By Matt Walsh
“She didn’t have a single piece of luggage with her. Her makeup was smeared, and her clothes were dirty. She looked very distraught,” the Cormac McCarthy-inspired songwriter remembered.
Butcher asked if everything was OK. The woman explained to him that her long-time lover was a drug addict, and she was leaving for Texas to live with her mother and start anew.
“I told her it was the right thing to do,” he said, explaining the origin of his song “Grace on a Greyhound Bus.”
Butcher knew what it was like to decide to leave. When he was 18, he went to UF to study journalism. After his first semester, he decided that school wasn’t where he wanted to be. He wanted to tell stories through music.
“I remember the exact day I decided to leave (UF),” Butcher said, who is now 26. “It was really gray outside in the summer. I remember being at Leonardo’s and saying, ‘Man, I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to be a folk singer.’”
The singer-songwriter from Orlando has been touring the Southeast since he left Gainesville. He has played with some of today’s most influential folk artists, including Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers. Butcher will play at Common Grounds on March 19 at 9 p.m. and again at the Reitz Union on April 1.
“I attended UF in 2001 for one alcohol-fueled semester,” Butcher said. “I dropped out immediately and moved back to Central Florida.”
His parents were reluctant about him leaving college, but shortly after that rainy day, he moved back home to pursue music.
“I am a songwriter; that’s what I like to do,” he said.
After The Heathens split, Butcher began playing under his own name as Butcher and The Revolvers. He eventually recorded an album in 2008 called “Me and My Friends.”
The album was produced by Justin Beckler and was highly praised by The Orlando Sentinel. The first-person storytelling album is confessional and has a chirp that will keep a head bopping till the day is done. With powerful lyrics and a springtime sound, the album feels like Appalachia on a sunny day.
“This is music for late-night drives; it sounds best at 2 in the morning on a winding country road,” Butcher said.
But lately Butcher has found himself without a band behind him.
“I have been in too many bands and figure the only way I can break up myself is if I die or develop multiple personality disorder, neither of which has happened yet,” Butcher said. “I felt weird at first, putting my own name on a T-shirt, but artistically it is the right thing for me.”
Without a band, Butcher feels that he has more control of where his music goes. As an artist, he is more relaxed on stage, not to mention touring alone is more economical.
“I have learned a lot from watching the Avett Brothers,” Butcher said of the North Carolina band he frequently plays with.
The Avett Brothers’ chirpy folk tunes have recently made it to the top of various charts, including Rolling Stone’s College Radio Top 10 Albums.
“The Avett Brothers toured around 250 times in 2008, and they have climbed up every rung of the ladder to get to where they are today,” Butcher said.
Many musicians, like the Avett Brothers, have played on street corners and at small dives in the middle of nowhere so that they might get their name out on the street.
“It is very important to remember the DIY dynamic these days,” Butcher said. “Most of my time is spent promoting my music and booking shows.”
As he watches his fan base grow across the Southeast, Butcher is especially appreciative of everyone who comes to listen to his music and support him.
“I am so thankful for everyone who appreciates my music and all of the musicians I have gotten the chance to play with.” he said.
Music is a way of life for Butcher. He grows his talent like a fragile seed in the midst of a storm. He invests time and money and watches his fan base expand little by little. But making it to the top is not his No. 1 priority. For him, it’s about his next album, and it’s about connecting with the masses through storytelling.
Go see Matt Butcher play at Common Grounds on March 19 at 9 p.m. and at the Reitz Union on April 1.
To listen to some of Matt Butcher’s music, visit his web site.