Red Light Management

John Butler Trio

www.johnbutlertrio.com/

Artist Bio

The Man in the Mirror

The contradictions in John Butler are evident, and, despite his magnificently successful career (with number one albums in Australia and sell-out tours) his is a troubled soul. One of the most successful recording artists Australia has ever produced and a musician whose reputation has begun to rock the waters of both Europe and America, Butler is nevertheless a man on the edge, poised like a beautiful suicide. Where will he go next? Up or down? Despite the tensions within the man and his music the new album makes his future trajectory abundantly clear.

An independent role model, founder of Australia’s Jarrah Records, family man and proud skateboard aficionado, JB, in spite of his matey public persona, remains an enigma. He is from everywhere and nowhere, an Australian/American, Everyman/Nowhere Man, and his music mixes rootedness and rootlessness, pain and celebration in a way that is utterly beguiling. He is the consummate rebel-refugee whose songs chart disenchantment with the corporate world and show a yearning for truth along with an ongoing struggle for a sense of locus. The songs’ off-centre grooves have always been their charm, and yet now there is a sense, in the new album at least, of resolution and peace after years of being against the world and what it offered. Maybe the man on the brink will not jump after all?

The Past

Born in California and of mixed Australian, Greek and Bulgarian ancestry, Butler began his musical career in classic if tentative style. The narrative arc is well-known Down Under. An art-school dropout, he was ‘discovered’ busking in 1996, bystanders marvelling at ‘the sweat flying off his brow’ and ‘the holy madness in his eyes’. The tape of these early compositional soundscapes Searching for Heritage gave an inkling of where Butler was going, reaching as it did both forwards and backwards in time, conversant with all genres and yet somehow defining its own. The sound had, and still has, elements of folk, funk, reggae and rock all drizzled through the 90s Seattle sensibility. Behind all that there was a wistful Celtic ambience surreally counterpointed by a Jamaican roots/rudeboy vibe. What could have been a mess somehow made perfect sense, with the bluegrass fingerpicking, hip hop beats and psychedelic wig-outs proving not uneasy bedfellows but perfect complements.

Now

On Flesh & Blood it goes even further, yet with a restraint that bespeaks a deepening maturity. There are dirty Stevie Wonder style boogies, ghostly refrains that could come from Simon and Garfunkel, sonic poltergeists which seem, at times, to resemble lost rock classics. In the hands of a lesser man this would be mere thievery dressed up as ‘eclecticism’. But Butler is a maestro – he takes his influences and transcends them. He creates a sound that is as ancient as aboriginal bone-art and yet as modern as your Twitter feed. He has been hailed as one of the world’s greatest guitarists, a musician’s musician, one whose sound offers not three chords and the truth but a thousand. His prestidigitation is astounding. An old song like “Ocean,” for example, has chalked up 30 million Youtube hits, and not just with guitar freaks studying his technique. The new album has songs that are less expansive and more ‘reined in’, but the playing is all the more impressive for being more tightly corralled. Less sometimes really is more.

Flesh & Blood may be his best yet. In parts it is simply overwhelming. The album has captured that elusive thing: soul. Butler has spoken in interviews of his songs being like ‘wild horses, wild beasts’ and you can see what he means. Songs, he says, come from the ‘ether’, from a savage hinterland: they must be caught without breaking their spirit. A ‘song-capturer’, Butler’s job has been not to tame those horses but to present their wildness. His myth of composition evokes the timeless expanse of both the Aussie Outback and the American West, and he and his fellow band members have been at pains to honour the songs as independent things that belong to no one, least of all themselves.

Arising from a series of agenda-free jams in Butler’s studio ‘The Compound’ in Fremantle, (Australia) the album took a mere 20 days to record and, though beautifully structured in sonic terms, there is a rawness and honesty to the album that reflects the brevity of its laying down. The songs have a wide-open, semi-improvised feel. The crisp and beautifully spare production of Jan Skubiszewski accentuates the sense of limitless space: the drums (courtesy of the aptly named Nicky Bomba) kick with dub explosions, while the bass (‘Lord’ Byron Luiters) goes on inspired transient walkabouts. Butler’s voice, free of the ‘anger’ that has dogged him for so long, now soars with both melancholy and plangent purity.  “Wings are Wide” evokes rainforests: it is drenched in dizzying guitar loops in which the listener is enmeshed and lifted timelessly elsewhere. “Spring to Come” could be a classic, Butler’s acrylic fingernails plucking more of their extraordinary patterns. “Blame it on Me” is a cocky peacock-strut juxtaposed with dark references to apocalyptic ‘heavy times’. “Young and Wild” has the simple beauty of a song – a down home-country feel offset by the gorgeous shadowing of female vocalist Ainslie Wills. “How You Sleep at Night” is a hypnotically anthemic piece featuring the ferocious drumming of new man Grant Gerathy; Bomba having jumped ship (albeit amicably) to front his own Melbourne Ska Orchestra. The synth-anchored “You’re Free” sounds like its title: it is as if the composer, haunted by righteous ire, has taken flight, escaping earthly confines but not flying too close to the sun. New single “Only One” shows a new maturity in pop craftsmanship. The quiet/loud dynamic is beautifully exploited yet again. A simple three note refrain and rolling storm-cloud drums establishes a minor key mood: a place of ‘castles built out of sand’ and ‘something haunting’ the protagonist. But then the chorus erupts with steel drum euphoria transporting the listener to what sounds like Africa — a third world of ecstatic being. That is the JB trick par excellence: the shift from fireside ballad to communal dance, from private to public, from doubt to assertion.

Home Again

With Flesh & Blood, Butler has come full circle. Searching for Heritage led ultimately to April Uprising, an album that delved into Butler’s family history, one in which ethnic Bulgarians (Butler’s kin) rose up in 1876 against the tyrannical Ottoman Empire that had suppressed them. John’s own name derives from his paternal grandfather, a forestry worker who died fighting a bushfire in Nannup, Oz. From these historical titbits we glean some inkling of the artist. He is a man fighting for justice, a man fighting fires — those of love gone bad, of corporate greed, or simply of his own angry soul. As Butler has confessed in a recent interview, “I thought my anger was my strongest asset and that’s what made me powerful, but it was actually my weakest link. My vulnerability, my honesty and patience and trust are my strongest attributes.” The album bears this out. As Butler has matured the anger has been sublimated in poetry, and his voice, on the tender love songs especially, has become his outstanding instrument.

Flesh & Blood is a testament to his talent, and to a man who has finally found himself. On some songs he sounds simply reborn. “I wanted the songs to be a lot more guttural and fleshier,” says a newly humble JB. “I wanted to smell it and feel it a bit more. And I wanted my voice, now and always, to be more convincing.” If it’s authenticity he was seeking he has surely found it.

If he has been a ‘man on the edge’ he is certainly not going to jump and end it all. He now has the wisdom and the courage to take a step back – and enjoy the view.

John Butler is no pie-in-the-sky hippy. He has dirt beneath his feet: red dirt. He is well-known Down Under for his environmental and political commitment. His white Rasta look once suggested a teleported Bob Marley – but that has gone. The more recent barbered image makes him look like a handsome American from the Civil War era. His stare is hypnotic. Who will draw first, you or him? He is not, however, all gun and no trousers. He has put his money where his mouth is, fronting a campaign that helped stop a vast gas plant from despoiling the natural beauty of the Kimberley area in NW Australia. He has also set up a charitable trust that has enabled many aspiring artists to find an outlet. He is a man who cares about the world he is in and one who has tried, in his own way, to set in right.

John Butler Trio

Flesh & Blood – February 4, 2014

Vanguard Records

 

 

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Management - North America

Management - Rest of World

Tour Dates

Oct 31 2020
Good Day Sunshine 2020
Metricup, Australia
Nov 07 2020
To The Point
Sandstone Point, Australia
Feb 21 2021
Summer Salt
Hobart, Australia
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Apr 01 2021
Bluesfest Byron Bay
Byron Bay, Australia
Apr 07 2021
Diego Fabbri Theater
Forlì, Italy
Apr 08 2021
Politeama Genovese
Genova, Italy
Apr 09 2021
Gran Teatro Geox
Padova, Italy
Apr 10 2021
Gran Teatro Morato
Brescia, Italy
Apr 12 2021
Salle de l'Alhambra
Genève, Switzerland
Apr 13 2021
Bierhübeli
Berne, Switzerland
Apr 14 2021
Kaufleuten
Zurich, Switzerland
Apr 16 2021
La Rodia
Besançon, France
Apr 17 2021
L'Autre Canal
Nancy, France
Apr 18 2021
La Laiterie Artefact
Strasbourg, France
Apr 20 2021
La Cooperative de Mai
Clermont-ferrand, France
Apr 21 2021
La Belle Electrique
Grenoble, France
Apr 22 2021
Espace Julien
Marseille, France
Apr 24 2021
Le Corum
Montpellier, France
Apr 25 2021
Le Bikini
Ramonville-st-agne, France
Apr 27 2021
La Nef
Angoulême, France
Apr 28 2021
Le Rocher de Palmer
Cenon, France
Apr 29 2021
Stereolux
Nantes, France
Apr 30 2021
Chabada
Angers, France
May 02 2021
Le MeM
Rennes, France
May 04 2021
The new wave
Saint-malo, France
May 05 2021
Trianon
Paris, France
May 06 2021
Trianon
Paris, France
May 08 2021
De Roma
Antwerp, Belgium
May 09 2021
Tivoli Vredenburg
Utrecht, Netherlands
May 10 2021
Théâtre Sebastopol
Lille, France
May 11 2021
Big Band Café
Hérouville-st-clair, France
May 13 2021
den Atelier
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
May 15 2021
O2 Empire Shepherds Bush
London, United Kingdom

News

10/09/2018

JOHN BUTLER TRIO’S HOME IS #1 IN AUSTRALIA SHARES NEW VIDEO FOR “TELL ME WHY” NORTH AMERICAN LEG OF WORLD TOUR LAUNCHES NOVEMBER 16th

October 8, 2018 (Los Angeles, CA) – John Butler sees new album Home go #1 in his native Australia, further cementing his title of Australia’s best selling independent artist of…

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08/02/2018

JOHN BUTLER TRIO TO RELEASE ‘HOME’ (OUT SEPTEMBER 28 VIA NETTWERK RECORDS)

August 3, 2018 (Los Angeles, CA) – Award-winning band, the John Butler Trio will release their forthcoming studio album HOME on September 28 via Nettwerk Records. While continuing to create…

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08/25/2017

John Butler Trio Take Aim at The Bully With Stand-Alone Song Released Today August 25th

August 25th, 2017 /New York, NY USA: Whilst working on a new studio album due for release in early 2018, the John Butler Trio have released BULLY as a new stand-alone track. Available now on…

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