Jonathan Butler’s music reveals a strong spiritual background

Published on March 25th, 2021

By Jim Dail

For Jonathan Butler, spirituality has always played a role in his music. He certainly has faced many challenges in life, but all along he has held strong in his beliefs.

“It’s just who I am,” said the singer/guitarist who will perform Saturday with Gerald Albright at Thornton Winery as part of the 2016 Champagne Jazz Concert Series. “Any time I am in the studio or being creative, that is the source I draw everything from, my connection to Christ. And I like to share that with the audience.”

He has had plenty of trials in his life, being one of 12 children growing up in dire poverty in South Africa during Apartheid.

“We grew up very poor,” he said. “For my family it was a constant struggle just to eat.”

Fortunately, he was musically gifted and began to tour across South Africa, eventually getting a contract and getting on white radio in 1974 with “Please Stay,” a song that won him a Sarie award, South Africa’s version of the Grammy. From there it was the start of a brilliant career.

His recent album, “Free,” has, as he puts it, a “very deep story.”

“This record comes out of a lot of personal situations and difficulties and struggles,” he said. “It’s been said before that that’s how people write the blues. They write the story from a painful experience, and in short this record has been birthed out of personal pain. I’m actually amazed that I was able to complete it and go through the process.”

Butler is a family man first and foremost and that became a serious issue to deal during the recording. 

“My son was diagnosed bipolar and tried to commit suicide, and fortunately it is a lot better, but it was a lot that I had to come through in making this album,” he said. “Every song has a personal meaning to me.”

There was also a fire at his home.

“I was making the record in Arizona and I’d travel there and then El Paso on Sunday to worship with the church I am working with and I had second-degree burns from my legs to my arms,” he said. “To complete this was something.”

And it’s all part of the Butler experience for fans as well.

“When I do my personal dates I have the time to take the audience down all the roads I have traveled,” he said. “You don’t realize how much strength and wisdom you gain going through things. They really have a way of toughening your heart and connecting you to what others have gone through as well.”

He looks at his music and records as a way to keep that connection strong.

“I am excited and happy that this type of record is one that will continually be out there and growing in the hearts of people,” he said. “Making a record that people can play and find something to give them hope and courage is a great experience.”

Of course, music has helped him deal with the bad elements of life.

“Oh yeah, it is absolutely the case that without music my life would have been so different,” he said. “In so many ways it has comforted me and of course led me to have the life I have had.”

He has never taken anything for granted.

“I walk around the house, I talk to my kids and my lady about these things and I share with them and everything from the early days,” he said. “I often get a chance to glance at the gold records up my wall and it has been an incredible journey.”


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