"We have been compared to Dolly Parton on acid, Leo Sayer on downers somewhere between the philharmonic orchestra and Slayer."
You know that something special is happening when you see thousands of people in front of the stage at huge music festivals, totally captivated by what they're hearing...and it's the blues that has captured their attention. Forget any preconceptions you may have of this style of music belonging in smokey blues bars, men in suits bashing out familiar sounds. The John Butler Trio have taken it to a different place, twisted it and added their own interpretations, and removed any idea of the style being stale.
The blues are cool again.
Born in San Diego, and growing up in Perth, John Butler is the heart and soul of the John Butler Trio. A passionate environmentalist, his music has managed to thrive, despite the stigma that much politically inspired music has in this country. From forestry practices, to indigenous issues, to uranium mining, his songs cover a range of important issues. There's still room for the odd love song though.
The John Butler Trio may never have been, if it wasn't for a gift John was given as a teenager - his grandfather's old guitar. He received this gift at around the same that his awareness of environmental and issues was being formed. I guess it's not surprising then, that much of what he has to say is expressed in music, and song.
In 1996, John Butler was playing on Fremantle's streets as a busker. Possessing incredible talent, he was able to earn enough to record his debut ep by 1998, which sold well. To this day, that is the way the John Butler Trio do business. They are not signed to any record label, not even an independant. They reinvest the money they earn, and in this way have become totally self financing. In the early days, when the costs of recording left John broke, he'd hit the streets again, busking.
The John Butler Trio's break came with the song Pickapart receiving national radio airplay. Western Australia is quite isolated from the rest of the country, but talent like The John Butler Trio were never going to remain hidden forever. Pickapart was the song that introduced them to the rest of the country, and they've never looked back. Suddenly, the numbers at concerts jumped dramatically. People started talking about this alternative blues band, and they branched out to play to audiences outside of their home state.
Following their success has come recognition, and in 2001, The John Butler Trio's album Three won an ARIA award for best independant release. Three has sold over 50,000 copies, a remarkable achievement for an album that has never had the power and resources of a major record label to promote it.
It's not difficult to see why The John Butler Trio have gained such popularity. Their music seems to have the ability to grab you, and force movement. I would challenge anyone to listen to them play live, and stay still. If you managed this feat, I'd be forced to check your pulse. Groove based, rootsy blues, played with incredible skill and precision. John Butler is a gifted guitarist, a dreadlocked figure seated on stage, fingerpicking like a madman. Combining this fingerpicking style with slide, and many open tunings, it's sometimes difficult to believe that everything you hear is being played through a 12-string acoustic. Live, many of the songs are a total journey. Seven or eight minutes long is probably an average length for the songs - live, they can easily be double or triple that length. Take was the last song they played at Homebake, 2001. John Butler's promise before starting to play was "we're going to take you on a trip".
- Guitars, Vocals
- Drums and Percussion
- Bass, Double Bass
Rory Quirk -
Bass, Double Bass
Up until mid 2001, Gavin Shoesmith played bass with the band, and Gavin played on all the albums that the full band has appeared on.
- Searching for Heritage - 1996. Released on cassette tape, and no longer available, this was the first release by John Butler himself. An absolute collector's item.
- John Butler - 1998. Although only carrying the name John Butler, this was the first album to feature what was to become the John Butler Trio.
- John Butler Trio - 2000. (E.P.)
- Three - 2001. Winner of the ARIA Award for Best Independant Release, 2001.
www.johnbutler.com - Official Site
Some of the best live shows I've ever had the pleasure to attend
bexxta, for solving the mystery of Rory's surname, which had me throughly puzzled.