Welcome Back: Butch Walker

Before his current career as an LA-based singer-songwriter and in-demand studio producer took off, Georgia-born Butch Walker sported some serious glam-metal hairstyles in his band SouthGang. After that he enjoyed brief chart success with post-grunge alt.rockers Marvelous 3. But Walker’s latest solo album, Afraid Of Ghosts, is full of heart-twanging nostalgia and wistful country-folk ballads. Produced by Ryan Adams, it features guest appearances by Bob Mould and Johnny Depp.

Is your friendship with Ryan Adams a ‘bromance’, as some have called it?

Ha! Well we definitely have a lot of kindred spirit there. Ryan’s kind of like my psychotic younger brother. But at the same time, musically he’s one of my favourites. We grew up on a similar background of hard rock and metal and punk. We can talk for hours about that stuff. There’s a lot of musical love and knowledge there.

You wrote the song Summer Of ’89, about Bryan Adams. What would happen if you had to choose between Ryan and Bryan?

No! I can’t choose. I love both. I was just listening to [Adams’s] Reckless the other day. I forgot how incredible that record was. Very important for me at the time, in my teens. I think the first song I ever sang in front of an audience – and in front of my mother, more importantly – was Run To You. That record was definitely the soundtrack to my pubescent years.

The first single from Afraid Of Ghosts is called Chrissie Hynde. Why this homage to The Pretenders singer?

The Pretenders were a giant part of my youth. Chrissie embodied punk spirit and rock’n’roll heart, but with pop songs. And I loved that. You could love The Pretenders even if you were in a metal band or you were into punk. She was just cool. And she still is cool. I know her, so the first thing I did after I wrote the song was send it to her, and luckily she really liked it. I didn’t want to put the song out if she didn’t approve.

Bob Mould guests on the album. How did that come about?

I didn’t know Bob previously, I was just a fan of Hüsker Dü and especially Sugar. It was a big moment when Ryan had him stop by, because I didn’t know if he was going to get on a song or whatever. We happened to be recording Father’s Day, which is a very important song for me. He heard it and said: “Wow, man. I lost my father two years ago this week.” I said: “Yeah, I lost mine one year ago this week.” So he ended up being on the song. He sang beautiful harmonies on the chorus and played really loud rhythm guitar.

As a producer and songwriter you’ve worked with pop superstars including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Pink and Fall Out Boy. Is there anything you regret doing?

I don’t mean to sound crass, but talking about my day job is pretty fucking boring to me. I enjoy it, but I didn’t sign up to be able to dish on Taylor Swift or whoever. Some of the most poppy stuff I’ve done have been some of the most enjoyable experiences. I’ve also worked with people with a lot more credibility who were just awful fucking human beings. Life’s too short for it not to be fun or interesting.

Afraid Of Ghosts is released on February 2 via Lojinx.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.