Bluesfest | 9-13 April
For John Butler it’s been 20 years since he first stepped out on stage to use that quiet charisma and that sensational guitar work to bring an audience to their feet. What you see is what you get with Butler – he’s passionate about his music, his family, his community and his world.
He’s a musician who has never shied away from lending his voice to a cause and this interview caught him just after a stint up north at the Stop Adani camp. For John it’s all part of who he is.
I can’t separate myself – what you see as a husband, as an artist or as a father is who I am. As a human being we live in intense times – it has always been intense. I think it’s important to keep hope. Hope is a verb. It’s a doing word. You don’t find hope, you make hope with your hands and the way you treat others, and from the way you choose to live your life.
When I am most inundated by hopelessness, I go to a blockade – I just came back from the Adani blockade, and you find hope there. We did it in the Kimberly when resource companies tried to move in – we stopped the destruction of the environment.
John believes that we need to get out into our community and engage to really find out what is going on.
If you are just watching your feed you don’t really know what’s going on because your feed is a false reality created by algorithms. You start to only see the world through your own lens – and that can be dangerous. The best way is to go and mingle with people, and interact with people who are not like you. This can take your opinions to the next level! I am for the environment because I like clean water and clean air and healthy community. I am not against mining. Without mining I wouldn’t have my guitar; but why open more coal mines when we have clean energy available? I will fight for those things – and I hope, in doing so, we find a middle ground that brings all sides of politics together.
We are not as different as we think we are. When you talk to other human beings most people want a job, clean water, and they would like a job for about 60 years of their life.
Music is the language John Butler believes unites us all.
Music doesn’t wave a flag. It’s not a nationality and it’s not a political party. It’s why some musicians totally avoid politics – because they don’t want to isolate their audience.
Although that’s not the case for Butler. He’s always been outspoken.
I have never been good at keeping my mouth shut!
No one wants Butler to keep his mouth shut. Whether it’s speaking up for his beliefs or singing one of his songs, we all want to hear it! Butler has almost a cowboy Zen Master approach to his song writing.
All my songs, and how they come to me, are different. Songwriters are like horsemen – they are like cowboys – we go out bush all the time, some days we are out there by ourselves and that’s when we get to see wild horses, and they are so beautiful! Not many people get to see them, so we bring them in to show people in the city. Every horse – every song – is different, and they all get ‘brought in’ differently. Some follow me without a bridle, others I dragged in. Nowadays I see the horses and I am like ‘how do you want to come in?’ Sometimes it’s on an iPad, or a piano, or while I am driving, or just through words. The less I drag them in the better – the less I break their spirit. In a sense I have become sensitive to how the song isn’t mine.
John Butler celebrates 20 years in the biz in 2020, and we’re just thrilled that he keeps bringing horses in! He performs solo at Bluesfest in Easter. For tickets and program info go to bluesfest.com.au