John Butler - Running River Album Cover

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Tracklist

Recorded at Blackwood Rd Studios

•Engineered by:  Dave Mann

•Mixed by: James Newhouse

•Mastered by: Zino Mikorey

•Written, Produced and arranged by: John Butler

  • Surrender:

JB: National lapsteel, Guitar Beats, Bass synth

  • Moonrise:

JB: National lapsteel, Guitar Beats, Bass synth, percussion, leaves.

Dave Mann: Moog

  • Breathing Cedar

JB: Cedar Flute, Steel Pans, Marching Drums , djembe percussion, Bass synth.

  • Chimes and Clouds 

JB: National lapsteel, Chimes, Bass synth

  • As the Crow Flys:

JB: National lapsteel, Guitar Beats, Kick Drum, Bass synth

Crow/Wardong and Blue Wrens: as themselves . 

  • Drifting 

JB: National lapsteel, 11 string Guitar, Guitar Beats, Bass synth

  • Watturu Chant:

JB: Marching drums, Djembe, yoora boorna (clapping sticks), Steel pans, Bass synth, Vocals

Dave Mann and Bec Schofield: Vocals

  • Timelapse

JB: National lapsteel, Guitar Beats, Marching Drum and percussion

Dave Mann: Bass Synth

James Newhouse: Synth

  • Wandering Creek 

JB: National lapsteel Guitars, Bass synth

  • Pray for my People 

JB: 11 string guitars, Guitar Beats, Bass synth, Steel pans, Vocals, Marching Drums

Dave Mann: Vocals

APRIL 10TH 20024

SEASON ONE: HEALING – RUNNING RIVER

There is a fundamental principle in ancient Vedic philosophy that asserts the nature of all manifestation is that it moves between the states of creation, sustenance, and destruction. Things begin, they have a middle, and they end. That’s the universal deal. The idea is not to resist or rush any stage of the cycle, rather stay in the flow of where you are at. John’s journey of creating this new album, Running River was a direct reflection of that principle, and a beautiful reminder of the power of going with the universal flow.

After the release of his 7th studio album HOME and the subsequent global touring, tumultuous times lay ahead. Not only had the world gone crazy with Covid 19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but his own world was turned upside down with the loss of his father, the disbanding of the Trio, the continuation of personal anxiety and weariness from years of being on the road away from family. 

Within this crazy backdrop, John returned to the studio to generate new restorative music. This recording proved difficult with John fighting to produce and engineer the album himself, diving deeper into a world that was technologically challenging and not proving productive. The harder he tried, the further he pushed, the more lost he became.

Somewhere amongst it all he hit a wall and admitted defeat. He didn’t want to listen to any of it anymore. All that exertion, all his futile attempts to think his way into fixing it, amounted to nothing. This album returned to a dormant state. It was not ready to be born.

But in that crash, in things falling apart, came true surrender. 

In Sanskrit, the word swaha means to offer it up to something higher, to the divine. It’s not a renunciation or throwing in the towel. It’s letting it go and offering it up to the light. In the failure, John did just that. The surrender was like a giant exhale, the ultimate offering up. 

Surrender provided space. In the pause there was deeper listening, instead of trying so hard to say something. For too long he had been too much in his head, and in now, in the exhale, he could let go and just be. In the quiet, he could move from the external to the internal, the gross to the subtle. 

“Out of the chaos, came the order.” 

It was this stillness and space that allowed John to get clarity to see his way forward in the recording process. A way to “rebuild” himself for a new era that may lay ahead. The “download” he received in the silence and surrender contained a structure: a form of scaffolding almost:

Four Seasons: each season a different album of music.

1. Season One: Ambient, starting simply. Heal first. 

2. Season Two: Instrumental, beginning again from where it all started busking on the streets of Fremantle, Western Australia.

3. Season Three: Solo song album.

4. Season Four: Back with a band. 

 And so here we are at the offering of the first Season, Running River.

Over the years John had found himself drawn to the soothing sounds of ambient music that brought him back into balance. Using it on the long passages of travel to gigs or backstage to block out the industrial noise of festivals. He found listening to this style of music allowed him a little peace and sonic space to maintain wellness practices such as mediation, yoga, breathing, exercise amongst the backdrop of generators and blasting backstage sounds. As he leaned more deeply into these lulling compositions, a desire emerged that he wanted to create this kind of work so others could benefit in the same way. 

“It’s the continuation of an agreement I made a long time ago which is: if I’m going to do this thing that seems so self-indulgent, making music and “playing with glitter”, let me be a conduit for the divine. Let me be a vehicle for healing. Let me be a vehicle for change. Let me be a vehicle for something bigger than myself.”

He had always loved the meandering, improvised, introductions of Blues, Eastern and Celtic compositions and having incorporated that approach over the years with songs like Ocean, decided to expand on that approach. Fuelled by the need to make an album that could offer greater healing he departed from his characteristic progressive blues roots & rock dynamism and threw himself into recording an ambient album. 

The way back into the first season was slow, quiet and spacious. John kept it simple. He gave up trying. He stopped over-thinking and over-complicating and instead sat in the surrender. He went into the studio, open and ready for what came out of silence, and received a three-hour download. Rather than rushing through a three-minute rollercoaster that so many songs can end up being, he stripped the music back, let it come slow and steady. Songs were minimal, and he lingered in them for long periods of time, ten minutes or more. Where there would usually be up to twenty different takes on other albums, here they only recorded one or two. In this subtle realm, it became about the feeling, the music taking the listener to places the mind can’t.

“I’m always taken by how music by itself can make you feel and go to places that you can’t get to through intellect. I love when the lyrics of a song pass the baton onto the music to say everything the lyrics couldn’t”

John’s hope is that people will connect to the album in the same way it was created. Slow gestation, slow time, slow music, finding the people it needs to find when they are ready. Perhaps it changes their states and provides space for healing in some way.

He envisages it will live in places people are seeking calm and peace. The length and tone of the music will be conducive to many areas including:

• Meditation 

• Yoga

• Breathing 

• Sweat ceremony and/or sauna

• Plant medicine journeys. Going up, duration or coming back down. 

• Travel 

• Massage 

• Acupuncture

• Kinesiology 

• Osteopathy

• Putting kids to bed

• Waiting rooms 

• Hospitals 

• Movement expression 

• Rituals of all sorts 

Each song will also have a soothing visual component, with subtle trance-like imagery, so it can be played on YouTube in wellness spaces. 

This ambient album is John’s big swaha. His ultimate offering. And in many ways his greatest gift. The route itself was the reward.

“I’m struck by how little I want for it. It is unlike anything I’ve ever done. The album is almost the by-product. The process of creating it- getting to the point where I surrendered and then the making of it- was enough. It did its job. I’m like; ‘Cool, we’re done’. And then afterwards- I still have this album. It’s recorded.”

In eastern philosophy, there is an emphasis on non-attachment. A skilful action is considered one undertaken consciously with effort, but absolutely no attachment to the results. The Bhagavad Gita adds that the ultimate action is non-attached and one of selfless service. In other words, make your work an offering to the world, with no grasping to the outcome, completely in service of others. Running River is just that. 

“Out of all my releases, it’s the one I have the least amount of expectation of. Usually I work really hard on something, and like anything you work really hard on, any child you raise, you want it to go out into the world and be successful. But this is different. the making of Running River was the reward. I have no expectation for this album.”

And so we meet John at the inception of this new chapter, this fresh season of his creative life. Listening to Running River, understanding his journey through it, you can’t help but feel like it is a giant exhale. It is something special, something elevated, something beyond the mind. 

“I felt like just saying, thank you for the process. Thank you for what you gave to me. And thank you for what you allowed to happen in the practice.”

Rachael Coopes- Author, Yoga & Mindfulness Educator, Regular Contributor to WellBeing Magazine, Actor and Playwright.