KENNY BUTTERILL – More Than Just A Songwriter
Born and raised in Central Ontario’s cottage country, KENNY BUTTERILL,has been calling the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California his home for the past 20 years — both environments have provided Kenny with a unique vantage point for his songwriting and in recent years he has taken his talents to the recording studio. With the turn of the new millennium Kenny Butterill released his first album, “No One You Know”; which gained considerable acclaim and a #1 Country Hit on European charts with the single “How Far Can We Go?” Butterill has now followed-up that initial burst with a new collection of original tunes, released on his self-produced “JUST A SONGWRITER” album. Several tracks from the album have already created widespread interest.
COUNTRY MUSIC NEWS recently had the opportunity to chat with Kenny Butterill
CMN – Your new “Just A Songwriter” album has an indicator to: File Under “Alt-Country, Folk, Americana, Blues” – that seems to cover a lot of ground. Was that the original intent of the project, or did it evolve into that as you were writing and recording the material?
Kenny: My music has never fit neatly into one of the pre-defined formats at radio or categories at retail. I guess that’s why when somebody branded my sound as “Rootsy, Bluesy, Folksy, Alt-Country” music — it stuck; but it still falls under the Country ‘umbrella’.
One of the reasons my music covers a lot of ground is that, as my own producer, I have the freedom to control how each of my songs are presented in a way that I think fits my songs the best. Sometimes it’s Folk, sometimes Roots, or Blues, sometimes Alt-Country – depends on what I want for the song. I just go for the sounds I am most comfortable with so what you hear is what I want it to sound like versus trying to fit into a particular genre.
CMN – Is there a special story behind your song “The Townes You Left Behind”? Did you ever meet Townes Van Zandt ?
Kenny: That song is pure inspiration. I originally wrote it a few months after Townes died in 1997 and I experienced one of those times that songwriters all too rarely have, where I felt compelled to write and the song just came out, quite quickly…it felt almost mystical. Townes influenced so many people and his songs have been covered by hundreds of artists including legends like Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Cowboy Junkies, etc. And just so your readers don’t get the wrong idea, the title, “The Townes You Left Behind”, was a reference to the legends I just mentioned and others (not me!).
Originally I was hoping that one of Townes buddies would hear it and take it to a wider audience – I still hope that happens. But while I was still producing the new album, the Townes tune was released as a pre-release single in the States and actually got onto the Top 40 Roots Americana Album chart in the USA – which was cool (a Single on an Album Chart !).
Though I didn’t get the chance to know Townes, with this song I feel connected to him – in fact, most rewarding of all was hearing from hardcore Townes fans, who said the song spoke for them – it don’t get any better than that !!
CMN – What about your song “Canadian Road Trip”? Obviously there must be a pretty interesting story behind that song?
Kenny: The song isn’t so much about one particular road trip as it is about a state of mind about an ideal road trip. I remember growing up in Canada…the thought of hitting the open road across the country on the Trans Canada Highway was always a romantic ‘rite of passage’ notion. So this song is kind of the way an ideal road trip would be, crossing the country on a leisurely schedule, going off the beaten path to relax with friends, you know…enjoying the ride.
CMN – You’ve invited Canadian musicians Willie P. Bennett and Ray Bonneville on several songs on your new album…how did that connection come about?
Kenny: I have been a longtime admirer of both Willie P. and Ray – and every chance I get I tell folks in the States about them and their works. When I was recording the new album last summer, both Willie P. and Ray were coming through Northern California, so we hooked up and managed to get them into the studio with me. It was a wonderful experience to work with such great musicians – both fun to be around, laid back, but with the “whatever it takes to get it right” attitude. Beyond that, they’ve seen it all – so being able to take some time to get their input and affirmation on the somewhat unorthodox songwriter / producer path I have chosen was inspiring to me.
CMN – What’s the early reaction you’re getting to the new album?
Kenny: It’s been terrific – at both radio and with the media reviewers. We rolled out the Just The Songwriter album in Europe in January and it has generated much more attention than we hoped so far. And the first Euro single My Austin Angel quickly generated a Top 5 hit in the Indie Country Charts there. We’re hoping My Austin Angel will resonate well with Canadian Radio starting later in March.
CMN – Are you planning any tour dates in Canada? How will the album be promoted to Canadian radio stations?
Kenny: If the album does well this spring, we’ll see about putting something together. For radio promotion we have Anya Wilson and her people doing a targeted campaign with stations (including CBC) that have programmes or formats that play Roots, Folk and Blues music. We have distribution into all the retail and online record stores, something we didn’t have with the first CD and we’re doing some of the other customary marketing to support the campaign.
CMN – Understand you have just returned from the MIDEM Conference in France. What were your impressions? Did you make some interesting contacts?
Kenny: MIDEM 2003 was great !! Renewed old acquaintances and met new friends. Of course working in the French Riviera – how can that be anything but great. We announced our new distribution / licensing deals and got orders for the Just A Songwriter CD from various corners of the world. And we were able to connect with some offshore radio and press people that have supported my music.
Just as important was being able to spend some time and chat with folks like Holger Petersen, Alvin Johns, Grit Laskin, Lynn Foster, Kathy Hahn and the host of others that participated at the MIDEM Canada Stand. Living outside the country, I don’t always get to be in touch with folks in the Great White North as much as I’d like – so MIDEM – this year – was particularly useful and effective for us given our new CD release.