Interview: John Butler Trio
John Butler Trio has released his new album Home and has broken down the codes of music again. Between the bluegrass, folk and rock style, the Australian band have a unique flow of their own. With his emblematic instruments as the 11 strings guitar, the lap steel guitar or the double bass, live concerts are definitely made for musicians and acoustic lovers. On stage, they give everything they can until exhaustion for the greatest pleasure of their fans. We have encountered John Butler in Paris, at the mythical Olympia concert hall.
"Hi John, how are you feeling being in Paris for these two concerts ?"
"I’m feeling good and I’m really happy to be here. It’s good to be back in Paris."
"Your new album Home has been released one month ago and your French fans are really enthusiastic about it. What is your relationship with them?"
"Yeah! We got a good relationship, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s been a long time, we met fourteen or fifteen years ago I think. I have been coming here for fifteen years. When we first came to Paris, it was like we were playing for an old family. Actually, it was really surprising how much they made it feels at home."
"You have blended lots of different styles in Home providing a more synthetic sound, why?"
"It’s just because of the music I like and I listen to. I kind of always been doing it, but I guess the era has changed and new styles of music came in. I’m constantly listening to all of it. I really wanted to bring synthetic sounds to the album and it’s something that it has been kind of becoming for a while, but I didn’t really have the instruments around to do it. So it just didn’t happen. Now, with the new apps, you can make your own sounds on your phone and make them ring as you want. Some songs in this album have an electric drum sounds. So once I made them, I really wanted all these things to come shining through my love of Timbaland or Beyoncé. I like bluegrass [American root music] but I love Beyoncé. I always try to combine those influences in the way that feels harmonious but not like clever. I just want it to sound like it’s at home."
"Where do you write your songs?"
"Because I got Garage Band, it’s really easy to use it on the iPad. So, most of the time, when I’m on tour or in backstage, I put on Garage Band and I start recording my songs. And a lot of times, the guitar, the percussions and the songs that I’m writing are quite different. So, I was able to make them myself. I didn’t need to buy three drum machines and five synthesizers and work out how to use my studio, because that shit kills me."
"Why are you using fake nails instead of picks?"
"I’ve been using fake nails for 20 years. The reason why is because my nails were breaking and the thing is that the guitar eats nails as I eat food. If you make them thick enough, they don’t sound really bright, instead they sound quite warm and they don’t break so easily. It helps me to get a lot of precision."
"Can you tell us more about the song ‘Just Call’?"
"It’s an old song actually, but in a way a new one because I finally finished it. It took fourteen or fifteen years to do that. For fourteen years I just had the main riff and nothing else. The riff is, I guess, very folky."
"You really have a unique flow and special colours of your own. Why do you use your 12 strings guitar with only 11 strings?"
"It’s an 11 strings guitar because it sounds better to me and because the high G string always breaks. So, I just decided to remove it and to replace it with a scroll because I like violins."
"If you had to give a piece of advice to a young musician, what will it be?"
"Work your ass off. Just follow your passion and remember that you don’t have to sound like everybody. In fact, it’s your limitations and your difference that will make you stand out, more than sounding like Hendrix or John Mayer or somebody else, you know. No one wants to hear somebody sounds like somebody else, they want to hear from you. Your style could be made by your limitations but as long as you work really hard, it’s gonna work. Just do your best. I think a lot of people think the music industry is an awesome thing because you can do what you love for work, and that is true, but it’s also so much work."
"Thanks for your time John!"