By: Clyde Richardson
September 12, 2005
On Friday, September 2, 2005 I had the opportunity to do an interview with someone I felt was not only a World Class musician but, a World Class person. Jon Butcher is not only an insightful musician, writer, producer but more importantly, he’s a socially conscious individual with his eye on not only now but, on the future of our youth. Yes Jon, the times they are a-changin’ and everyone needs to get involved and make a commitment to a better world. Thanks Jon for one of the most insightful mornings I’ve had in some time. Everyone, let’s get involved…”one person at a time”.
Clyde: Let’s start with the obvious if you don’t mind. Barefoot servants, is that a direct response to Jesus Christ?
Jon: No, what it is, is a reference to a song by Bob Dylan called, “All Along the Watchtower”. There is a line in the song and that’s where we took the title of the band “Barefoot Servants” and what is unique about the song is it was also covered by Jimi Hendrix. With that in mind, we thought that by those two words we were servants of music and of a particular style and it seemed to fit.
Clyde: How did you personally get started and who were your main influences?
Jon: You mean started with music, old b&w movies of hop along Cassidy – they weren’t on when I was a kid obviously, but what they were, were reruns and Alaska always got TV much later than everyone else, when we were watching Star Trek we were just getting into the Long Ranger. So as a result of that growing up as a kid, I was influenced by all those singing cowboys, Roy Rogers all those guys that had the horse, guitar, guns and the girl… that looked good to me. I mean that was what attracted me to music and wanting to play guitar. Once I went to school and found out that Rock and Roll was also a way to get girls.
Clyde: What did your mom think of all of this?
Jon: My mom I have to say was very proud of me. The first time I’ll never forget is when she came to see me in a big place, was Madison Sq Garden, and I can’t tell you the thrill it was for her and she has always been supportive of me playing guitar and she has been proud of all the success I’ve had so far.
Clyde: You’ve maintained a truly raw sound that reminds me of the 70’s when tone started getting good, really good. Since I’m a gear head, what’s your favorite rig on stage?
Jon: On stage we use, both band and myself use vintage, old guitars, some new guitars too, but we like how the old guitars sound so when it comes to guitars I’ve always been a Stratocaster man, and I since on this record used a ‘53 Fender Tele. It might be on the record, not sure. So as a result I gravitate toward Fenders is my point. Being in the studio and on stage and Ben tends to gravitate to Gibson, he’s the Les Paul guy and Rick in fact that Rick that you’re looking at the ‘64 I think it is, I was with him when he found it at Norm’s Rare Guitars in LA pawn shop and Norm gave us an incredible deal as he always does and used it right away on the record and you can hear it on the first track. Clyde: He’s got some cool stuff out there for sure, no question.
Clyde: Do you use a lot of open tunings?
Jon: Yeah we are using – one of the songs in the record Crazy, we used an open G tuning – it’s nothing new but it really does open up a lot of other tone characters, that you don’t get in standard tuning. So when you listen to the record you’ll hear a lot of various sorts of open tunings that really we think are pretty cool.
Clyde: What has been your favorite gig of all time?
Jon: That is a great question, let me think…I think “dude” I played…I think the best gig of all time would have to be one of the early ones where it was not better but “fresher” you know what I mean? When you first play one of those big concerts and your gold record, the milestone record, and I think for me the best gig I ever played was in Cobo (?)Hall Detroit and I was an opening act for the J. Giles Band, this is early on dude and I think it might have been the first major concert of any size as an opening act and we went on in front of the Giles band and I was scared knobless but we did a great job and the bottom line is that stands out as a moment I’ll never forget. Out of nowhere with no records and no discography and nothing behind you, you manage to win the crowd and Pete Wolf came into my dressing room and said “you guys were great” and I was on cloud 9. Dude I was on Cloud 9 – do you understand it was a moment I’ll never forget it was sweeter than any other award or accolade because it was the first time and it was from nothing. Do you know what I mean – with no help in other words. It was just hard work and putting your nose to the grindstone, playing hard and jumping high and having a ball doing it, making money?… well no, that wasn’t what it was about then, you don’t really worry about it until you have a family to support. There was no money involved at the time, there were no any other enhancements shall we say …none of that existed it was just really the moment and playing the best you can and hoping that people really plugged into it while you were doing it. If that isn’t my stand up moment, I don’t know what is.
Clyde: Most bands have serious ego problems. How does everyone in BFS get along, especially with all of you being World Class musicians and successful in your own right?
Jon: You know what? That is another great question, and the answer is because of those things that you just detailed because we all have a lot of success in different areas you bring to this no ego. If you met Lee Sklar, the bass player, and you met him say in a bar and you didn’t know who he was and didn’t know who he was before you may say that would be true. You would find him to be the nicest guy and so you leave the bar without knowing who he was you would say, “gee that was a nice guy”. Really engaging, will talk friendly and time (not chatting) but really exchanging ideas, really down to earth. And I’m lucky to play with three other guys who for whatever reason have already have nothing to prove I guess that’s it. When it comes to fragile egos, it really comes down to that. Some guys feel like they have something to prove that they are inadequate in some way.
Clyde: 18 months and 30 songs later, you’ve compiled what I would consider a true expression of mindful tunes with lots of thought, expression and emotion. Would you like to expand on that?
Jon: I don’t know that I could, I mean to me when I hear musicians talk about their music it almost always sounds stupid to me and at the website, I tried to address that on one of the pages there is really nothing you can add to what you’re trying to express if you’ve express it in any kind of coherent way at all. What am I gonna say? You know I’m just a guy like you are, exactly like you. We’re players, we’re finding our way, we’re trying to get better. You know we buy guitars, we’re in love with music in varying degrees and really if you’re on the path that is a path and not a destination. So here we are you and me and we’re walking down the path and that’s how I feel about it.
Clyde: Are you planning a support tour for the new cd?
Jon: Yeah, right know though we are kinda distracted and what I mean by that is Lee is on tour with, he’s finishing, with Lyle Lovett and then he has a few dates to do to finish the Phil Collins World Tour. Our drummer is in London right now finishing up a record with… I can’t exactly remember who he is recording with. But Ben and I are the only ones really here in the States and available to do any sort of promo stuff. So in answer to your question, yeah, we are planning a full on BFS support tour for the album but that won’t happen I’m sure until after the Christmas holiday. Maybe as early as November but I don’t know. What is happening right now is Ben and I are doing an acoustic tour to support the CD that so far has been really successful. (You just finished up in Boston, I believe did you not.?) and you know what we filmed that show and I think were going to release it Clyde for a live concert DVD. And I would like for you to see it because what you’ll see is, of course, it’s unplugged, I hate the word unplugged, it semi-plugged. I’m playing accoutic guitars, Ben is playing acoustic guitars, but he is also playing a plugged in lap steal and a Weisenborn and really a mandolin and a lot of eclectic instruments, and I think you’ll really find the reinterpretation of the song is really interesting. (Excellent) Yeah so we filmed that show in Boston . (I’d love to see it)
Clyde: With all the charity concerts, ie, Farm Aid, Live Aid, Live 8, Crossroads, etc, are we, as musicians, making a difference in the world?
Jon: I don’t know, I wonder that myself but you know what whether we are or not we can debate you and I can decide that we are making a bit of difference or we aren’t the fact is the obligation is to try, (Exactly)
Clyde: So, to the layman, how do you get involved and how do you make a difference?
Jon: Another excellent question, Clyde, and here’s how I do it, one person at a time. Let me elaborate on that, I feel as you do, I feel strongly , I feel passionately about what is happening to our country right now – I mean it is too deep to get into the details of those feelings, however, let me just say I feel passionately about it so the way I can make a difference I mean a real difference rather than a specific pontification from my platform of music, which does sneak in from time-to- time, I find having one on one conversations just like this one make more difference than anything. You know, look there was a time a couple of years ago that I though I was the only one not out of my fucking mind, in the United States, pardon my language. (don’t worry about it) But I wondered if people have just gone crazy and not seen that we are getting into a familiar situation again and I believe that from two years ago to now there is more a feeling that – geez while that I’m not alone in feeling like this is you know, you have to share these feelings, that I’m not the only guy walking around you know not in a dream, I don’t know if I’m being clear or not (yeah actually you are, crystal clear – that morning of 9/11 my daughter was on a plane to NY and for four hours we couldn’t find her and literally freaked the whole family out) of course, (we were the lucky side we got our daughter back, there wasn’t other people so lucky) that’s right (and to think that our government would have anything to do with it, what so ever, or any kind of involvement is just appalling) It’s appalling…now cut to today though, Clyde with this business in New Orleans I mean look we can talk about what is wrong and our beefs and our disagreements all day, literally (Exactly) what I want to focus on hear, you and I Clyde and John , we can make a difference if we make that difference a person at a time. When you talk to somebody like we are talking you share your feelings about certain things, you create an atmosphere for change, (Exactly) that’s how it’s done.
Clyde: What would you like your legacy to be?
Jon: Gosh, I don’t know, I mean augh, I would like to be thought of as a good guy, that would be nice if people like me, you know that’s… don’t we all care about that to some level or another, you want to be well remembered. Beyond that though, I mean, the deeper part of it is I just hope that if I have a legacy and if anyone cares to remember me in a good way than that’s just for being a dedicated and interested student of music. As a player and a writer, as a producer and an arranger all of those things. It would be great to be remembered as a real musician and not like a fake musician.
Clyde: What’s your favorite Jon Butcher song?
Jon: The latest one I wrote. I don’t know man, you know I can’t answer it you stumped me. (Well good deal, I finally did it)
Clyde: In closing, do you have any final thoughts or statements that you would like to leave with the Chicago Music Guide?
Jon: Sure I’d be really, really very happy if people reading this whenever they do read it, are interested to check the new CD out. We believe that there is a, and I believe, that music is changing again, that maybe we have moved a little bit beyond sort of the prefabricated, fake you know music-like sort of hip-hoppy, pop throw-away, disposable …I think you get my message, I think maybe I’ve spoken to young people, by that I mean 21 years old and younger, in fact I’m producing a band right now for a label called “On the Surface” and the oldest guy is 21 and I have great hope in his music and the CD they’re making that the refocus on meaning and the fact that music has power may be taking place. I’m very encouraged by that band and others like this kid, these kids that I’ve been working with, that maybe we’re into another change, because for a while there, dude it was dark. (Yeah it was). I don’t want to name any names and be a bad guy but you know who I’m talking about.
Clyde it was great talking to you and we have a lot in common and we can probably talk the rest of the day.
Grammy-nominated Jon Butcher is one of a select handful of influential recording artists comprising the legendary Boston music scene. MTV vids and hit songs, “Life Takes A Life” ,”Wishes”, “Holy War”, “Goodbye Saving Grace”, and “waiting For A Miracle” comprise the underpinnings of a music career that continues today.
Jon Butchers’ signature sound and particularly his guitar work represent a skillful mix of Americana- rock, r&b, Jazz and folk, all of it focused through a prism built from the Blues.
.Jon’s company Electric Factory Music provides film score, soundtrack and music licensing services for television and film companies looking for something decidedly unique. With it’s launch at FOX in 1991, ELECTRIC FACTORY has provided music for all of the major network/cable television carriers through shows like; the currently running hit show, Shameless (Showtime), United States of Tara (Showtime), Ugly Betty [ABC], The Simpsons (Fox), Six Feet Under (HBO), Deadwood (HBO), My Name Is Earl (NBC), and many more.
2013-2014 will find Jon Butcher supporting the release of AXIS 3, the new Cd by The Jon Butcher Axis, in addition to live touring dates. Jon’s sister project, the acoustic blues-based Two Road East will also tour the US.
With a discography of 17 international CD releases, international critical and Guitar Media acclaim it’s hard to argue the point. Share the Vision.
For discography and other information about Jon Butcher, please visit: