Virtual Success at His Fingertips
By PeeBea Mac – Country Music Plus Magazine Ireland
October 1, 2001
CMP: For those of you who are not aware, Kenny Butterill, songwriter extraordinaire, is also a major player in the Computer industry. He manages to balance two very successful careers but still maintains all the grace and dignity of a gentleman. Since I last spoke with Kenny over a year ago, life has definitely become more hectic for the man from Canada.
CMP: Kenny, how have things gone for you in the past year?
Kenny: “It’s been a terrific year. A big highlight was the overwhelming response from radio and listeners in Europe. We got alot of support in Europe and charted with the single “Balsam Lake” which is from my first CD “No One You Know“. Europe has made me feel very much at home. I also had the single “How Far Can We Go?” included on a New Americana Music Compilation that was used by Public and Commercial Radio stations in the USA as a listener premium. The CD featured Emmylou Harris, amongst others, so being on that was a thrill.
The “Balsam Lake” tune was included in the first AFIM (Association For Independent Music) Americana Music Compilation, “Get Your Kicks“. This featured a bunch of tremendous talents, like Dan Tyminski (the singing voice of George Clooney in Soggy Mountain Boys in the hit movie “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”).
I also had a wonderful response from radio and listeners in my homeland, Canada, where we charted for five months. And, just knowing my music connects with people – for me, that’s a big highlight.
On the recording front, I am having fun experimenting with different sounds, different arrangements, some different instruments, and I have been using a couple of studios and a diverse array of terrific studio musicians. I’m working on the next album now and my schedule is getting pretty with the Spring 2002 release date.”
CMP: I asked Kenny why this new CD single is more acoustic.
Kenny: “This virtual single is more acoustic which is closer to the sound I like. That said, I think the Townes single tune does stay true to that ‘feel’ that people seem to like in my sound. And on this single, I was fortunate to be able to have Mary McCaslin, fingerstyle guitarist and open guitar tuning pioneer, and Steve Palazzo, one of the top flat pickers in the USA, participate in this project. With them playing with me, nothing else is needed.”
CMP: What’s the story behind the song?
Kenny:”The Townes You Left Behind” song originally took shape during the last week in May of 1997, about five months after legendary Texas songwriter Townes Van Zandt had passed away on New Year’s Day. As you know, his songs have been covered by hundreds of artists including such legendary singer/songwriters as Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, The Flatlanders, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Hoyt Axton among others. The title of the tune, ‘The Townes You Left Behind’ is a reference to those legends mentioned above and others. The song came about when I had the opportunity to be alone for several days and listen to the collective works of Townes in a very peaceful private location overlooking the Pacific ocean …, I was simply inspired by Townes’ art, his body of work is so amazing, haunting, piercing, soulful …”
CMP: What is your connection to Townes?
Kenny: “I didn’t know Townes, but I would say I am connected to Townes in the same way that other songwriters and lovers of his music connected with him. When I initially wrote the song shortly after he died, I experienced one of those times that songwriters love, and I just felt compelled to write …, it was a song that was in me that just had to come out and it felt almost mystical.”
CMP: This was a virtual single, which is quite unusual, as opposed to a physical CD. What is your thinking behind this?
Kenny: “Well, we are doing the single now because of the good things that happened with radio and the internet with the first CD. I started out on the internet, so the “virtual’ concept is not foreign to us. But you know, nobody has really done virtual distribution to radio, so I was interested in trying it. I like experimenting with new things. Some say it’s risky, but I don’t think so. I think it is the way of the future, so by doing this we let (our supporters at) radio participate in the experiment also.”
CMP: Is this a test for the new album?
Kenny: “Yes. I feel fortunate that I am early in the journey and can experiment a little. I want to do more acoustic stuff. Normally, leading and indie record labels don’t do this, so it’s neat that from this standpoint we are again experimenting. We do final mixing and mastering in February for the new CD, so we have a bit of time to determine what people want in advance, this a common business practice but not one usually applied in the music industry.
I expect we’ll use some virtual distribution on whatever the singles are from the new album, but we’ll also make sure that radio receives the physical CD. I still think it’s best to provide the DJs at radio with a nice package that includes something interesting to read while they listen.”
Reprinted with permission from an interview with PeeBea Mac in Ireland’s Country Music Plus – October 2001 issue