photo by Alvin Gee Photgraphy
It takes a brave approach to be both cutting edge and patient in the music business, and Elizabeth Butler has both qualities in spades. After the critically acclaimed release of Love & Loss & Stuff Like That, her 2014 full length album, Butler is now taking a different approach to releasing new music. “Lullaby,” released July 22, 2016, will be the first single in a series of releases over the next year. “I want to stay more visible with projects coming out more regularly instead of the typical several year album cycle,” she explains. “Lullaby” marks the first release of an unbundled album project, a series of singles she is writing and recording one at a time.
“Lullaby” was written with Butler’s own children in mind, even though they are grown and living their own lives. She was inspired by thinking back to the days of late night floor-pacing with fussy babies. She started singing to them to try and calm them down, and in those moments she couldn’t avoid “the things you think about in the middle night with a fretful baby in your arms...what will they be when they grow up? What kind of people will they be? But I learned to enjoy the moment, to sing to them so they know someone is there.”
“Raising children to be strong, independent, moral and kind adults is the most important legacy I have,” Butler says. “We can have so many jobs and goals in life - to be Grammy winners, Nobel laureates, anything...but we are the only parents our kids will ever have. That’s important.”
Butler also shines at leveraging the advantages of technology to record while keeping her projects very personal and organic. She hand-picked her favorite musicians to perform on “Lullaby,” and time, space, and distance weren’t hindrances. All told, “Lullaby” was recorded in Nashville, Austin, Seattle, and Houston. Jordan Buetow (from the band Erwilian) played dulcimer in Seattle, Kira Small recorded backing vocals in Nashville, Jana Pochop laid down acoustic guitar in Austin, Solveig Whittle sang harmonies from Seattle, and Torri Baker sang her harmonies from Austin. The track was produced by Butler and Troy Warren in Houston.
Butler has been studying both voice and guitar and can feel that her sound and musical bandwidth are expanding as she studies. “I believe in education at every stage, it allows room for a different perspective and makes things faster in the studio.” Butler studies guitar with Gary Talley (The Box Tops), adding layers and voicings to her sound as she writes. She’s also been working on vocal pre-production with Brad Chapman, who is branching her style out past “a songwriter that sings” and allowing her to really dig deep into the emotion of each song so the listener gets the most out of the message being offered.
Butler grew steeped in music in a non-traditional sense. From her Dad’s love of Roy Clark on Hee Haw and listening to Eddy Arnold records on Sunday afternoons, to singing the Georgia Tech fight song with her siblings, music was always a presence in their household. She received a Sears guitar on her 11th birthday and while the first song she learned was “House of the Rising Sun,” she covered a few like “King of the Road” and “Moon River” as a nod to her Dad. She performed wherever the opportunity presented itself and began playing in church at age 13, eventually landing a job as a church musician in her teens. She began making homemade demos and sending them to A&R companies while still in high school. Keeping up with music while earning her nursing degree, she made her first professional demo when she was 21 and received a good response. Because of these early successes, Butler decided that forging her own path in music was the ideal way to go.
In 1999 she founded Running Home Records, her own label in Houston, TX. She was also performing with Running Home, an Americana-country-jazz duo with Suzanne Comeaux Bucher that quickly garnered airplay and a fan base across the country. While she was raising her family, Butler also began to pursue film and TV licensing opportunities as an alternative to the traditional musician's path of touring. Her compositions have been licensed by The Discovery Channel among others.
Butler released her first solo album, Love & Loss & Stuff Like That, in early 2014. She describes the album as a scrapbook concept, as if the listener is taking pieces of an artist's journal and absorbing a life story in frames and vignettes. Part of the draw of the recording process for Butler harkens back to those days in her bedroom as a teenager, enveloped in liner notes and absorbing songs through endless listens on the stereo. Butler describes her style as a “cool gumbo of sound,” and the listener can easily pick out country, pop, jazz, and blues influences amidst an undeniably unique sound that is steeped in years of practice and stacks of vinyl. She co-produced Love and Loss and Stuff Like That with Troy Warren, Jr., a multi-instrumentalist who back-and-forths with Butler on everything from instrumentation to arrangement.
Butler plans to release songs periodically throughout the next year, culling inspiration from an array of styles and genres. The spellbound kid sitting in front of the stereo is now at the helm of her own music-making, and the results are bound to be as deep and dynamic as her roots.
--Jana Pochop for SocialThinkery.comContact Elizabeth