- - Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The 47-year-old Butch Walker has worked with everyone from Pink to Panic at the Disco to Fall Out Boy to Weezer and even Harry Connick Jr. And in between his producing duties, Mr. Walker has released eight of the best records you need to hear. His 2016 CD, “Stay Gold,” was a roots rock celebration as good as anything Bruce Springsteen released in his prime.

At the recent NAMM Convention, Mr. Walker talked guitars, being influenced by KISS and getting it done.

Question: Why are you here today at NAMM?

Answer: I’m here celebrating the gear that has taken care of me, and that hopefully I have taken care of them. Yamaha is one of the companies. Been with them for about a year now. But they have been nothing but great to me.

I’m a big fan of their acoustic guitars. I ended up having a working relationship with Yamaha’s guitar builders, and they are just making some of the best acoustic guitars you can ever play.

Q: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar, and what inspired you?

A: I was 8 years old. I was inspired because I went to see KISS in 1977. I begged my parents to take me for my birthday. They did [when] KISS played in Atlanta. I started playing guitar the next day.

Q: You work with so many different artists. What criteria do you use to determine who you’re going to work with?

A: It just has to be interesting to me. It used to be more about needing the money. So you start making a lot of records. Now I want to work on things that are interesting to me, or something maybe I haven’t tried before.

That’s what’s it been about for me now: what seems like it’s gonna be interesting and not just a pain in my ass. Because sometime making records for other people is a pain in the ass. I’m not gonna lie.

Q: I won’t ask you who was the biggest pain in the ass to work with.

A: And I wouldn’t tell you. (Laughs)

Q: Who challenged you most and took you out of your comfort zone?

A: One of those records I took on because I knew it would be something I hadn’t done before was Harry Connick Jr. He’s insanely intimidating as an artist. Because he’s one of the most insanely talented artists I ever seen in my life. He can play every instrument in the room better than anyone in the room. And he’s never been told what to do. He’s always told everybody else what to do. He’s produced his own records since he was 11 years old [as a] child protegee.

To me going in on that was very frightening but also rewarding. He had the hardest time for a week of me telling him what to do. It was two alphas in the same room. He would pace around and then walk out of the studio. Finally he came back in and said, “I’m sorry, man, this is hard for me.”

I just looked him in the eye and said, “Man, you hired me to do my thing, so you have to let me see this through to the finish line. If you don’t like it, you can throw it away.”

So we did. From then on out the sessions were so easy.

Q: Do you have a wish list of artists you would like to work with?

A: There are a lot of people, but it’s hard for me to say right away because I don’t know how they are to work with. It’s more about getting in the same room with somebody for coffee or something and going, “I like this person.”

Life is too short to make records with s***** people.

Q: As a songwriter, how do you decide what songs you keep for yourself and what are for other artists?

A: I’m not really precious about it. But I do know going in if it is a song that is gonna relate to no one but me. That happens a lot. And that’s fine because I would rather have those songs to myself. When you write a song that is so personal to yourself, it’s really hard to picture anybody else understanding it when you’re singing it.

There’s things that are very broad and universal topics. Those are the songs that might work for others.

Q: Has there ever been a song you wrote that became a hit for someone that you regretted not doing yourself?

A: No. Nope. Not a bit. At the end of the day, I still make a paycheck if it does well. And I’m very happy for who it does well for. I just don’t care about that stuff at all.

As long as the song gets heard. It gets heard a lot more if it is done by somebody else.

Q: Each of your solo albums seems to have a different sound and directions. Is that intentional?

A: I think I’m just influenced by so many things growing up. I grew up with two older sisters that listened to everything from rock to disco to funk to metal to punk. I was influenced by whatever I could find. Because it was not easy to find different music in Cartersville, Georgia, in the late-‘70s/early-‘80s.

I took what I could get and I think I found something in every genre that I loved. I just enjoy being influenced by many artists and wearing those influences on my sleeves.

Q: So there may be a funk record in your future?

A: (Laughs) I would be scared for anybody to hear my do a funk record. But you never know.

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