Throughout his entire career, John Butler has always been inspired to pursue the inner meaning and quest for something more in his music and writing. Following up his 2007 release, Grand National, the John Butler Trio has returned with a passionate and revolutionary album that lights a flame in everyone. April Uprising is a diverse record that retains and transcends the spirit that is alive and within us all.
In the midst of a tour that stretches to all ends of the world, Glide recently had a chance to catch up with John Butler to talk about the new record among other things. The JBT will be touring the United States through May and June, while making stops at the Bonnaroo and Wakarusa music festivals.
I heard you mention that sometimes the musicians you work with either have a specific chemistry at the present or fit the songs for a reason. How much is that still apparent on April Uprising with the recent band changes? Is there a different energy on this project?
It seems like the last three albums I have in some way or another. The music kind of dictates what it wants and I have to obey that and the only way I know how to listen to what the music wants is to follow my heart. Yeah, so every different combination of the trio definitely affects the song and how we go about recording.
You were featured recently on the show “Who Do You Think You Are.” How much of that experience, in tracing your ancestry generations, had an influence on the idea or thought process with the new record?
I think it added to the spirit and the attitude in which I recorded it. But not as much because most of the songs were already written before I learned about my ancestry. “April Uprising” is a great metaphor at the end of the day for a whole personal uprising for me.
Having done the string of U.S. shows back in February, what type of vibe and reception were you feeling from the audience and their reception?
All really positive feelings. Our fans have always been really supportive over there. Nothing has changed except that it’s gotten strong and stronger over the years. So yeah, it’s quite exciting to start this next chapter in the U.S. People have just been pulling together their strength and have been real supportive. It was a lot of fun.
I really like the instrumental outro on the song, “Johnny’s Gone.” It’s almost like a departure from the rest of the record. Was that an addition after the basis of the song had been assembled?
It’s more like a segway between “Johnny’s Gone” and “Close to You.” It was a tail end of a song that didn’t make it on the album but the ending was so amazing. We just loved it and had to put it on the album. It was something we recorded at my studio in Australia.
The song “Rugged Mile” seems to have this never ending search for something. Can you explain the meaning behind the song and the overall feeling on it?
Yeah, it’s kind of like an inner voice, or the voice of your own self – something that’s beyond yourself and beyond time. If you’re asked, who are you? Not even just our bodies, ourselves, or even our names. There’s something else, the essence or even the soul. It is that eternal energy that we are connected. And I guess that’s what it’s really about. That’s the energy of it at least. It’s a spirit song, you know?
In what ways is it similar or different when playing for audiences in Australia versus the United States?
I think it’s a bit more relaxing when I’m playing with my countrymen, to a degree. It just depends, because you’re at home. We have family from all around the world and they’re all brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters. Sometimes it’s not all that different because we all want the same things in life. We all want to get together and have a good time and have an experience that can transcend everything and make you feel like you’re part of something bigger. And America is no different from anywhere else. But America is very passionate and enthusiastic and positive and it’s always great to come to America and be received like that when we’re there.
Personally, who have been some of your influences in writing and music?
Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Eminem, Beastie Boys, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan. There you go, there’s a few.
I think it’s great that you have established The JB Seed foundation in helping the careers of other artists. What sort of advice would you give musicians out there who are searching for something more?
Yeah, we support a lot of bands who are out there touring the venue circuit and recording. But what sort of advice? I’d say, work hard, work your butt off, and then work a bit harder. And that’s not only at touring but at your craft and songwriting. Be engaged, have fun and enjoy the journey. Don’t get too caught up in the goal to the journey. I think people want to see people enjoying themselves on stage, not trying to be just huge and a big success. They want to see an artist who’s unforgiving in their pursuit to express their voice. The most important thing is to have a voice that is unique and that is your own and doesn’t sound like somebody else. I don’t think it’s really exciting to see another Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple or Stevie Ray Vaughn for that matter. It all goes to the source, and I want to see someone play their voice not someone else’s.
Yeah, something that’s personal and a unique expression of the individual.
Yeah, anybody can sit down and learn what somebody else does, but it’s more interesting when you create something new and make it your own.