Butch Walker on the difference between a good song and a hit song and which he prefers
Although the two records that Butch Walker (due this Friday, November 15, at the Larimer Lounge) made with the Black Widows were collaborative efforts, from songwriting to production, Walker opted for a more personal approach on his latest five-song EP, Peachtree Battle. The album is about his father, who passed away in August at the age of 72.
We spoke with Walker about his dad, who was featured in the new documentary Butch Walker: Out of Focus, and about the difference between a good song and a hit song. After all, of all people, Walker would know: He's worked with Pink, Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy and Train.
Westword: I would imagine that writing songs for your father helped you get through it.
Butch Walker: Yeah. I kind of got cut short a little because I thought I was going to make a full record, but I just wasn't in a headspace -- I kind of kept getting distracted, and I had a bunch of songs that just didn't feel.... You know, sometimes you just write, and you don't know what you're writing for -- you're just writing. I felt like the theme was him, a lot of it, and I didn't want to make a confused record, so when his health took a turn for the worse, I just felt like I wanted to get this batch of five songs to be on its own record.
Would you say that all of the songs have to do with your father and kind of what you were going through, as well?
Yeah. I think so. Most of them are directly influenced by him or about him or loosely based. He was a colorful man, and he gave me a lot to write about.
Have you played these songs out much since you put the album out?
We've been playing almost the whole EP live. It's been great. The response is great to the songs and playing them has been really great. I guess doing it the wounds are fresh but it also makes the songs a little bit more special. It hit me in the right way.
Is it tough to play these songs live?
Yeah, but at the same time, it's good therapy. When I got on the road, you know, two days, almost three or four days after he passed away, I wasn't sure I wanted to go on the road. It didn't seem right. He wouldn't have had it any other way. He had said that before he went.
In your documentary, you were talking about writing your songs versus writing songs for other people and the difference between a good song and a hit song. I was wondering if you could expand on that?
Well, it's not always the case. There are plenty of good songs that are hit songs out there, which is great. But I'd just say, for the most part, that I've gravitated to [a good song] on a lot of records, and honestly, a lot of pop artists I've worked with will tell you the same thing, because a lot of them are music lovers, not just listening to it.
They all have their favorites, which are songs that are like deep cuts on a record, or the last song on the record, or something that's kind of buried by the A&R guy because it's too smart for the general public or whatever.
Sadly, what they're [A&R] looking for is simple or dumb, or monotonous and infectious, and they're not really looking for a song that, lyrically, goes into a weird, dark place or has a specific story about a specific person, because then you're not really relating to millions of common folk at once.
And I'm not bashing pop music or defending it, because it is what it is. I get it. It's pop because it's popular. It's made for the popular masses. Sometimes you shouldn't mess with that recipe. But there's a time and a place for those songs, too, where I want to hear those on the radio and lose myself, and it feels good, but then I'll want to put on a song sometimes that I relate to a lyric that I know a lot of people won't.