Crushworthy: Butch Walker

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Chances are good you already have a crush on Butch Walker, even if you’ve never heard him play live. That’s because this 80s hair metal guitar god turned guitarist/vocalist for an alt-rock band turned solo artist who wrote the best torch song of all time has also produced for the likes of Weezer, Pink, The Donnas, American Hi-Fi, Fall Out Boy, and The All American Rejects—to name a few. This is good shit, people. Butch knows how to write a hell of a song.

But for me, personally, the crush stems from his tattooed arms, his voice that can gravel scream one second and then whisper the next with the same level of emotion and commitment, his lyrics, which are more honest than most dreams—even the ones that come from the deepest part of your subconscious. Or maybe it’s because on Friday night in Scottsdale, Arizona, Butch reveled in both the stupidly mundane story of how he tore his meniscus and the truly not mundane story of how he lost his virginity at 15 to the leopard print legging wearing keyboard player in his band. Yeah, that might be it…

When I accepted my new job four weeks ago, I had a condition; my boss had to allow me to work a half day my first Friday in the office so I could fly back to Arizona to see Butch Walker live in my home state. My (for all intents and purposes) big sister, Rachel, got me a ticket to the show months and months ago to celebrate my birthday, and come hell or high water, I wasn’t going to miss it. Luckily, my new manager is rad, completely understood, and Friday night, Rachel and I rolled up to Livewire to see one of my rock star boyfriends in action.

Make no mistake, this wasn’t my first Butch Walker show. Years ago, Rachel and I drove to L.A. to see Butch perform the entirety of Sycamore Meadows at The Hotel Café, which was a beautiful albeit somber show to match the vulnerability and emotional resonance of the album. For me, it was worth every mocking milepost of the boring drive from Phoenix to Los Angeles.

But this was different. Instead of a full album in sequential order, I would get to see Butch creating his own impromptu-ish set list and calling the shots—and taking a number of shots of whiskey during the show, which only made my lady crush grow exponentially throughout the evening.

And now we fan girl.

Butch opened the night with “Joan,” one of my all-time favorite songs of his—because it’s rock and emotion and piano and yes…it was hauntingly, achingly perfect. After a few more songs at the piano, Butch moved to acoustic guitar and I almost peed myself when I heard the opening chords of “Don’t Move.” And we won’t even discuss what happened to my musical heart when Butch took a lovely guitar solo and then proceeded to sing a sample of BB King’s “The Thrill is Gone.”

Then, it was time to get electric. As the amps popped and sizzled to life, we were introduced to Butch Walker the rocker, who likes his music loud, his denim vest ripped, and his audience screaming for more. I got a taste of the boy from Cartersville, Georgia, who got his start shredding guitar and growing long, luscious locks perfect for the glam rock era. There was the stirring and uncompromisingly sexy single “Bed on Fire,” Butch’s psychologist-recommended confessional trip through “She Likes Hair Bands,” and even a guitar-drenched cover of Tove Lo’s “Talkin’ Body.”

As if all of that wasn’t swoonworthy enough, Butch let us know that he’d crafted the set list around his late father’s favorite songs and he was playing them as a kind of tribute to a man who had always supported him. (Are you “aww-ing” yet?)

Two of those songs, “Love Ain’t Enough” (the first song Butch wrote for Southgang, reworked to be something “Leonard Cohen would play”) and “Freak of the Week” (from the Marvelous 3 days and sung by a local business owner(?)) were songs Rachel had never heard Butch play live before. And the girl’s been to some Butch Walker shows.

And guys, this was essentially a one man show. Sure, backup singers drifted onstage for a couple songs (and were so talented and lovely) and someone offstage shook a tambourine to the beat here and there, but Butch played piano, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and even his own percussion. How the man is able to play two sets of rhythm simultaneously will always be beyond me. And he never missed a beat or hit a sour note. This stuff is in his blood.

Really, the magnetic firebomb of attraction that is Butch Walker boils down to this: there is nothing sexier than watching someone play an instrument, perform to an audience, share what they’ve created, and love every second of it (I know this by virtue of building a life with a musician myself—is it obvious I have a type?).

And you can tell Butch loves this, lives for this. He told us so a couple of times throughout the show, but he was simply reinforcing that which we could already see—that music is an extension of him, that it’s all that exists when he’s onstage, music and storytelling—and that there’s no other option for him in this crazy, elusive ride called life than to make music and fucking rock.

If you don’t have a crush on Butch after reading all of that, well…you’re a lost cause. Conversely, if you’re starting to feel the pitter-patter of giddiness in your chest, here’s some kindling to fuel the music crush fire:

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