Oct. 17, 2012 - Issue #887: Dedfest
"For me, folk music is all about place," Tyler Butler explains, sitting forward in a Jasper Ave café. "It's about capturing where you are, when you're making it."
In the case of his four song EP, Violence, that meant reflecting the mood of a tiny shed outside of a friend's parent's "country mansion" just past the Grand Prairie city limits. That esthetic, in its bare-bones, bare-all simplicity—unplugged plucks and Butler's gentle croon make up the bulk of the EP, those elements occasionally bolstered by backing vocals and lone crests of banjo and accordion—lends its songs the sort of intimacy you'd only get otherwise if you were in the room during the recording.
"You can hear all these creaks and groans in this great old shed, and how much fun we were having," he says. "I think all of that really gets into the sound of the record, and makes it way better than if it was in a sterile studio."
That's the approach; in content, Butler's shifted his focus to replace the more poetic storytelling that illustrated his Winter King album with a more direct, personal style of song.
"These are country songs, is how I think about them," he says. "Which is not something I was consciously trying to do before. So I'm using country as a way to talk more about the west in Edmonton, and dig into the masculinity, what masculinity is in the west, which I think is a lot about taking up space.
"Folk-country is a really interesting way to be able to dig into that, and critique it, and find my place in what it means to be a man and be masculine," he continues. "I think in Winter King I spent a lot of time developing a poetic voice that was consistent and strong. But when you dig into metaphor, and become a better writer I think it's easy to hide behind that, and hide what you're really trying to say behind complex stories and thoughts that you know nobody's going to dig into."
The release of Violence (which also launches an Old Ugly imprint called Cabin Songs, which Butler hopes to see as a connector for folk musicians across the country) is happening at the U of A's Rutherford House—that means catered finger food—a small enough venue that Butler can fill with sound without having to amp up his approach.
"I really like playing without a microphone," he says. "I went to Calgary this last weekend, and we played at this 125-year-old church—more than that, I think—and you could play without a mic, and just do so many more things. One of the reasons I record myself is I think that everyone who gets between me and the audience, for better or for worse, is changing the thing I'm trying to do, and that even the best sound guy, he's doing something to the sound: he's making the guitar louder or the voice quieter, and putting effects on it and stuff. And I'd much rather just find a room where I can project and sing and have everyone feel that much closer to the music."
Sat, Oct 20 (7 pm)
With Mike Tod, Liam Trimble and Nathan M Godfrey
Rutherford House, $15
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