Butch Walker – Artist SpotlightGuitarSpotting
We’re excited to debut a new feature called the Artist Spotlight. The goal is to shine a light on some artists we feel are worth your time to get to know a little better.
And we’re going to kick things off with the criminally underrated Butch Walker.
Every now and then you encounter an artist, and wonder why they aren’t way more popular. And Butch Walker is at the top of our list, though he has certainly forged out a solid career.
But even if you’re reading this article thinking, who the hell is Butch Walker, odds are you’ve heard a song that he’s had a hand in writing, recording or producing, somewhere along the line.
Still, we’re pretty sure Butch isn’t overly concerned about not trending on Twitter in the teen demographic. He’s a critically acclaimed singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, bassist, pianist, drummer, author, and professional drinker, and is well-respected in the music biz. Plus fame is overrated, anyway.
Butch Walker released his latest solo album Stay Gold on August 26, 2016.
It’s a welcome return to rocking out after 2015’s mellow, introspective Afraid of Ghosts, largely written while dealing with the death of his father.
Walker wears his influences on his sleeve, and Stay Gold has a 70s classic rock, Springsteen/Petty vibe going, inspired by growing up under the influence of small town Americana. It’s got some great quiet moments, and a whole lotta rock.
We’ve been listening to it pretty much non-stop ever since it came out.
“With a world so black and white, boy … stay gold.” – Butch Walker (Stay Gold)
Bradley Glenn “Butch” Walker grew up in Cartersville, Georgia, near Atlanta, and currently spends much of his time in Malibu, California and Nashville, Tennessee, when not on the road. He is married to Nora Walker, and they have a son named James Blue Walker.
Butch first signed to a major record label as a member of the hair-metal band Southgang, where he played lead guitar. After the band broke up, he started a new group called Floyd’s Funk Revival (later called The Floyds), and spent a lot of time touring in the mid-90s.
The band later morphed into Marvelous 3, with the group releasing 3 albums in the late 1990s, and scoring a minor hit song with ‘Freak of the Week’. Marvelous 3 broke up in 2001, and Butch has since released a series of solo albums, and also appeared in a side project called 1969.
Growing up in Georgia, Butch played guitar in several local bands including Badd Boyz and Byte the Bullet.
In 1988, Byte the Bullet decided to leave the comforts of home to seek out fame and fortune on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, where the burgeoning late ’80s hair metal scene was in full swing.
In L.A., they caught the ear of legendary promoter Bill Gazzarri, and were soon playing regular gigs at his club Gazzarri’s, located on Sunset Boulevard right near the Rainbow Bar & Grill and Roxy Theatre. Gazzarri’s had been around since the sixties, and had previously featured The Doors and Van Halen as house bands. In the late 80s, a lot of pop-metal bands played there, including Guns n’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Quiet Riot and Warrant.
Byte the Bullet quickly gained a reputation as a quality band, eventually signing a record deal with Charisma Records. Because there was already another band with the same name, theirs was changed to Southgang.
The band was comprised of Jesse Harte on vocals, Butch Walker on guitar, Jayce Fincher on bass, and Mitch “Slug” McLee on the drums. Butch was billed on the debut album as “Six stringin & Back up singin”.
Southgang’s first album Tainted Angel was released in 1991, and produced by Desmond Child and Howard Benson. Child was a well-known songwriter who had co-written songs with Kiss, Bon Jovi, and Aerosmith, among others, and was brought in to help out with the album, receiving a co-writing credit on every song.
The record was slick, well-recorded hair metal and received some airplay at the time, but was also relatively formulaic, and in the end, not overly successful.
Southgang was notably one of the first rock groups to ever tour China. They were offered a 6-week tour, and promised around $10,000 for their trouble, provided that they completed the tour as scheduled.
It was a surreal experience, and at the second last show, the band members found themselves in a sold-out venue in a Chinese village. Unlike most of the other gigs, audience members were allowed access to the floor of the arena near the stage, and the band was told not to do anything that might incite the crowd.
They soon decided to ignore these instructions, encouraging the crowd to stand up and make noise. These were people who weren’t used to expressing themselves publicly, and a mini-riot ensued. The band was eventually whisked out of the venue and into a van. Luckily for them, it was driven straight to the airport (rather than someplace a little less … hospitable). The band returned to America, but their equipment was still in China.
They didn’t technically finish the tour, and never did receive the money they were promised. To add insult to injury, they even had to take out a large loan to pay the fees to have their gear shipped back home.
In 1992, the band recorded their second and final album Group Therapy. Heavier than the debut, it also failed to achieve much success or airplay. By this time, the tide had already begun to turn against hair metal bands thanks to the burgeoning alternative grunge scene, and Southgang broke up shortly after its release.
In 1997, Butch, Jayce and Mitch created a new band called the Marvelous 3. Now down to 3 members, Butch handled both vocals and lead guitar, in addition to writing the songs and co-producing the albums.
Inspired by alternative rock and Britpop bands, they opted for a more power pop sound, and released their debut album Math and Other Problems on the Deep South label.
In 1999, Butch’s recorded a batch of new demos, and one song called ‘Freak of the Week’ was heard and liked by some industry types, who assisted Butch and the band in getting back on the major label rollercoaster. They signed with Elektra Records and soon released their second recording, the Hey! Album.
The Hey! Album is Marvelous 3’s best work, featuring intelligent song structures, rocking power pop guitars, and snarky clever lyrics. ‘Freak of the Week’ was an alternarock hit, and the video got some airplay on MTV. Some of the better songs on the album include ‘Indie Queen’, ‘Until You See’, and ‘Vampires in Love’.
Marvelous 3 toured like crazy, opening for a number of bands including Collective Soul and Blink-182, and appearing on the WB show Charmed.
The band released their 3rd album Ready Sex Go in 2000.
It’s probably the closest Butch got back to a “hair metal sound” in his career, in terms of the songs themselves and the overall mix of the album.
Fans are divided as to whether this was done in a mocking way, or as an homage: the truth is probably a little bit of both.
We like to think of lead single ‘Grant Park’ as Butch’s lost hair metal classic, and it would surely have been a hit single in 1989.
The album’s closing track ‘Cigarette Lighter Love Song’ is one of Butch Walker’s very best songs. It starts out as a tender ballad, and slowly builds to a rock-out climax.
Despite checking off all the boxes for what a band needed to be successful in the late 90s, sales were sluggish for Ready Sex Go, and major success remained elusive for Marvelous 3. And by this time the band was at odds with the record company regarding several different issues.
“There has been an incredible amount of “lack of interest” for the band over at Elektra (‘cough, ahem, Neglectra, cough, cough’) Records lately, and that comes as no surprise, seeing that every record they put out most recently, sinks like a dead, anchored body in the Hudson River…Well, the time has come. We are free from Elektra. I asked them to let us go, and they did. WE DID NOT GET DROPPED. I ASKED TO LEAVE.” – Butch Walker (2001)
The group decided that their best course of action was to break up. And so at last, Butch parted ways with his pals Jayce and Mitch, and started thinking about a solo career.
Butch Walker – Solo Artist
Butch’s debut solo album, Left of Self-Centered, was released in 2002.
While still writing loud, catchy rock songs, he began expanding the range of his subject matter and musical style. Highlights include ‘Alicia Amnesia’, ‘Sober’, and ‘Far Away From Close’.
After spending so much time on the road over the previous decade, Butch felt a little burned out by touring, and decided to focus more of his attention on the studio. In addition to producing or co-producing his own songs, he also started writing and producing songs for a variety of musical artists.
He co-wrote SR-71’s hit song ‘Right Now’, and this track (as well as Butch’s own song ‘My Way’) was featured on several tv shows and film soundtracks.
In 2004, he released what may be his best album, Letters. For anyone looking to get to know Butch better, we recommend starting here.
Letters was recorded in just a couple of weeks and features few overdubs. It’s just a group of authentic, catchy rock songs featuring a mix of classic, alternative and modern rock sounds.
Album highlights include ‘Mixtape’, ‘Maybe It’s Just Me’, ‘#1 Summer Jam,’ and the stark, edgy piano ballad ‘Joan’.
Butch really found his voice on this album. The lyrics, vocals and instrumentation are excellent, and his already great songwriting ability had reached a new level.
“You gave me the best mix tape I have
Even all the bad songs ain’t so bad
I just wish there was so much more than that,
About me and you …”
– Butch Walker (Mixtape)
The song ‘Mixtape’ appeared on the One Tree Hill soundtrack in 2005, and ‘Maybe It’s Just Me’ is one of Butch’s signature songs. It’s hard to recommend just one or two, however; the whole album is great.
By 2005, Butch was back out on the road playing over 200 live shows, and he released a DVD called Live at Budokan. He was also named Rolling Stone’s Producer of the Year.
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