“World’s Greatest Unknown?” (RARWRITER, December 2011)
May 5, 2013
Music is best when music is shared. So much of human experience is tied to music being shared, bringing hearts and souls together in love, harmony, and smiles. Hands clapping in unison, feet tapping to the rhythm, and arms raised in joy. This shared joy is at the heart of Michael Butler's music. With nothing but the spontaneous attacks and rhythms on his acoustic guitar, an earnest and soulful voice, and a proven ability to connect with live audiences, Butler exists to bring people together with the ever-binding spirit of song.
Hailing from Harlem, this "New York city boy" had already spiritually crossed the Atlantic Ocean by the age of four, when he first heard the Beatles and was immediately hooked, realizing his calling incredibly early.
"Well, that's for me," Butler says of that epiphanic moment. "That's what I must do."
The Beatles inspired Butler to embark on a performing and songwriting career that has spanned six studio albums and two continents over 30 years. Although much of the 1980s was spent playing New Wave Music & Later Hard Rock in “2nd Nature” & “Horse Power”, 1993 brought a reinvention where Butler grew out his dreadlocks and never looked back. Since then, he has performed cover songs and original material in front of packed audiences during an 11-year residency in New York's Times Square. He has also toured overseas in countries like Denmark, Germany, and Ireland, where at one memorable gig a teenage audience member ran after him "just to touch my hair--I kid you not!"
The experience is tied to Michael Butler's identity. He is African-American, but his music transcends ethnicity and race in a way that's reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. As RARwriter.com put it, Butler "has a cross-cultural thing going for him, a personality who owns all that comes with being Black but is so much more."?
"Maybe it was being one of the few Black folk in a mainly Jewish town," Butler says of his childhood in Long Island, "I seriously thought all was equal in the American World. I had no idea of “All Was Happening as I came into the world”. I had the impression that such issues had been worked out long ago. Naiveté allowed me to be free, to think and do things across racial lines. I simply didn’t know what wasn’t allowed by either White or Black folks, or what was allowed for a black man to sound like musically, what he was allowed to write or aspire to."
This post-racial identity is heard throughout each of Butler's songs. His music has elements of the singer-songwriter genre, delta blues, Americana, and even reggae, but every melody is unmistakably familiar, with touches of classic songwriters like John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Tracy Chapman, and Eric Clapton, influences found in songs like "Denmark and Me," "Catherine Michelle," and "Her Song." Most importantly, Butler's music also transcends nationalities, with uncanny similarities to European musicians like Denmark's Thomas Helmig, Sweden's Patrik Issakson, and Ireland's Glen Hansard.
Currently, Michael Butler is busy recording his next albums, a collection of intimate acoustic songs as well as grand Rock and/or Club dance-able anthems that will showcase the range his career so far has had – Don’t worry, They Won’t be on the Same CD’s !!!
He is also gearing up for a set of summer concerts throughout New York City, including a return performance at Yankee Stadium, through Butler's charitable involvement with the Starlight Children's Foundation," a project that stems from Michael Butler's ever-burning desire to form real connections with audiences worldwide, especially in Europe.
"When I find myself watching the show from above me," Butler says, "with the crowd linked together, all of us swaying in the same direction, to the same beat...That's when I know it's a great show. Somehow, I levitate, and the show is going on its own. And I'm just watching, quite pleased and going along for the ride."
It's a ride that has always been at the heart of every great song, and at the heart of music. Join Michael Butler as he guides you through all the places that make music real.