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- Posted on Apr 6th 2010 2:00PM by Katie Benson
The California-born lead singer and songwriter of the John Butler Trio believes their new release, 'April Uprising,' is his best attempt at achieving this quality. Their trademark mix of dancehall, roots and rock remains, but Butler believes his 5th studio release rings with a stronger clarity.
"It's always been really eclectic, from rock to reggae, ballads and folk, but I think there's been a distillation happening in my song writing over the last three years," he tells Spinner. "Listening to Bob Marley and the Wailers and the Beatles and stuff, as a musician you start to think 'wow, what makes this song so bloody good?' Everything is extremely concise -- say as much as you can with as little as possible. As a songwriter, that's what I'm looking to do. I guess I got closer to it on this album."
Butler credits part of this new clarity to his experience on 'Who Do You Think You Are?' an Australian documentary series that follows celebrities tracing back their family roots. Through the show, Butler discovered his relatives were survivors, buskers and one branch had even been instrumental in the Bulgarian 'April Uprising' of 1876, an insurrection which indirectly resulted in Bulgaria returning to autonomous rule.
"We hear a lot of times that if you know where you're coming from there's a sense of power and pride that goes with that. It gives you a clear sense of where you're going," says Butler. "All the things I learned through that whole process changed me and gave me a better sense of myself. Learning about my ancestry gave me a huge strength of power and stability, and that energy, that conviction translated into the album."
But the album title was not only the result of Butler's family journey. After dissolving a lineup that had been touring and recording as the John Butler Trio since 2004, Butler recruited brother-in-law Nicky Bomba for drums and bass player Byron Luiters in April of last year to form the new-look JBT.
"'April Uprising' is not a concept album," Butler says. "The uprising is about what I've been going through since I've had my son and embraced being a man a bit more, because now I had a man to raise. Cutting my hair and starting a new band in April, and releasing the new album in April, 'April Uprising' just became a great metaphor for all that I'd been discovering and all that I went through."
Though Bomba and Luiters contributed musically to the album, lyrically Butler bares his personal discoveries and experiences. Continuing with his intimate writing style, he touches on themes of family and love, as well as social and political issues. Whether or not it can now be labeled a family trait, Butler has always voiced his social opinions through his music.
"Maybe it's from the people who came before me and the people I've been raised around, but my favourite music was 'Beds Are Burning' or Rage Against the Machine, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye," says Butler. "There was s--- going down and they were speaking about it in extremely eloquent and artistic ways that crossed boundaries, colours, creeds and generations. That's what I've always been moved by."