NYC’s groundbreaking underground artist Matt Butler dropping a most provocative collective, a tour de force. Driven by inspiration of the ones left behind, self-titled release Reckless Son is truly a masterpiece produced beautifully and executed with perfection. Reckless Son delivers notes from a man that has witness more than most as he has toured to prisons throughout the country. The artist discloses his desire to perform and write from darker and deeper areas in life. Has spent time touring the country to less traditional venues such as churches, prisons, and drug rehabs. Butler’s scope of music inspiration comes from a place much darker, fused with controversy. A lot of the material entails the life of the inmates which is referenced in the music, points to the” lost boys”. This as his inspiration and rightly so, the music is more appreciated from those places. In his words, “Reckless Son wasn’t written for the incarcerated. It was written for those who haven’t had the privilege of meeting these people and hearing their stories for themselves,” he explains. “The show is as faithful a rendering of the truth of my experience as I can offer. The people in jail know their own story already. Reckless Son is more about getting that story heard.” From the beginning the music kicks off with an exceptional melody that should be the touchstone of his music. “Time to Be a Man” an internal narrative of a boy raised into the life of crime. Hardships and survival mode pushed the boy into prison life. It’s a story that permeates the prison systems. Butler’s music “Praying for the Rain” and “Good Friday’” transcends into a realm that isolation the stripping of freedom can shred your soul. But it’s his mission to unveil those stigmas inmates face, there’s always more to the story and where they come from. I recommend all of you listen to this as this album sheds light on darker corners of the earth, but his intentions are to enlighten us all.
Where are you from?
- Matt: New York City, born and raised!
What inspired you to start playing?
- Most of my childhood I was too afraid to play music. I was afraid to try things I thought I would fail at, so for the most part I stuck with things like sports that came easier to me. But by my teens, I had fallen in love with music and punk rock to such a degree that I was desperate. Sometimes I think that’s how it works; I can be 49% terrified and 51% desperate and that little 1% is enough to get me to leap.
What inspired you to play at prisons?
- I remember very clearly years ago coming across a video on Facebook of men in a county jail in Virginia singing songs and something about it really struck me. I saw the spirit in what they were doing. The camaraderie they felt with each other and their determination to take themselves to a better place. I admired it so much! Music meant something in that moment that went far beyond entertainment, it was life affirming and it was healing, and I realized that’s what I wanted my music to mean too.
Tell us about your songwriting. How do you get inspired?
- Well, I actually work at a bookstore in Manhattan, and I have to say that being surrounded on a regular basis by all those stories kind of keeps me in a state of perpetual awe. I have books all over my apartment and I’m usually reading three or four different books at a time. What keeps the creative process exciting for me is the sense of adventure, and literature and poetry is how I tap into that feeling of wonder.
What has been your most inspiring experience so far touring and playing in prisons?
- Well, I literally went across the country by way of the country’s most shadowy places. It was quite an eye-opening experience to say the least. It’s a world the average person never experiences: they know it exists, but they’ve never seen it. I was so moved by so much of what I saw and heard that, rather than just feeling inspired, I almost felt a sense of obligation or duty to tell the story. I wasn’t quite sure how I ended up being able to perform in these facilities, but I was aware it was a privilege and one I didn’t take lightly.
Tell us about your new EP.
- It’s called Reckless Son and it consists of five of the nine songs that are going to be on the full album and that are in the stage show. I recorded it with a fantastic producer named Doug Schadt and we did the whole thing pretty much ourselves in his production space. It was a relatively new experience for me, not using a band. I got really interested in ambient and instrumental music during the quarantine, and all those colors and textures I think helped me to capture the landscapes and the feeling of the open road I experienced on my tours.
Where do you record?
- We made this record in Brooklyn, New York!
Where do you most love to perform?
- You know, I’ve never had a better audience then folks I’ve played for in jails or prisons. I’ve never felt as useful or purposeful, and I’d also say I’ve never felt quite as appreciated anywhere as when I’ve performed in correctional facilities. There’s something about the way your voice sounds in those spaces, playing inside a county jail in a big two-tier pod, the echo and the reverberation is completely unique. I’ve never heard myself sound like that anywhere else.
Who would you love to tour with?
- Oh man, if there’s one musician I’d like to meet, let alone perform with, it would be Bruce Springsteen. He’s been a songwriting hero of mine for quite some time and ‘Springsteen On Broadway’ was a big inspiration for me when I was writing Reckless Son. I’d also say there’s a fellow out there named John Craigie that I couldn’t say enough good things about. He’s sort of a hybrid folksinger/stand-up comedian, and I feel like that man is healing people at every show he plays. I’d love to share a stage with him!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- I’ve founded a small non-profit organization called Art That Serves with the aim of bringing more music and art into correctional facilities. I feel committed to the idea of giving other artists and teachers similar opportunities as I had. So, I think in five years I may be more heavily involved in the non-profit side of things. Creatively, I see Reckless Son as the first part of a larger body of work, I think it might be a trilogy of albums. Hopefully I’ll be somewhere down the road, pulling the thread on the rest of this story!
I have a feeling this is not the last time we hear of him. In fact, we’ll be ready for the next album!