Brandy Butler’s Growing Pains
In music, you have voices and then you have voices! If you happen to be blessed with the latter, you know that life has been generous with you and gave you a true gift. Of course, you have to cultivate what you received, as nothing in life comes easy. Brandy Buttler definitely has that gift and has definitely been putting it to good use. As a matter of fact, she’s been honing her sound for 15 years solid – backing all types of artist – before she decided to take a jab at her own record. This Friday, her debut LP entitled “The Inventory of Goodbye” is due to hit the shelves. It’s a record that will appeal to fans of Lianne La Havas, Amy Winehouse and even Jeff Buckley. It’s also the perfect concept break up record. We feel very honoured that we could sit down for a fun conversation with this outspoken lady.
You grew up in Philly, right?
I actually grew up In Reading, Pennsylvania. I moved to Philly when I was 17, and lived there for 7 years before I moved to Switzerland.
Did you catch that whole 90s Philly Soul revival? The Roots, The Goats, Jill Scott etc.
I did! How lucky am I? I remember having just turned 18 and I was soooooo young. I worked at a coffee shop, and there were these two older beautiful black women, who were like big sisters for me. They took me to all these cool places where great music was happening. They took me to Fluid for the first time where Questlove used to spin, or to Rich Medina’s open mic where I heard Jill Scott before anyone outside of Philadelphia knew who she was. It was a really magical time for me. It’s where I met Philly Soul for myself.
It must’ve been an amazing time musically, for the city.
Definitely. I always feel like Philly is one of the realest places on the planet. Like it’s a big city, and it has some of the pretension that goes with a big city, but people there are straight up real and have so very much heart. It’s no wonder that such great musical movements have arisen from this city.
And do keep a tab on what’s going on there right now?
How can one not? There is always great people coming out of Philly! Plus I am still close to lots of my friends from my years there, and most of them are musicians.
Listening to your music I can hear a Soul inflection, yet there’s a strong leaning towards something more Mid-Western or Southern, even – why is that?
I grew up in a house dedicated to Black American music. My father was schooling me on Stevie Wonder since I could breath, so that is most definitely the soul you hear. I guess what you equate as Mid-Western or Southern is what the desert sounds like to me. I was out in the desert in 2015 with my best friend doing a road trip, and I was just blown away by this entity. It’s vastness, it’s unforgiving heat, it’s death and the little things that still manage to grow. I had never seen anything like it before and it I think the impression it made on me just sings through the music.
Is this a concept record? Because it definitely feels like one.
It is, but on different levels. One is that it is my story. A story of learning how to let something come to you, to relax in that, and then to let it go. To let yourself fall deeply into both sides of the experience of connection and come out the wiser for it. The second level is this inspiration from the desert. I wanted the whole album to sound like as if you had just spent a day in the desert.
Did you start writing with an overarching theme in mind or did that come naturally durning the process?
I had this big graphic chart on the wall of my living room during the whole recording process. It was a chart that was meant to visually represent a day in the life of the desert. I charted out different times; what each time felt like; the intensity of the heat. Then I matched the songs that I had on that arch and wrote what I didn’t have to fill the empty spots.
Were you afraid at any point to put out such a personal, honest and vulnerable record?
I go back and forth all the time. Sometimes I am scared. Sometimes I am fearless. But on every step of this process, every time I doubted myself, something came to remind me this is so right and not to be scared.
How important is the idea of being truthful as an artist, to you?
It’s the number one most important thing about me as a human being. I mean truth is always subjective, but I am committed to not being deceitful about mine. Life is good sometimes and also not good sometimes. Both of these experiences are just as valid and necessary as the other.
Do you think the world is still open to honest, raw music? I mean, we’ve endured such a long deluge of artifice and it looked like the new generation, didn’t mind it one bit.
I do. I think that vulnerability will always being one of the things that stops people dead in their tracks, because it’s an act of true love. It could be selfless or selfish, but it’s these moments I think people feel connected and are the richer for it.
In closing, can you tell me what’s on your playlist right now?
Michael Kiwanuka – Black Man in a White world
Solange – Cranes in the Sky
Lianne La Havas – Wonderful
Beyonce – all of Lemonade!
Laura Mvula – Magic(BBC Version)
Ella Fitzgerald – Air Mail Special
Childish Gambino – Me and your Mama
Laskaar – DNA
George Burton – From Grace to Grass
Stevie Wonder – Superwoman