Hello, thanks for visiting. This is a simplified version of the interview with Butch Walker that I originally did for his fans in Japan. Though some modification was necessary from the Japanese version due to translation, his words are true to the original. Hope you enjoy! 🙂 (Japanese version published on 7/4/2016)
Afraid of Ghosts – Stay Gold
You posted that you had “a feeling of almost ‘celebration’” during writing/recording of Stay Gold, after the very sad loss of your father three years ago. My main impression of this album is that it is ‘uplifting’, although it has some nostalgic, sad songs.
Did you mean to make it that way from the beginning, or was it a natural process?
It was definitely just natural. You come out of something like death with a clarity you can’t describe until it happens to you. I suppose also putting out so many records and being older now really makes you nostalgic.
Compared to “Afraid of Ghosts”, which is filled with raw, clear, acoustic sounds, with deeply personal, and thought provoking lyrics, the difference of the atmosphere of “Stay Gold” is notable. While you were coming out of “The Dark” (the last song of “Afraid of Ghosts”) to finish this record, what (thoughts/experiences) helped you to get through?
I took a lot of long motorcycle trips often by myself, just to think and process my thoughts on everything. I think you have to start assessing life when you hit that mid-life phase. It helped shape a record for me that was equally cathartic as the last one.
The 1st cut from the record “East Coast Girl” is such a good kick off for the album release. There are some people that say it reminds them of Bruce Springsteen. Is The Boss one of your music heroes?
He’s without a doubt a huge hero of mine and a role model for never giving up, never staying the same, and always being inspired the live show. Funny enough, “East Coast Girl” to me is straight up “Kid” by the Pretenders, but I guess since I sing naturally more like The Boss than Chrissie, the comparison shines through!
Can you describe this record in one word?
Making of Stay Gold
I have been wondering if Ryan Adams produced this record again, or he just came by to play some instruments.
Could you tell me about the album’s credits: producer, guest players, composers etc.?Also, I love Ashley Monroe’s sweet vocal in “Descending”. How did you two come to work together?
Well thank you! Ryan was going to produce it again this time, but had to deal with a messy divorce and I had a very short window to get this thing recorded. He told me he still wanted to be involved and I happily obliged. He plays guitar and piano and also just overall co-conceptualizer of the whole record with me.
Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. played all over the record and sang backups with me as well. He’s from one of my favorite bands called Jellyfish. My friend Suzanne Santo of the band honeyhoney played violin and sang most of the backups with me on this record. Ashley and I wrote “Descending” while she was on a plane for LA, via text! Never done that before. She’s a badass.
From what I remember, the first time you posted about this record was autumn 2015. How long did it actually take to write songs and record them?
It came together quickly. They say love comes in spurts. So does songwriting! The recording process is always less time. Maybe 2 weeks to cut the record.
Introduction to the songs
Could you kindly introduce (briefly, if you wish) all songs: backgrounds, inspirations, recording memories, favorite ones, meanings behind the titles etc.?
1. Stay Gold
A kid in my town that spent a lot of time alone. I see it in my son now.
Written about a lost love back when I moved to LA, with stars and dreams in my eyes, and every girl I met was my future ex-wife. Most of them were so damaged though. Just like me.
3. Wilder in the Heart
Again, an unrequited love from the past. He picks her up at the airport when she’s passing through town many years later after he’s settled down in life. It’s a “what we could’ve been” story.
4. Ludlow Expectations
Wrote this walking around NYC and remembering all of the wild nights I’ve had in that city built on electricity and passion. A great place to be when you’re young. Ryan Adams plays my favorite guitar solo on the whole record in this one.
5. Descending (feat. Ashley Monroe)
Again see above for the back story on this one. I texted Ashley, while she was flying to LA, how things were in her love life. She texted back “We’re Descending”. I didn’t know how to take that. I thought she meant her relationship. She meant the plane was landing, so she had to put away her phone. I said “we have a song title to write about now”. We wrote the song very quickly after that.
6. Irish Exit
I’m the king of this old drunken move at public situations. I hate getting drunk and having to say goodbye to everyone so I just usually leave out the back door. That’s called an “Irish Exit”.
7. Mexican Coke
I fell in love with every woman that walked by when I was a younger kid. I remember having a crush on this tattooed Latina older girl that was a dancer at a strip club! I was not even old enough to drive yet. I feel like it’s a John Hughes “Pretty in Pink” moment but those movies summed up my life.
8. Can We Just Not Talk About Last Night
Again.. Another spin on an 80’s John Hughes teen film coming to life. Friends sometimes fuck up and have sex because of this underlying sexual desire for one another that never started that way. It just manifested over time. One of my favorites on the record.
Divorce. It happens. Very Eagles vibe. Proudly.
10. Record Store
I literally wrote this one on the last day of the recordings because I felt like I didn’t have an album closer. I had been waking up a lot in the middle of the night to write lyrics that kept coming to me at odd hours. I had a lot of memories coming back to me about hanging out with a girl I liked in my small town, at the local record store. We connected over a lot of music.
The story sort of becomes a little bit tragic when she goes on to be famous and consumed by drugs, fame and no scope on reality. The boy is still in his town and although amounted to nothing special, he’s remained a true friend to her.
This coupled with the passing of culture and time to where we don’t even have record stores to congregate and feel a part of music anymore. It’s so impersonal. Digital feelings. No interaction. Computer-generated emotion. I suppose you can put record stores in the same lost pile of forgotten toys as pay phones and video arcades.
About being categorized as Country
How do you feel about your recent music (including “Afraid of Ghosts”) being categorized as (modern) country? Did you intend to make “Stay Gold” another country oriented record?
I never thought about it as country music at all. I suppose the same way that The Stones or Elvis (Presley and Costello) dabbled in the genre, it was never intended to be that. It’s just inherently in my DNA.
I hate most modern country with a passion so I would never want my music to be sitting next to Florida Georgia Line, singing about all the Country cliches.
200 Pound Tornado of Rock N Roll Destruction Tour
I see your fans, especially in the US, are super excited for your summer tour starting in August. Who are you going to bring with you this time as your tour band members?
(I am hoping that Yahoo! Live would broadcast one of the shows like the Minneapolis show in May 2015, which was epic.)
Thanks! This band is gonna be awesome! It’s Mark Stepro on drums, my friend Suzanne Santo (of honey honey) on vocals and violin/Gtr, Chris Wray on keys and gtrs, Whynot (that’s his real name) on bass.
You once tweeted that some male fans tend to prefer band shows, not just you with a guitar. What made you decide to tour with a band this year?
Not those guys! I tour sometimes by myself because I need to. It’s sometimes a necessity but I don’t feel like I’m cheating people of a great show. A lot of dudes just never listen to anything but RAWK music, and for some reason, I am filed under that category for them. Then again, it’s weird how many people don’t connect with lyrics at all. They only like songs with loud guitar solos and screaming vocals.
Speaking of shows, it was a nice surprise that you played “Love Ain’t Enough”, which was one of your father’s favorites, during the last tour. I have never thought you would sing a SouthGang song at your show. It must have been a great tribute to him for sure.
Are you planning to play very old songs that you haven’t played for years, or never played, on this coming tour?
It’s always nice to pull something old out of the basement to dust off and bring back to life. It’s just a matter of making it work in my show and also can I relate to it after all these years? I don’t care one way or another about what band the songs are from originally. I connect lyrically with some cover songs before my own, ya know? So yes, there will be some old surprises on this tour!
Time managing tips
You are a solo artist, a busy producer, and a cool dad to your 9 years old.
I am pretty sure you are very good at managing your time. I know you are an early bird, but do you have any other tips to share?
Sleep when you’re dead. I think of my brain isn’t waking me up in the middle of the night with ideas and things, then I must be bored and content. Never settle. But take vacations. Reset the system sometimes.
Autumn Leaves Project
You have joined charity events for over 15 years and more as far as I know. I heard Autumn Leaves Project, which was founded by you, will be more active this year. If there is anything you would like to tell/promote, please feel free to do so.
Every month, someone I know, loses someone to Cancer. It’s awful and we need better screening tests in the US, where our health care situation is pretty questionable at times. There’s a lot of money to be made off of the ill, and that’s just wrong.
I will be doing our first ever Autumn Leaves Project concert/fundraiser at the end of this year or beginning of next. I’m excited. We are already getting locations and sponsors.