If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.
The catch-22 of all good art is that it changes the expectations placed on the artist – both from the public and from the artist themselves – moving forward. Being the creatures of habit that we are we tend to believe that once something is good it will always be good, regardless of the circumstances that helped make that thing something we admired in the first place. This is also probably due to our culture’s love of underdogs, and how we like to feel personally responsible for the success of others whose art we believe in. If your favorite unknown band suddenly becomes a household name, you will more than likely tell people the you knew them before they were big. We say this because we associate the success of the people we look up to with our own ability to succeed, and the same goes for their ability to fail. In the mind of a fan, an artist who has made it is made for life, and everything they produce going forward will (read: “should”) up the creative ante for themselves and their peers.
While this is all good and perfectly normal behavior it is far from honest living. The truth of creativity is that it rarely, if ever, stays the course as far as quality is concerned. An artist may be able to tap into the kind of genius that brings together people from all walks of life once or twice in a lifetime, and that is only if they are among a very select few who ever achieve such levels of creativity. The vast majority of artists are lucky if they ever write a song that people beyond their immediate circle of peers care about, and there is another plateau of achievement just above that for those who are able to reach beyond their audience more than one or two times in the entirety of their career. To assume or expect momentary greatness has lasting value is a fool’s way of living, but unfortunately many bands and artists like succumb to such idiocy every single day.
This has all been a long way of saying that the world needs more artists like Butch Walker who, despite having momentary major success from time to time, never allows themselves or their audience to believe the top of the charts is where they will forever belong. Walker has had a number of hits throughout his career, and in the digital age the longevity of those songs has been extended thanks to the recommendation tools found on most streaming services, but to say he has become someone who is known at the same level of, say, Bruce Springsteen or Eric Clapton would be false. This is not to say that Walker is not as talented as those rock legends, in fact I would argue just the opposite in most situations, but it is to say he is another breed or artist whose longevity in music is defined by something other than his hits.
The reason people care so much about Butch Walker is because, like them, he lives a relatively normal existence highlighted by flashes of genius or sheer luck that remind us of every individual’s potential for innovative thinking. More importantly, he does this while writing music about the human experience that is relatable to practically anyone of a certain age, yet each work is undeniably the product of his own life and the things he has lived through. When a song Walker has recorded finds its way onto charts or into the lens of the media those who follow Walker’s music celebrate because they know there is still hope for regular people who lead fairly regular lives to stand out. His success tells us that even though EDM and songs about boundless joy or romance may be the norm, there is still a place for reality in the often uber-fictional land of entertainment.
With his new album, Stay Gold (out August 26), Walker continues his trend of grounded storytelling while further exploring the roots of American rock and roll with a collection of tracks that fans new and old won’t soon forget. The record is a showcase for Walker’s wide-ranging and ever-evolving talent that spans the great terrain of rock without once compromising the flow of the album as a whole. You can play select songs out of order or blast the entire record front-to-back and walk away satisfied with your choice because Walker has taken the time to ensure every piece of music work both on its own and as part of the album as a whole. The kind of coherency and consistency is increasingly rare in a world where more and more emphasis is placed on singles rather than proper albums, but it’s par for the course for Walker. He’s never been one to play the game of sacrificing the flow of an album in order to try and deliver a radio smash, which further substantiates why he is the type of artist we need more of in the world today. His pleasure from creativity comes from a place of personal satisfaction instead of public acceptance, though I am sure he hopes for both with every release, and because of this he has been able to maintain a standard for quality that has kept people glued to his every move for nearly fifteen years.
As you enter this week, try and learn from Butch Walker by asking yourself what you need to do in order to be happy about your personal creative output. Once you have an answer, chase those goals until you achieve them, and once you do that you will be ready to share your latest creation with the world at large. They might not get it, but that won’t matter or hurt as much as it would otherwise because you will know it is the best you could make at this point in your life. I cannot promise millions, or even thousands will ‘get it’ the way you do, but people will recognize your confidence and they will respect your output. Those who do that will be the greatest fans you could ask for, and with their faith in you secure you will have a strong base from which to build an army of dedicated followers.
James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records (RIP). Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.