General Info Members: John Butler - 12-string guitar, 6-string guitar, vocals, banjo, ukelele, harmonica | Bryon Luiters - Bass | Nicky Bomba - Drums, Percussion
Biography: The John Butler Trio are a roots rock / acoustic jam band from Australia led by guitarist and vocalist John Butler. In 1996, Butler attended Curtin University in Perth studying to be an art teacher. At Curtin University, he learned open finger tuning which allowed him to play Celtic and Indian music. He started busking on the streets of Perth where his home grown compositions received a strong response. In mid 1996, he released a self-recorded cassette of his own instrumental compositions called Searching for Heritage which eventually sold 3,000 copies in Perth. By the end of 1996, he had dropped out of Curtin University to pursue a musical career and started playing at open mic nights.
Phil Stevens, a local music promoter who later became Butler's manager, was one of the people who bought Searching for Heritage. He offered Butler his first residency every second Tuesday at the North Fremantle bar, 'Mojos', which he owned in 1998. John Butler further built his fan base at these gigs and by the end of 1998, he was planning his first professionally recorded album.
With Jason McGann on drums and Gavin Shoesmith on bass, the first version of the John Butler trio recorded the John Butler album in December 1998 which was launched at Mojos. The band toured throughout Western Australia in 1999. The Waifs invited John Butler solo to perform on their Australian tour and he also performed his own gigs. The John Butler Trio then launched its own tour where John met his future wife Danielle Caruana in Broome. The John Butler Trio released the JBT EP in April 2000 as an attempt to put out three to four songs that would be short enough to win radio play. Triple J picked up "Pickapart" and put it on high rotation. The band also developed a reputation on the east coast of Australia with a stunning performance at the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival in Byron Bay in 2000. The John Butler Trio has become a fixture at this event.
Fast forward to 2009 and his label Jarrah Records has now been responsible for 800,000 CD sales in Australia. The John Butler Trio’s last studio album ‘Grand National’ has received international acclaim since its release in 2007. The Washington Post praised its “sauntering boogies with an affinity for hip-hop beats” and Rolling Stone Magazine said “Melody, Subtlety, Authenticity. Sophistication… Butler at his brand new best, blending his influences into a sound that is all his own…a hip shaking rollicking good-time album, proof that John Butler is ready to take things to that next level…”
John Butler (1998) - John Butler, the Trio's first album, was not recorded with the current bassist and drummer, and - as the album's title might suggest - is closer to a John Butler solo album than anything. All songs were written and produced by John Butler himself, except for the words of the chorus in "Colours" which were from Sly and the Family Stone. This album features longer, less structured tracks than their more recent work, two of which are instrumental - including the 13-minute 12 string guitar epic "Ocean" and "Under an Indian Sky."
Three (2001) - This album again features many long, acoustic driven songs, similar to their debut album, and was the last album to do so. It went platinum in Australia, and was the last album featuring original their original bassist and drummer. Butler's lyrics began taking on a more political stand, showcased in songs such as "Media", and one of the bands heaviest songs, "Take." The album concludes with a 15-minute instrumental similar to "Ocean" called "Foundation"
Sunrise Over Sea (2004) - The 2004 release Sunrise Over Sea marked changes for JBT. It was the first album to be released under Butler's record label, Jarrah Records, and also is the first album to feature current drummer Nicky Bomba. The album featured much more structured, radio-friendly songs, and was the bands biggest release to date, going 5x platinum in Australia. The first single, "Zebra," is one of their highest charting singles to date, and remains a staple in the live shows. Make sure not to miss "Mist", an impressive 2 and a half minute acoustic instrumental that sounds like its right out of the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Grand National (2007) - Following in the footsteps of Sunrise Over Sea, the band again evolved their style extensively on Grand National. It is probably their most accessible album, and was their international breakthrough, going 3x platinum in the U.S. It is also their most eclectic album by far, featuring many more instruments than their previous releases, but still maintaining the crafty 12-string guitar work by Butler that is so essential to their sound. The feel-good "Better Than", banjo-twiddling "Funky Tonight" and inspirational "Used to Get High" are some of the bands biggest songs to date.
April Uprising (2010) - The bands most recent release, April Uprising, is the first to feature the current lineup that will be performing at Bonnaroo, with the addition of bassist Byron Luiters. The band continued the more structured rock sound and more political lyrics featured in the last two albums, with the singles "One Way Road" and "Close to You".
Sounds Like Genre: Acoustic / Roots / Folk / Jam / Reggae Similar Bonnaroo Artists: None really, but if anything a mix between Dave Matthews Band / Steve Martin / Punch Brothers / Rebelution
Physical Reaction/Live Show The band is known to put on a fantastic live show built for summer festivals like Bonnaroo. The spotlight is on John Butler, who can silence the whole crowd with his emotional yet furious picking on the 12-string guitar on songs like "Ocean" and "Valley", but can also get the crowd jumping with feel-good dance songs like "Better Than" and Daniella." Definitely not a set to miss Sunday afternoon.
Suggested Listenings This is a must-watch whether you plan on seeing JBT or not. Truly one of the most beautiful guitar pieces I've ever heard. Brought a tear to my eye the first time I heard it.