John Butler on latest #1 album ‘Home’: “Sometimes I need to be driven by the devil on my shoulder”
John Butler Trio’s seventh studio album Home has debuted at #1 on the ARIA chart.
It is their fourth ARIA chart-topper, following Sunrise Over Sea (March 2004), Grand National (April 2007) and April Uprising (April 2010).
Their last effort, Flesh & Blood, peaked at #2 in February 2014.
Home is the ninth Australian #1 on the ARIA album chart in 2018 after The Amity Affliction’s Misery, Amy Shark’s Love Monster, 5 Seconds Of Summer’s Youngblood, Sheppard’s Watching The Sky, Parkway Drive’s Reverence, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s Djarimirri (Child Of The Rainbow), Kylie Minogue’s Golden and Vance Joy’s Nation Of Two.
As the title indicates, it is a highly personal record for Butler, about being a husband and father, a modern man, a workaholic, a control freak and, despite a laidback demeanour and sharp business acumen, one suffering from anxiety attacks.
He’d started this lyrical journey on the last album, and manages to hone the observations on the new record.
“It’s hard to explain but sometimes I feel like I need to be driven by the devil on my shoulder,” he tells TMN.
“You think you’re driving, you think you’re driving the whole time.
“All of sudden you realise that ‘Oh, that’s actually the devil on your shoulder driving’ and that you can separate yourself just a little bit.
“So, I don’t feel like I’m that anyway like cured of my illness or have come to some kind of enlightened phase, other than I feel more enlightened that I actually realise that … I can separate myself a little bit from my baggage.
“Calling myself a workaholic and all those things, it’s only because I can separate myself from it. I mean, for 10 years I was so tunnel vision. I couldn’t, I was obsessed.”
In his case, his lifestyle probably gave him a fresh insight.
Physically he chops and stacks wood, remains an avid skateboarder and runs every day.
At the same time, he manages to be in touch with his spirit with daily meditation (sometimes twice a day), yoga sessions and a strict diet regime.
Butler has always been an open book about the importance of music in his life – which in turn has resonated with his audience and created an intense bond between performer and follower, shaman and disciple.
At university, he studied anthropology and fine arts and realised he’d prefer to create art than write 10,000-word essays on art.
In 1998, when he joined forest activists to protect mother earth, he realised he needed greater motivation and purpose.
“I wanna make music because it makes me feel … magical. It does. I see the magic in the world.
“But (at the time I felt) it’s really really shallow: if I’m gonna do this let me be a vehicle for something bigger than myself.
“Let me be part of a positive influence. Let me be of service.”
Home is produced by Jan Skubiszewski, with Butler joined by long-time stalwarts bassist Byron Luiters and percussionist Grant Gerathy.
He says every aspect of Home – the writing, the pre-production and the recording – was a joyful experience. “It was awesome!” he notes.
Musically the meld of blues and electronica on Just Call and Brown Eye Bird are magical, and the gorgeous melody driven You Don’t Have To Be Angry Anymore could open doors for the band to a wider audience.
Early indications are that North America and Europe, where he has created a strong base through touring, are taking to Home in a big way.
Later this week, on October 11, JBT’s European tour kicks off in Glasgow.
It winds up on November 10 with the second of two Paris shows. 15 of the 24 shows have sold out.
The victory run for this week’s #1debut in Australia comes in summer, on the Coming Home tour, with Missy Higgins and Stella Donnelly.
Additional reporting by Brynn Davies.