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Behind the Boards with Butch Walker: Producer Talks Taylor Swift, Weezer, Green Day and More

The producer and singer-songwriter also discusses helming Bowling For Soup's version of "1985"

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butch walker interview
Butch Walker, photo by Robbi Rich

    Behind the Boards is a new series where we spotlight some of the biggest producers in the industry and dig into some of their favorite projects. For the inaugural edition, we sit down with alternative rock-whisperer Butch Walker to hear about his work with Taylor Swift, Weezer, Green Day, and more.


    Producer and singer-songwriter Butch Walker has been actively working in the music world for over three decades, and has seen firsthand the way the music industry has shifted across that time period.

    The Georgia-born Walker got his start in the late ’80s with a glam metal band called SouthGang — when that band dissolved, Walker formed the power pop trio Marvelous 3 in the mid ’90s before becoming an in-demand producer, helming pop rock records with SR-71, Bowling For Soup, and Avril Lavigne in the early 2000s.

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    His production resume only grew in stature throughout the next two decades, eventually working on songs and albums with Taylor Swift (“Everything Has Changed” featuring Ed Sheeran), P!nk (I’m Not Dead), Weezer (Pacific Daydream and Ratitude), Katy Perry (One of the Boys), and many more.

    Meanwhile, Walker’s seasoned career has allowed for bold and exciting personal creations like his tenth solo album, Butch Walker as…Glenn (out this Friday, August 26th). This time, he’s trying something a bit different: playing a character. The LP sees him take on the life and stories of an aging “balladeer who’s been playing bars his whole life to nobody” named Glenn. According to Walker, this is a project born not just out of the pandemic, but through the joy of collaboration — something that the superproducer knows better than anyone throughout his 30+ year career.

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    “It was inspired by my friend Morgan Kibby, who was in the band M83 and is an incredible artist,” Walker tells Consequence of the new LP. “We got in the studio over Zoom, and she wanted to make a record and had this whole concept planned out.” Walker explains that Kibby took on the fictional character of Sue Clayton, a Palm Springs-dwelling widow who works on the other end of a phone sex hotline, and introduced a character named Glenn that she corresponds with — hence, Walker’s impetus to create his own solo record, but from Glenn’s perspective.

    Though Butch Walker as…Glenn has a greater emphasis on storytelling than Walker’s usual solo material, it also demonstrates a skill he’s been honing since his very first band: the ability to collaborate and bring the best out of an artist. In this case, the artist is Walker himself, but each song and album in his career was crafted with the joy of collaboration at the forefront.

    Ahead of the release of his new solo LP, Consequence sat down with Butch Walker and took a deep dive into five songs or albums that he’s produced. Below, check out Walker’s breakdown of five standout productions in his storied music career.

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    Green Day – Father of All Motherfuckers

    I was super excited, because I have a couple of years on [Green Day], but I’d be lying if I say that they weren’t a massive influence on me. I hadn’t heard Kerplunk! before, so when Dookie came out, I remember loading in with my band at the Hurricane Club in Lincoln, Nebraska to play to five people that night, of course, because there was a kegger at the Delta house down the street. We were nobody and we were touring in a van. We were still kind of lost as well, as a band, trying to figure out what our sound was and what our vibe was.

    When I had heard Green Day, this was in the wake of grunge, so when post-grunge was happening as well, punk rock started having a resurgence and getting contemporized by people like Green Day. But I missed that from my youth, and it was so amazing because for some reason, as much as I loved that sound and that scene, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t my upbringing. I had come from garage rock, power pop, metal and things like that, and those are all things that are in Billie Joe [Armstrong]’s record collection from Green Day… so, cut to many years later, that had a big influence on me, shaping my band that would come out in the late ’90s and our live show and everything like that. I had been following their career throughout the years and being such a fan.

    Then, my manager came to manage them a few years ago and the first thing that I did was text my manager and say, “Hey man, I’m here if you need someone to produce Green Day’s next record because you know I’ll fucking do it.” And sure enough, he was looking for a producer, because Billie Joe had produced the last ten years worth of Green Day records himself with the band and I think he was looking to find something that he wouldn’t normally do, because we all get trapped in our ways in the studio. So they hit me up, and my manager made the meeting happen. Obviously, it wasn’t a forced thing, my manager was like, “They may not dig it, they may not want to do it,” and that’s all cool and I said, “That’s fine, let me at ’em.”

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    So we met, we hit it off on the phone call, our record collections were the same growing up, pretty much, there were a lot of parallels between us and for what Billie wanted to do on the record. Keep in mind, as a producer, this is the ugly side, where longtime fans of a band hear that they want to “broaden their horizons” and do something different, and the first thing they do is shoot the producer. They hate the producer because the formula for their Coca-Cola got changed and they are very mad because of a band wanting to do something different.

    To Green Day’s credit, this vision was Billie’s. This was his vision. It wasn’t like I came in and said “let’s change it all up, let’s make a ’70s glam throwback record.” But at the same time, this was the kind of shit that he was into at the time, and it’s my wheelhouse. I love making records like that and those are huge influences for me too, I grew up on glam and power pop and metal and rock. So we had a great time making it and it was absolutely a collaborative effort. We spent a lot of time sending files back and forth — COVID was looming but it hadn’t hit yet. They have a very over-qualified massive studio in Oakland and of course, I have my sandbox, and I was like, “Hey, I work best in my sandbox,” and Billie would be like, “Okay, cool, I usually work best in mine.” So I was like, “Great, let’s send stuff back and forth and then we’ll get into the studio.”

    So it was a combination of everybody live in the room in my studio, sometimes just one at a time and sometimes not at all, they would be up in Billie’s place sending files back and forth. I was stoked because obviously, it was their most successful record since American Idiot, in a time where you can’t follow that, you can’t follow a “lightning in a bottle” moment where a band sells 10 million plus on a record. Everybody’s waiting for you to top it and you just can’t. I’m not even saying sales-wise, sales don’t even exist anymore, so that’s not a factor, it’s more just radio hits.

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    You’re a band that’s a legacy band, a legend band now, and the radio is going to be obsessed with playing [Justin] Bieber and Imagine Dragons. So the fact that they had top five hits off of that record at all on Rock Radio was pretty awesome. But we did it on our own terms, and we did it without a label, and we did it without anyone in our way. I felt like it was a great ultimate punk rock “fuck you” record.

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