John Butler was on a quest to find out about his ancestors, so he went on a televised journey to discover more about his family and music.
Those revelations inspired Butler’s upcoming CD, April Uprising, and gave the Aussie artist fresh insights into his music and his life. The John Butler Trio’s now hitting the road to showcase those new songs; Tuesday, the group’s new lineup plays a sold-out show at Boulder’s Fox Theatre.
Who: John Butler Trio
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder
Cost: SOLD OUT
“This tour is only for three weeks, but it’s good to come back to the Colorado market,” Butler said in a recent interview. “There’s a lot of good fans there that dig what we do.”
Butler does have an affinity for his American music fans. That’s because the singer was born in the United States and lived here until he was 11 years old.
“I was born in Torrance — that’s in L.A. County,” Butler said. “My dad was Australian, so in 1988 we moved back there. It was a culture shock going from living in L.A. County to growing up in the Australian countryside. It definitely influenced the kind of music I do.”
Butler started playing guitar when he was 16, and it wasn’t long before he was busking the streets of Perth. The performer quickly developed his own brand of eclectic roots music and open-tuning skills.
“I originally started playing as a hobby, but when I discovered open tunings I became addicted to the guitar,” Butler said. “I got so into the guitar that I left my studies at the university and started performing on my grandfather’s slide guitar.”
Butler’s now one of Australia’s top indie recording artists. His trio packs 8,000-plus seat venues Down Under, but he’s found a second musical home in the United States. The John Butler Trio’s played prestigious festivals such as Lollapalooza, and shared tours with acts like G. Love & Special Sauce.
This time around, American audiences will see Butler performing with a revamped band. The new lineup includes the artist’s brother-in-law/drummer Nicky Bomba and bassist Byron Luiters.
“Every so often, it’s good to change things up,” Butler said. “This new band has a chemistry that’s very magical and special — and that’s really help evolve the music.”
The energy of the new band allowed Butler to focus on writing solid tunes for April Uprising.
“I’ve been trying to steer the band sound into showing off great songs,” Butler said. “I was really influenced by musicians like the Beatles and Bob Marley. That really pushed me as a songwriter, so I’m trying to write the most potent and focused songs I can now.
“This is a very powerful, song-driven album. The new songs are all more focused and distilled, but I’ll always be into hip-hop, folk and rock. My new songs have a lot of rock, dancehall and reggae influences.”
April Uprising runs the gamut from rock to steel drum rhythms, and it’s the band’s most radio-friendly album to date.
Searching for roots
However, Butler’s search for his ancestral history also played into the lyrics and mood of the new songs.
Butler discovered his family roots after he became part of the BBC/Australian TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?” The program selects celebrities and helps them trace their ancestral backgrounds while they’re being filmed for television. Butler got to trace his family history — and he came up with some very surprising results.
“I found out that my family had been part of the 1875 Ottoman uprising in Bulgaria,” Butler said. “It was called the ‘April Uprising,’ so that influenced the title of my new CD. I used the song as a metaphor for the uprising, and all the spiritual and personal changes that were going on inside of me.
“Who Do You Think You Are?’ took me to all kinds of places. It really had an effect on my music and my songs. Finding out where I came from gave me a sense of power and foundation, and I hope that comes across as I pursue my music.”
Butler’s ready to take the results of his personal odyssey out to his audiences. April Uprising will drop in April and the band’s ready to hit the road with the new tunes.
“We’re going to focus on playing all across America, and playing for larger audiences all over this year,” Butler said. “I just want to take it all in, be happy and enjoy the present moment.”