A true alchemist does not turn lead into gold but instead changes the world into words and music. Such is the magic of celebrated Grammy nominated guitarist, singer, songwriter, producer and filmmaker Jon Butcher.
While every inch of the heavens were engulfed in flames and penicillin could no longer save the world Jon Butcher welcomed the darkness as a canopy where the stars hung so we could shine. As society was crying for the moon Jon was creating a new album to be released later this year entitled “Jon Butcher/Special Day.” The record was spawned from a reflection of who Jon really is, a gentle soulmate of the heart capable of producing music that celebrates a rare and unique sophisticated anarchy showcasing his fierce and passionate vocals along with enthusiastic vibrations via his guitar.
Refreshingly believable Jon Butcher knows that life isn’t defined by what we let go but by what we let in. Filled with texture and color his music is the truth….not just a version of the truth….But truth itself.
What inspired “Special Day?”
I think anybody that makes music…. we make records in order to share either thoughts or feelings. That’s really what it’s about at its root. This past year or maybe even two years have been so chaotic and so unpredictable that my reaction to it was to talk about things in music. I really have an adverse reaction to soap boxing. I’m really not the guy that’s going to go down with Trump…..with obvious protest music. I call my writing short stories. Stories about people are relatable to other people. Broad topics like peace, the economy, and racism often times don’t resonate because they are not specific to human beings. They are not specific to people’s lives. I write small stories about human beings that either I know or are in my sphere or about myself. That’s what inspired the record. The chaos of the past year and a half or two years.
What type of message or what are you hoping that people get from listening to your songs?
Messages are weird. Again, that goes to my soapbox theory, I don’t want to send messages. If there is a message in the music I write, the word would be human. Being human. That’s what matters to me. Human relationships matter to me and how we’re supposed to get along in a world that pulls us apart. I guess that’s the message. It’s not very astute but it comes from the heart.
Have you had your ultimate stage fantasy?
Oh yeah…several times over. When I first started touring and making records, we were asked to open for the J. Geils Band during one of their biggest records “Freeze Frame.” That was my beginning. It was 80 cities and it started out with three nights at the Boston Garden where I was getting to be a hot shot…and it was New Year’s Eve. So, I played at the Boston Garden for three nights in a row, one of them New Year’s Eve. That probably looms large as one of my biggest rock ‘n’ roll fantasies or stage fantasies. To feel that electricity in a house of 12,000 people and to know that you have something to do with that, it’s indescribable!
That’s a great fantasy come true.
I’ve done a lot of things and have been very fortunate. I’ve had great experiences like meeting and working with Jeff Beck and meeting and working with all kinds of incredible players and musicians. It’s kind of been the story of my life. I’m a lucky guy and I’ve had incredible fortune in meeting with and working with some extremely talented and special people.
Who are some of these incredible people that you might hope to work with again?
That’s tough. I can’t even count the amount of tours that I’ve done since 1993. I would have loved if he was living to have worked with BB King again. I met him in Los Angeles when we lived there, and we played at the Hollywood Bowl. I had the chance to be in his presence. He was a very special man who I wish I could’ve spent more time with.
BB King is certainly a legend. So, if you could help me ask you any question on the planet what would you want me to ask you?
That’s really hard…. being a writer you tell stories and you write stories that have meaning for you. So I’m always interested to talk about music, I love talking about art, I am always interested in talking about guitars…I’m ashamed to say I haven’t grown up yet. I still like talking guitars with my colleagues. I think I’d like you to ask about the songs on this record because the record is so important to me.
What makes this particular record so very important to you?
Because…I think I’ve finally learned how to do it. I think I finally found my beat. When I first started making records, I hated my voice so much I can’t even tell you. My first two records were successful but the thing is I thought my voice sounded squeaky like I was standing on my tippy toes to sing a note. I hated it and still can’t listen to my first two records …. I’ve been told not to say that because the music has meaning to my fans, but the reason I say it is because I was just figuring myself out. I was figuring out how to sing. I was figuring out how to write. I was figuring out what my point of view was. I was just putting all of that together. And “Special Day” is me finally getting it.” Finally learning how to tell stories that I think are interesting to other people and how to sing in a way that’s fun or emotional for people to listen to. I think I’ve refined my craft. So making this record is about me thinking….”It took long enough Jon for you to figure yourself out.” I did and the stories on this record are important to me and they will make a connection with other people too…
I know that as an artist when you write a song, it’s special to you. However, is there a song on this album that is super special to you and that you can’t wait to perform live?
I don’t think so. I love “Special Day.” I can’t wait to take that on stage. I haven’t yet. But I also like “Devil’s Train to Houston.” It’s the first song on the record and the reason why is because that story of Houston losing their power and what was going on in Texas resonated with me and I found a way to say it that wasn’t preachy. So, all of those songs on the record make it hard for me to pick one. I’m really looking forward to doing them all on stage. I used to play the Paul Simon song a long time ago, “Still Crazy After All These Years.” I used to do an acoustic version of it and it was always successful in my show, so I decided to put that on the record in a way that I think pays homage to the original. At least I think so. I think that people that hear it and that love that song will like this too.
Yes, you’ve definitely made it your own. Let’s go back a little bit in time to “baby Jon”….what first encouraged you to play music?
Where I grew up was a little village called Liaho, Alaska. My father worked for the government and there used to be in the late 60s radar bases in Alaska. They kept us safe from Russia. Anyway, to make a long story short, I grew up watching old TV, meaning the shows that we got were a year or two or maybe more behind. Consequently, I grew up watching singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. I was convinced when I was a kid that I was going to be a cowboy. So, I wanted to play guitar, I wanted to wear cowboy boots, and I figured that they always got the girl at the end of the movie. It all looked pretty good to me. I figured that that would be a great way to have a life, being a cowboy in my own mind and that’s what brought me to guitar and music.
That’s a great story, were you born in Alaska?
I was born in Pennsylvania, but my family moved to Alaska when we were kids, me and my brother. So we grew up in the middle of nowhere. I went to a school called “Brown’s Trailer Park School” and there were three people in the fifth grade, and three people in the six grade, and three people in the seventh grade, and we were all in the same room.
That’s so crazy.
My interest in Cowboy stuff extended into my adult life. When I moved to California from Boston, I hooked up with this group of cowboy re-enactors. They would lend themselves out to movies. So, I fell in with these guys somehow and before I knew it I was in a cowboy commercial. There used to be a commercial with cowboys in a saloon and I was one of the Cowboys. That led to me to doing music for the HBO show “Deadwood.” So I’m living my cowboy fantasy to this very day!
The official website for Jon Butcher may be found at https://jonbutcher.com