Keep in mind, as a producer, this is the ugly side, where longtime fans of a band hear that they want to “broaden their horizons” and do something different, and the first thing they do is shoot the producer. They hate the producer because the formula for their Coca-Cola got changed and they are very mad because of a band wanting to do something different.
To Green Day’s credit, this vision was Billie’s. This was his vision. It wasn’t like I came in and said “let’s change it all up, let’s make a ’70s glam throwback record.” But at the same time, this was the kind of shit that he was into at the time, and it’s my wheelhouse. I love making records like that and those are huge influences for me too, I grew up on glam and power pop and metal and rock. So we had a great time making it and it was absolutely a collaborative effort. We spent a lot of time sending files back and forth — COVID was looming but it hadn’t hit yet. They have a very over-qualified massive studio in Oakland and of course, I have my sandbox, and I was like, “Hey, I work best in my sandbox,” and Billie would be like, “Okay, cool, I usually work best in mine.” So I was like, “Great, let’s send stuff back and forth and then we’ll get into the studio.”
A bar band balladeer playing songs in a smoky dive, hammering away at the piano and spilling his soul onto the keys as the hour gets progressively later and the inattentive crowd gets progressively more intoxicated. Or maybe there isn’t much of a “crowd” at all and he’s mostly playing for the bartender and a few drunk regulars. For so many musicians, these sentences describe a day-by-day and night-by-night reality. Getting gigs is easy; getting the audience to pay even an ounce of attention is hard. And yet, if you live that life, you still show up every night, seeking solace in the songs you’re playing and hoping that, one of these nights, even one other person will find meaning in them too.
We tend to think of careers in music as glamorous, but if you’ve actually tried your hand at one, you know the reality is something else entirely. It’s late nights and long tours and loneliness. It’s drunk people talking over your songs. It’s the sting of polite but passionless applause. It’s bar fights breaking up your set and derailing any momentum you felt you had going onstage. It’s the hope that maybe this song, maybe this show, maybe this night will be different; maybe this one will be the big break. And it’s the crushing disappointment of your reality consistently falling well short of your expectations.
On his 10th full-length album, Butch Walker turns all of this not-so-glamorous musical reality into fertile ground for the best music he’s made in years. The album in question, Butch Walker As…Glenn, is a not-quite-concept-album about a bar singer named Glenn (Butch’s middle name) and the songs he plays in his set on any given night, in any given pub, in any given town in America. Unlike Butch’s last album, 2020’s full-blown rock opera American Love Story, there isn’t really a firm narrative here. The concept is little more than a framing device, with the album starting on an introduction of the titular singer, ending with an encore, and featuring a skit about one of those aforementioned bar fights somewhere in the middle.
But listen to the songs themselves and you can hear how the spirit of the concept bled into Butch’s writing for this album. All the big-dream romanticism and all the weathered weariness of being a working-class career musician is there in the music, and the album knits those conflicting emotions and moods together into a surprisingly poignant treatise on resilience and the beauty of a no-frills, knockout song. Will Hoge once wrote: “Keep on dreaming if it breaks your heart.” Glenn is all about the musicians who keep dreaming that dream year after year, looking for moments of transcendence amidst colorful stage lights and bar floors sticky from decades worth of spilled beer. Some nights, you find that transcendence. Other nights, it might as well be a billion lightyears away.Read More “Butch Walker – As…Glenn”
Once upon a time, I had a lot more time to write about music than I do now!
In 2013, about a year after I joined the staff at AbsolutePunk, I decided I’d take on a project called “Butch Walker Week.” The basic idea was that I’d go back and write about every Butch album, from the records with his former band Marvelous 3 up to his solo output, in the week leading up to his then-new EP Peachtree Battle. That project ended up running 11 reviews and about 16,000 words of text.
When Jason started reviving old AbsolutePunk content to post here on Chorus, I knew I wanted to resurrect this feature. Butch Walker has been one of the absolute constants in my musical evolution for the past 15 years. Getting to write about all his records back then was super fulfilling (and even earned some Twitter recognition from the man himself). Reading back through these reviews reminded me how much these albums meant to me (and how much they continue to mean to me now). So whether you’re familiar with Butch’s work or just thinking about listening to him for the first time, I hope you’ll give these old write-ups a look!Read More “Butch Walker Week”
In a post on Green Day’s Reddit forum, u/jinxpoetry dug deeper into the Butch Walker connection noting that in a video he posted to his Instagram from a recording studio, you can see what appears to be Tre Cool’s drum set (along with Walker singing “making records is very, very fun”), the video was liked by both Tre and his wife.
Few albums can put a smile on my face as quickly as Sycamore Meadows.
That’s probably an odd thing to say, since Sycamore Meadows is not, by most metrics, a happy album. Butch Walker’s fourth solo LP was birthed in part from the California wildfires that destroyed his home, most of his possessions, and the master tapes for every song he’d ever recorded up to that point. The songs catalog breakups, painful journeys of self-discovery, and the record business being irreversibly fucked. The album’s last track is a sobering piano ballad that bears one of the most emotional vocal performances Butch ever put on tape.
And yet, Sycamore Meadows still makes me smile.