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Byron Shire
December 7, 2023

John Butler’s blues period

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After a stint of solo shows this year with his Tin Shed Tour, John Butler headlines Bluesfest with his legendary and much-loved John Butler Trio. He spoke to Mandy Nolan.

How important do you think it is to stay creative to keep in touch with your inner voice? There are a few inner voices so it depends on which one you are talking about. There’s an inner voice that is actually stinking out the whole room at the moment; that’s not a nice inner voice. There is another inner voice; it says, ‘I’m a piece of shit’. I try not to listen to that one either. But the one I think you may be hinting at, yeah, I think it’s always good to keep in touch with it. I think following your gut and intuition is a very important aspect of living a fulfilled life.

How do you nourish yourself as a creative person? I do the things I love, a lot, and sometimes that’s actually just having a nice meal with somebody and other times it’s an obvious thing like playing guitar or painting. I think being creative is a function that human beings were designed for and you can be creative in every minute.

What are the things beside song writing that you also enjoy or find inspirational? Painting, hanging out and camping with my family, skateboarding and hanging out with my friends.

Do you also get inspiration in the grind? The boring everyday stuff? I was with my three-year-old at the doctor’s and she lost it after an hour and declared ‘Waiting is so hard’. I thought it was very profound – what are similar situations that have opened doors for you? I spend most of my time constantly travelling, trying to get to a show which only goes for 2/24ths of a day. So I spend most of that mundane time trying to stay creative. I also run, which is a great way to see a town or city.

How important is story to your songwriting? It’s becoming more and more important as I look for more and more things to write about, and there is nothing like a good story.

What are the stories that have touched you… including films or books of recent times? Jandamarra – a story of an Aboriginal freedom fighter. Anastasia – which a friend has recommended to me and I have just started to read. My daughter really wanted me to read the Harry Potter series, so I’m half way through that.

What is it about performing live shows that most excites you? The exchange, I like making something happen with the audience. Being part of that special moment, something that gives you the chills.

What’s it like sharing the stage with your partner? She cleverly established herself as an entity separate from you… and did so with gusto… you better watch out Butler, you could be known as Mama Kin’s husband! Is it tricky managing two musical careers and a young family? It’s great sharing the stage with my partner; I love it. I am her biggest fan. It’s so good to see her blossoming into the artist I always knew she was. I think it’s tricky balancing any life with a partner, let alone both of us being touring musicians, but we’re tighter than ever before.

What are the compromises that you need to make to keep the ball rolling? Life is full of compromises and the balls roll with or without you anyway. It’s all about balance and that is the hardest thing to do, but no life, no ball, no rolling.

What should we expect for your Bluesfest show? Scantily clad women hanging from the rafters with rare marsupials that have mohawks – as far as the band’s concerned, we’ll be the ones underneath making the music.

John Butler Trio headline the Mojo Tent on Sunday. For more program and ticket information go to www.bluesfest.com.au.

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