Butch Walker has it figured out.
Record producer for music's biggest acts by day, and by night he takes his own show on the road.
And he's made quite a name doing it.
I first found Butch Walker over 15 years ago while browsing the Columbia House discount CD bins. I know this doesn't set him up well, but the version we have today is a far cry from the leather clad edgy rocker I saw on the cover of "Left of Self Centered", his first solo record.
Let's back up.
In 1988 Virgin records signed Southgang. The Georgia born and raised, Bradley Walker, shredded on guitar for the glam rock band, giving us what we now recognize as some signature Butch Walker stage moves.
Southgang suffered a breakup, and Butch, with a name change in honor of his now late father, "Big Butch", transformed select members of Southgang into the MTV phenom, Marvelous 3. They received massive attention with the single, 'Freak of the Week'. You may have heard of it. It was huge in 1999. "A one hit wonder I think describes it best", Butch sings in 'Going Back/Going Home' off his 4th studio album (and my favorite), "Sycamore Meadows".
We've barely nicked the surface.
Butch Walker has gone through several phases and its quite apparent from album to album. Something about where his life and music has landed right now, feels so right. He's comfortable in his skin. And he made it out of the 2000's alive and with a hit, "Mixtape".
A quick read, that I highly recommend is his 2011 memoir, Drinking with Strangers. It was highly anticipated in his fan community, and followed by a special documentary, 'Out of Focus'. You get behind the scenes glimpses of not only his music, recording and touring process, and strife with band members, but a rare look into his childhood and home life. He's an otherwise private guy.
And a genuine one! I had the privilege of meeting him about 4 years ago before a show at the Fillmore in Detroit, MI. They really should lock their venue doors before shows! I walked right in with my (30 yr Butch Walker fan) friend and we caught the tail end of soundcheck. He walked off the side stage, and in assumption that the moment was over, my friend walked off for the bathroom having felt like she could now die happy. Butch was now in front of me and it was all I could do to not shout for my friend like a fan girl, but I kept my cool and chimed in about the odd setup of the chairs in the general admission area. In my defense, having been to numerous shows of his at this point, I found it odd to have metal folding chairs covering the area that normally turns into a dance party. That tour was the first since Butch lost his dad to health issues, so the vibe was a bit more sorrowful than fans were used to.
My friend approached (I'll never forget her face), and we shared sweet moments and tight hugs with Butch before heading back outside to get in line for the evening's show.
Butch Walker has experienced, it seems, every aspect of the music business, from 80's glam metal band to struggling solo act. He has producer credits for big acts such as Panic! at the Disco, P!nk, Weezer, Fallout Boy, Train, and so many more. But the most interesting thing about him is the music he writes and creates for himself. His most recent album, Stay Gold, yet again touches on his life growing up outside of the ATL, and you can definitely pickup on musical influences, like the late Tom Petty. Summer of '89 is a fun play on Bryan Adam's 'Summer of '69', and is the perfect coming of age tale. Listen, he has a biker gang, he's a doting dad to the coolest kid, Jamie Blue, he's friends with odd ball celebs like Johnny Depp (who also plays guitar with him on the tune '21+', and he is so damn talented.