Pop powerhouse Butch Walker knows guitar: when to use it, and when not to.
You’re a guitarist, keyboardist, singer, songwriter, and producer. Does the music biz ever have a problem knowing what to do with you?
I think when I used to worry about being classified, and being on the radio and selling lots of records, I was always worried about what record company people in their cubicles thought about me. But It's always worked for me because I get to record and tour and play in front of people that love what I do and then I get to come home and produce for a living. So I'd say that's the best job in the world. The best two jobs. I think having all that under my belt has done nothing but help. I think if I had been pigeonholed as a just a singer or a songwriter . . . I mean, maybe I did confuse people before but it doesn't bother me.
When you have a lot of layers on your songs, how do you keep the guitars from obscuring the vocal?
I think a mistake a lot of people make is they write music before they write lyrics or put any vocals on it. That's sort of putting the cart before the horse, getting this whole track done and then you're like oh we need to add 50 more guitar tracks. How are you going to know that until you get a vocal on it? Because a melody can cover so much room and can take up so much space that you kind of have to put the guitars around it. I know that's hard for guitar magazine readers to deal with. You just want to base it all on guitar but you really can't in pop music. It's all about the vocal and the guitar needs to support the vocal. To me that doesn't mean less guitar or discounting the guitar in any way. It just means you've got to have a knack for working around it in holes and making it support a melody and counterparts. It's a whole new way of looking at the instrument. It's a whole new way of recording for a lot of people, very different from sitting around doing instrumentals and shredding, which can be fun but then when you want to blend in a big Beatle-y melody, it can be tough. I like a really good, midrangey, present vocal and that's exactly where the guitar sits. That's why guitarists and vocalists hate each other I think. Especially live, their frequencies are battling each other almost as much as their egos are.