John Butler Brings New Trio To Queenscliff

There are few artists I’d like to listen to, learn from and hear their opinions from more than John Butler. We are talking about someone who lists their musical influences as The Cure, Missy Elliot, Paul Kelly, and the Beastie boys. Who writes hits like Betterman, Treat Yo Mama, Zebra and Close to You. A man who was born American but who fights to save the Australian Kimberley. Between creating, performing, learning, campaigning and family road tripping, you get the sense this guy knows how to live. With the excitement building for his upcoming album, and a spot at the 2013 Queenscliff Music Festival, he was kind enough to allow me (& PEARL) to very nervously pick his brains.

PEARL: So you are in the studio now, the first studio album since April Uprising in 2010. How does that feel?
BUTLER: It’s great! I have my own studio and rehearsal room, so we have just finished recording and now we’re rehearsing the whole album.

PEARL: And you‘re hitting the Queenscliff Music Festival November. Does this mean we get to hear some of this new album?
BUTLER: Yeah! I’m always up for playing new songs if anybody wants to hear them! I’d love to!

PEARL: And you will be performing with a new line up?
BUTLER: Yeah! It’s really exciting. Niki (Bomba) has moved on to do the Ska Orchestra, which after seeing him play many times over the last couple of years, seeing where his heart lies, as a brother (in law but also a musical brother in arms) you wanna see people be where they should be. When that opportunity arose I was like “you should leave.. and.. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. But you go!” (laughs) But we got together with Grant (Gerathy) and Grant is like the perfect addition in that it feels right. And really, this serves everybody in a much purer form. It’s been a natural progression.

PEARL: Can you share with us what’s been inspiring you during the making of this album?
BUTLER: Ah yeah. I guess the first thing would be that my grandmother passed away last year. She was the matriarch of the family. She gave me my grandfather’s slide guitar, which is the cornerstone of everything with my music. So that was pretty massive. Also I went on this huge 4-wheel drive trip with my family. That was really amazing. Seeing our country and being in the bush. There’s a profound wisdom out there and its hard not to be touched by it. We met Uncle Bob Randal, an indigenous elder, and he had some really inspiring stories. Then being part of the Kimberley’s campaign over the last 10 years and winning that struggle for now. That was a huge inspiration. And I’ve been co-writing with the band. So my grandmothers passing, going bush, being part of the Kimberly campaign and co-writing were four elements that came together to make this album a really rich, neat outpouring.

PEARL: Who were/are your musical influences?
BUTLER: The Cure, The Beastie Boys, Janes Addiction and now Missy Elliot is a pretty massive influence. Paul Kelly is such a fantastic songwriter. I can’t say enough about him. He’s an Australian song-writing compass in a way. If you’re a sailor you go “ok, where’s the moon? Where’s the sun?” If you’re an Australian songwriter you go “OK, where’s Paul?” (Laughs) he’s just so rad.

PEARL: Have you got any songwriting secrets?
BUTLER:  Yeah, I basically just try to stay out of the way of the song. I kind of go into another realm and I’m able to paint them and bring them into this reality. It’s like, the worst thing you can do when you’re out bush trying to catch a horse, or out in that nether region trying to catch a song, is to break its spirit. No one wants to see a broken animal and no one wants to hear a broken song. Every song wants its saddle put on different, no two songs are the same… and I love that.

PEARL: You are known for being an artist who has a social conscience. If you had ONE message you to get across to people, what would it be?
BUTLER: It would be that we all need to stop only thinking about ourselves and think about our brothers and sisters and what’s good for our country.

You can catch The John Butler Trio at the 2013 Queenscliff Music Festival November 22-24. For all the info, visit


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