Deeply rooted in authenticity, Atlanta musician Zach Butler’s debut album “Out of Practice” sends listeners down a path of musical stylings that feature storytelling lyricism, a plethora of instruments and a funky, soul-filled sound.
With influences such as John Mayer and The Lumineers, Butler aimed to create an album rough around the edges with smooth blues, soul and rock accents.
“Out of Practice” can be compared to works such as John Mayer’s 2002 album, “Room for Squares,” which features similar soulful-rock vibes.
Butler began playing music as a kid growing up in Macon, Georgia. When his parents put him in piano classes at a young age, the aspiring singer-songwriter felt bored of the typical compositions usually taught when first learning an instrument.
Instead of continuing with lessons, Butler began to self-teach popular songs on the radio to learn how to play and satisfy his need to play music he felt resonated with him.
“A lot of the curriculum was like ‘we’re going to learn twinkle twinkle little star,’ and I didn’t want that,” Butler said. “I wanted to play what’s on the radio, so I quit piano lessons and started to learn stuff that I would hear on the radio and youtube.”
After self-teaching himself piano, Butler began to play music at the church where he grew up. While playing in church, he realized all of his friends were playing guitar. This inspired Butler to teach himself guitar, which led him to start writing his music.
“After I started learning guitar, I became obsessed with it,” Butler said. “I didn’t start writing songs until about the end of high school, and then most of the songs that are on the record I wrote my freshman year of college in my dorm room.”
When writing music, Butler’s process depends on many different aspects. However, most of the time, he begins with a few chords he thinks sound good, and then he begins to come up with lyrics and build a story from there.
The songwriting process is never consistent for Butler, and it varies with every song depending on his original inspiration. When it comes to writing lyrics, Butler first creates a general theme for the music, then builds up from there.
Butler’s songs are all very personal, each weaving lyrical characteristics of his own life within the sounds of the music. However, one of the most unique to Butler on the album is one he wrote about his grandfather, who passed away a year prior.
The song “Better Friends” is the second-to-last song on the album, and one of the first lines in the song is “I still keep your camera on my shelf, I wish I used it more.”
“He gave me this old film camera before he passed,” Butler said. “It was just collecting dust on the shelf, and I felt like I needed to include it in the song. I never get too emotional about songwriting, but I couldn’t even finish writing it at that moment because I started crying. Before I showed anyone the song, I played it for my family. So that song is the most meaningful.”
Ever since Butler began writing songs, his main goal was to create an album. To raise funds for this album, Butler made a few fundraising sites online to gather funds, book studio time and work with musicians. Through these sites, Butler raised a decent amount of money. However, it was only about half of what he needed to create an album to meet his standards.
When Butler’s girlfriend, Juliet Peak, found out that there were not enough funds, she took matters into her own hands and used her social media platform as a way to raise the rest of the money for the album.
Peak began to raise money as a secret, having people donate to her without Butler knowing. Peak raised about 1,000 dollars for Butler’s album in only five hours.
Butler could book studio time at Capricorn Records in Macon with the money raised, where several very successful and influential artists have recorded throughout history.
“We were able to record in Capricorn Records, where artists such as The Allman Brothers and Otis Redding have recorded in the past,” Butler said. “I knew a lot of the people donating money to the project were from Macon, so I thought it would be good to go back home to that city and record. That studio is incredible.”
For Butler, the future of music is bright as he plans to play more gigs, write more music and perform at house shows.
Butler plans to play a house show on Friday, February 18th, with musician Phillip Vo. The address for this event is 5235 Kayron Drive, Atlanta, Georgia, 30328.