Flesh and Blood."
"There is a lot of music," Butler said with a sigh. "Obviously, I want to play the favorites and I want to play new songs. At the same time, we want to play rare songs as well. But we don’t want to play those rare songs just for the sake of playing rare songs. The ones we play have to be good and hold their own.
"I always find it tricky to reconcile a set, because if you don’t keep a portion of your set new, audiences will continue to expect you to be your old self," he said. "There’s nothing wrong with my old self, but you need to keep people on the same page so you’re all heading in the same direction. Otherwise, you become a jukebox."
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Last year, "Flesh and Blood" won an ARIA for Best Roots and Blues Album. ARIA is an acronym for Australia Recording Industry Awards.
For the low-key Butler, the recognition was an honor.
"It felt good and it was pretty cool to be recognized by my peers," he said. "However, I try to keep it all in perspective. When you win a category that says ‘Best’ this or ‘Best’ that, you have to realize that music isn’t about being the best. It’s not a statistical sport.
"So, when it happens, you have say to yourself that it’s cool that everyone likes it, but that doesn’t make me better than anyone else," Butler explained. "Also, if I hadn’t won an award, it doesn’t mean that I created something that wasn’t any good. You take the awards for what it is — appreciation is always appreciated, but don’t define yourself by it."
That’s how Butler has always looked at his music.
"For me it was like having a diary or a journal," he said. "It was like having someone I could trust who I could tell my innermost thoughts and feelings. It was a medium to convey and get out my emotions."
While Butler knows his early songs were very revealing in terms of personal crisis and emotions, he has grown as a songwriter.
"Now it’s [about] creating more of a broader picture or tapestry where people can see what they want into it," Butler said. "Sometimes the songs are still very personal, but there’s not much you can do about that, except maybe change the character’s name from me to Bob or Jake.
"I have found, however, that when I take my name off the story, I can add so much more than just my own personal experiences," he said. ‘That’s even more exciting to me and it gives the song more depth and breadth, if you will."
In addition, Butler has always used his music to shed light on global issues. His song "Revolution" was featured on Movement Records’ "Buy This Fracking Album," which raises awareness and funds for the anti-fracking movement. It <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Buy-This-Fracking-Album-Explicit/dp/B00X5742BI">will be released</a> on June 23.
Other artists who appear on the album include Bonnie Raitt, the late Pete Seeger, Steve Earle, Indigo Girls, Anti Flag, Rusted Root, Kristen Graves, DJ Logic and Rootz Underground, to name a few.
"This is something that I’ve always done to make sure that my career was not only benefiting me, but also contributing to the wider community," Butler said about his involvement in the album. "This is also something that music is great for as well. It’s probably one of the most powerful mediums there is. It can make you laugh and cry and give you the chills. I love to use my music for good and not evil and for me as an individual, life has more meaning when it’s not all about me."
"Buy This Fracking Album" is only one of the many social-issue projects Butler has been involved in throughout his career.
Another major project took place in his home country.
"We were part of a huge campaign to stop the world’s largest gas pipe from being built on the West Coast of Australia and I have been involved in that campaign for 10 years," Butler said. "The first protest concert we did was Save the Kimberly that was held in Broome, Western Australia."
During the show, Butler was able to perform with Midnight Oil’s drummer Rob Hurst.
"That was a massive dream come true and pretty profound moment," Butler said. "Midnight Oil was a band that totally influenced my politics and my music style. To play an awareness gig with Rob was awesome."
In addition to social activism, Butler has also accomplished goals as an artist. One was headlining Redrocks Amphitheater in Colorado.
"The first time I played in the United States was as a support for Dave Matthews 10 years ago and we opened for him at Redrocks," Butler said. "I remember looking at the venue and saying, ‘One day I would love to make this my show.’
"Well, it took 10 years, a lot of blood sweat and tears, but we have headlined that place three times now," he said. "I think that’s a major achievement."
Butler also has achieved another goal that he considers the most close to his heart.
"I have a marriage that has lasted 14 years, regardless of the amount of touring that I do," he said. "My wife Danielle and I have two beautiful kids and keeping my family tight and healthy while I’m doing this is another big thing."
The John Butler Trio will perform at Park City Live, 427 Main St., on Saturday, June 20. Tickets are available for $50 at http://www.parkcitylive.net . For more information, about John Butler Trio, visit johnbutlertrio.com.
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