John’s own name derives from his paternal grandfather, a forestry worker who died fighting a bushfire in Nannup, Oz. From these historical titbits we glean some inkling of the artist. He is a man fighting for justice, a man fighting fires — those of love gone bad, of corporate greed, or simply of his own angry soul. As Butler has confessed in a recent interview, “I thought my anger was my strongest asset and that’s what made me powerful, but it was actually my weakest link. My vulnerability, my honesty and patience and trust are my strongest attributes.” The album bears this out. As Butler has matured the anger has been sublimated in poetry, and his voice, on the tender love songs especially, has become his outstanding instrument.
Flesh & Blood is a testament to his talent, and to a man who has finally found himself. On some songs he sounds simply reborn. “I wanted the songs to be a lot more guttural and fleshier,” says a newly humble JB. “I wanted to smell it and feel it a bit more. And I wanted my voice, now and always, to be more convincing.” If it’s authenticity he was seeking he has surely found it.
If he has been a ‘man on the edge’ he is certainly not going to jump and end it all. He now has the wisdom and the courage to take a step back – and enjoy the view.
John Butler is no pie-in-the-sky hippy. He has dirt beneath his feet: red dirt. He is well-known Down Under for his environmental and political commitment. His white Rasta look once suggested a teleported Bob Marley – but that has gone. The more recent barbered image makes him look like a handsome American from the Civil War era. His stare is hypnotic. Who will draw first, you or him? He is not, however, all gun and no trousers. He has put his money where his mouth is, fronting a campaign that helped stop a vast gas plant from despoiling the natural beauty of the Kimberley area in NW Australia. He has also set up a charitable trust that has enabled many aspiring artists to find an outlet. He is a man who cares about the world he is in and one who has tried, in his own way, to set in right.