John Butler has always valued live performance and connection above all else in his career.
After a difficult lockdown, the ARIA award-winning musician is returning to touring, including a stopover in Mandurah to perform at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre.
When John calls, the first question I ask is about lockdown.
"What was lockdown like? Lockdown was a rainbow of different emotions. My father passed away and my wife's father passed away within 48 hours of each other," he said.
"Sometimes I wonder whether I should leave that out of interviews, but it feels like I'm lying - and I'm not a very good liar."
He reflected on how the lockdown period had simultaneously held some of the lowest lows and some of the most beautiful moments.
"My daughter graduated - my son turned 14. I feel like the year turned out to be the perfect time for the world to shut the f*ck up and slow down for a bit," he said.
While COVID-19 limited gatherings and in-person collaboration, Butler set up a studio in his house.
"During lockdown I built a little studio in my house and taught myself to engineer my own sound," he said.
"I've always produced my own albums, but I started learning all of the other elements and slowly but surely I'm getting better at it."
Taking his tour to the Peel region is something Butler has been looking forward to.
"My dad lived in Mandurah, I miss going to my dad's house," he said.
"I've been down there packing recently. I also really love the theatre in Mandurah, I've only gotten to perform there once or twice but I love it."
Butler recounted how growing up on the Murray River in Pinjarra influenced him as an artist and as a person.
"Growing up in Pinjarra is the reason why I live on a river as an adult - I became obsessed with river country living." he said.
"Pinjarra was where I had my first encounters with indigenous culture, and I met the Kearing family, which was the start of a long relationship. Pinjarra totally shaped who I am."
When asked about the budding young artists in the Peel region, Butler expressed excitement about possibilities coming out of lockdown, and offered some words of advice.
"At the end of the day a good song does miles of work," he said.
"I've had the career I've had because I've made connections with real people and played live shows. Gig as much as possible - I know that has been impossible during COVID, but now that things are the way they are in Australia they are starting back up again.
"The business I'm in is giving people the chills. When that happens there is this divinity and truth and wonder in the world - that's what makes life worth living."
When it comes to his fans, Butler considers them more like friends.
"Go to different towns, see people. If you do, they'll keep coming back. I have people who come to 30, 50 or even 60 shows - and that doesn't happen just because they like my music. It's a connection being built," he said
The business I'm in is giving people the chills.John Butler
"I had a friend who told me the definition of luck is when preparedness meets opportunity - that is just so true - it only takes one person to hear you and think 'oh I want them to open for me, or play on my radio station' - just one person."
Butler's wife Danielle, who performs under the name Mama Kin, will be the tour's opening act.
"My wife will open for us, and my daughter is playing as part of her band. This tour is a dream come true for our family, " he said.
John Butler tour dates for WA:
- Wed June 9 - Albany Entertainment Centre
- Fri June 11 - Esperance Civic Centre
- Sat June 12 - Goldfields Arts Centre (Kalgoorlie)
- Wed June 16 - Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
- Sun June 20 - Perth Concert Hall
- Tue June 22 - Queens Park Theatre (Geraldton)
- Fri June 25 - Federation Park (Exmouth)