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Matt Butler: Evolution Of Everyone The story of the Everyone Orchestra

Matt Butler

Honest Tune caught up with Matt Butler, creator and conductor of the Everyone Orchestra before his upcoming shows this weekend in Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington as he takes his concept on the road with an all star bevy of talent.  We get in depth about how he started this path, how the path itself has changed over the years, guest conductors and who he’s like to have sit in who hasn’t…yet.  (Yeah, it’s Trey!)  Enjoy!

Honest Tune ~ Let’s start at the beginning…do you remember when you first conceived the Everyone Orchestra?
Matt Butler ~ I conceived it in stages. It started when I was in India with my wife at a cross cultural open mic where we got to witness music being a universal language, bringing everybody together. I just Felt the communication in a really deep way. Then I thought, “Y’know, I bet there’s a different way I could create something that’s not really an open mic, but not really a band either.” It’s like this new musical experience, where people can have this feeling, the musicians can feel it differently, to be organized and brought together in a different way. At that point I was out of Jambay, my band of the nineties, and I had started to compose a lot. I was doing some singer song writer stuff, some film scores, and started thinking about heading in that direction fully, stepping out from behind the drum kit. I tell people “Everyone Orchestra is my singer songwriter project gone awry.” (Laughs)

HT ~ (Laughs)
MB ~ The process of working on my singer-songwriter project is where I made all these other discoveries. When I came back from my Indian experience I hosted an open mic, and there would be lots of jams, drum centered jams, multi-instrumental jams…global music jams and I was in deep experimentation stage with the concept from 1996 through 2001. It was also part of my experience working with Ken Kesey (Original “Merry Prankster” and author of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and how he was always trying to get the audience involved in unique and funky ways. He was often very blatant about it. He would hand out handbills before our shows where it would have instructions like “This is where you spin!” and “This is where you dance like a clown!” There were these very specific ways he was trying to get the audience to participate. The idea of breaking the fourth wall down, between me and the audience, became very interesting to me. It’s not that we had that much success with this back in the day…sometimes it worked, sometimes not. I just grew up in a really orchestral household where, my mom just last year retired after 48 years of playing in the Eugene (OR) symphony. I had the opportunity to grow up among really, really incredible musicians, and actual conductors were in my mom’s regular circle of friends. Marin Alsop, who’s the principal conductors for the Baltimore symphony and one of the most highly regarded female conductors in the world…I guess watch her…y’know, this was orchestral music so it was very different from what I was creating, but still, the dynamic of where a conductor could take a group of musicians…I was very inspire by that. I didn’t conduct for the first few years. I mean…I was the drummer! (Chuckles) I hired conductors. It didn’t dawn on me ’til 2005 to conduct , I still self-identified as a drummer. Once i started conducting, I realized the role of conductor was really important to making this different. It was crucial to tap into this as something truly unique within the scope of what a band is and what people expect when they go to a music performance. The idea of being a facilitator, like leading a drum circle, kinda impacted my thinking at that point to. Being a facilitator, you don’t know exactly what will happen, you just roll with the punches, and help direct and adjust as needed. So learning how to conduct without some master plan, musically, is kinda my specialty.

HT ~ The genius of the Everyone Orchestra is that it works for basically all genres and styles. Do you approach these radically different styles any differently?
MB ~ Not really. I would say I adjust more for personalities. When I have a bunch of more, say, bluegrass musicians I lean in a more down the line style. We do some themed EO shows from time to time, like bluegrass or funk, but even within those contexts there is always some eclecticism. For me, it’s about personalities, the alchemy between the talent that’s most exciting. Seeing what people do, in reaction to these other people. I think the sonic texture of what the instrumentation is, that takes care of any accommodating that I may do because of a genre, and it ends up just happening. But, no matter the instruments, it was still just”Funk in A!” (Laughs)

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HT ~ You lead the band with notes and stuff on dry erase boards. I’ve seen “Love” written on there many times, what are some of your other directions?
MB ~ I’ll give keys…sometimes I write “Love” because I’m just feelin’ it. I’m feelin’ it from the musical energy, from the vibe in the room. There’s love all around us. Music is love. I’ll write lyrics sometimes, but that changes nightly. Sometimes I’ll write “Bass & Drums'” sometimes I’ll write “8 beats Chaos!” There’s a photo in our show poster, with five words…I really believe in the contrast, the light and dark and chaos that comes from it. The right mix of those two forces…that’s chaos. I’ll give any type of direction…a key, a style…a progression…but a lot of what I am doing is asking different people to lead. The broader idea of what I am doing is facilitating a group, working as a team to create music through the conductive influence. I do a lot of this by just asking someone to start something, and that will lead to a jumping off point. I have no idea what they are gonna play. They’ll play a progression of some kind, people will jump in and it just becomes something. And then someone else will come up with part “B” and i wait for someone to give me a wink or a sign thatb they have something, and then I’ll cut everyone else out and give them the lead. Everyone then has to stop and listen, figure out what the hell is going on and join in and develop their part. That becomes “Part B.” Then I say, “Let’s go back to “Part A.” And at that point we’ve created both of these sections kinda out of the air. And sure, sometimes somebody brings a riff or a premeditated change in, but even so…nobody else knows what it is. What the other people play is still from the spontaneous ether…this is my favorite thing to do right now. I’m trying to write songs, as a group, that include the audience as a chorus, that have some kind of meaning to the moment and that feature all the musicians in a way that is exciting and new.

HT ~ You keep it pretty wide open with your selections, but a few folks have become semi regulars. Does familiarity make the collaboration easier or harder?
MB ~ I try and have a mix of the old and the new. I will say that there are some professional players out there that are my really close friends that I just enjoy working with, musically. It’s just a fun hang, a good spirit and it’s fun to throw them in the mix. And, y’know, they’re well known players and that brings a little extra excitement to the audience and the promoters. To have them on-board, and to mix them up with new musicians…that’s one of my favorite things about the Everyone Orchestra. Getting to see musicians expand their comfort zones, try new things with unfamiliar players, to grow as musicians…It might get easier for veterans of the experience, they know what kinds of changes I may call for, but also know that there is not really anything NOT to expect. With the noobies often there is a bit of fear, a little hesitation as they wonder “Can I really improvise?” Sometimes I’ll invite people who are not really improvisers, and I’ll be like “This is different. You don’t have to be free jazz musician, you just have to be ego-less and try and have fun with it.” The music we’re making isn’t perfect, but the being together and making music…that IS perfect. For the noobies it’s just about getting past the initial hesitation. I think that once the music is going, old hand and new faces are equally challenged each time.

HT ~ You’ve actually let someone else lead the orchestra at least once, moe. guitarist al. Schnier. Did it feel weird handing off your baby?
MB ~ Anyone can give this a shot, as far as I am concerned. As I get older I am thinking about teaching more people how to play this game. I’m embracing this as a new instrument, and I think that what I’m doing with it is kinda a unique twist, and an eclectic combination of a lot of the different parts of what it’s like, actually being a musician. It’s kinda like a new role on a baseball field…as if…what if they found a new base to play? (Laughs) Y’know, not first, second or third or the outfield, but some totally new position. It was kinda exciting in a way. I hated missing that show. Sometimes it happens in this crazy life of travel. A really close friend had passed away and so I had to miss it. It’s better than the show not going on, and I think Al has a deeper respect for what I do now, after having done it. I think some musicians could get a lot out of the experience after trying it themselves. If somebody had to try it at the last minute, i’m glad it was him. I used to do a lot more of the guest conductor thing, but that was mostly before I took the helm. A few of the key musicians who were around me when I started this said “Look, I like all the people you are bringing in to conduct, but the way this concept is gonna work is that we’re here because of you, and you should be conducting…we trust YOU.” Some of the conductors got up there and they were just kinda fucking with people. And that can be interesting, but as a musician you don’t wanna feel like a puppet on a string. You don’t want to be told what to do again and again and again. There’s a fine line between direction and setting there clearing space so musicians have a floor under them and can explore, to be free. Having been conducted and then taking the conducting gig myself…Different styles of conducting were bringing different things out. I’m still in the place of figuring out what this thing is, and I didn’t wanna put other people in the place where they’re being told what to do by someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. On the other hand, I’ve been developing a curriculum, so that other people can more easily do this.

HT ~ Franchising is where the money’s at! (Laughs)
MB ~ Who knows? (Laughs)

HT ~ Did you lend him the hat?
MB ~ NO! Fuck no! (Laughs)

HT ~ (LAUGHS) Ever have a musician try and slip you a couple of bucks to get more stage time?
MB ~ (Laughs) Only Fishman! (Laughs)

HT ~ Well, He can afford it! (Laughs)
MB ~ (Laughs) Yeah right? He’s desperate for face time! (Laughs) No, nope, so one’s ever done that.

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HT ~ In the beginning it seems you just brought the EO concept to festivals, but now you’re bringing it to cities with a heavy musician populace, like Denver, New Orleans and Portland. Is it harder to pull together a city show?
MB ~ It’s different. It”s different budgets, it’s different energies…just different considerations all around. I couldn’t do this without a good team. I have a few people who help manage the logistics, do the booking, help build the line ups…do the publicity. i’m all about the art. At a festival I will build it from there. Really, the concept was built it to make it easier for musicians in the area to come and play together. As we get bigger and bigger draws it started making sense to bring in some of the regulars. It becomes feasible to say “Okay, let’s bring out Al for these shows.”

HT ~ You have strongly linked the Everyone Orchestra to some very worthwhile causes. How has your charitable activism informed your musical direction?
MB ~ It’s a big part of the development of what EO was, was to kind of bring these people around a cause, and making it extra intense. As the years have gone by it’s been more difficult to make each show affiliated with a different cause, difficult to pull off. But when I was starting this, it was a perfect time for this energy in my life. I wanna save the redwood trees, just help be part of bringing awareness to the troubles of the world. My cause related work with folks like Positive Vibration, Summer Camp, just to add a little meaning to the party, so to speak. Honestly, I’d like to do more of it. I’d like to get bigger in the industry, just to do more for the causes.

HT ~ I can’t think of any environment more perfect a fit for what you do than Jam Cruise. How hard is it to pick from the massive amount of talent on the boat?
MB ~ It’s definitely a first world problem. (Chuckles) It’s hard! That EO always ends up being really big because I try to be inclusive.

HT ~ Are there any artists you have your eye on who haven’t been a part of the Orchestra yet?
MB ~ There’s this guitarist named Trey Anastasio I’d like to get. I mean…I don’t know…he’s a busy guy…I just think he’d understand the process really fast and I think he’d enjoy it.

HT ~ If you had a time machine, who are some of your dream artists to have in the band?
MB ~ I don’t. I really don’t. Sorry to burst your bubble on that one. I just love so many musicians. I’ve loved each and every one of the line ups just the way they are.

HT ~ That’s a perfect note to end this on. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us sir. Look forward to seeing you soon!
MB ~ Looking forward to it as well!

Catskill Chill Line Up Announcement

Catskill Chill Music Festival has announced the line-up for “A Farewell to Minglewood” which will take place September 18-20, 2015, in Hancock, New York. The Chillfam will come together for one last celebration at the much-loved Camp Minglewood before the event moves to a new home in 2016.

At the top of this year’s artist line-up is Lotus, Zappa Plays Zappa, Lettuce, Electron, The Motet, Dopapod, Kung Fu, Twiddle, Break Science, Turkuaz, The Werks, Particle & Fam, and George Porter Jr. & The Runnin’ Pardners. The festival’s headliner will be announced on Monday, June 8.

As is tradition, the Chill will feature a number of tribute sets, which are always fan favorites during the weekend. Dopapod and Turkuaz will team up for Dopakuaz plays Studio 54, Twiddle offers up their electric take on Grateful Dead tunes, and the Chillfam All-Stars will perform a Herbie Hancock Tribute, while Shwizz and FiKus join forces for ShwiKus plays the ‘80s.

Particle, the only band that has performed at every Chill since its inception, will have the honor of closing out the weekend at Camp Minglewood, bringing an all-star cast of Chillfam guest performers on stage with them for the celebration.

While the performance schedule alone is reason enough to attend this annual event, it is the intimacy and unique grounds that make Catskill Chill one of the most highly anticipated festivals of the season and this year is expected to sell out. With a limited capacity, no campsite is more than a few minutes walk to the stages and anyone can make their way up to the front for their favorite sets. Hosted at a secluded performing arts summer camp where childhood dreams merge with the music festival culture, the “Chillfam” as Chill’s loving community have coined themselves, bunk-up in 16-32 person sleep away camp-style cabins, creating decorated theme camps intermingled amongst the campers. The festival also features free parking, free camping, daily yoga, live art, a farmer’s market, craft and food vendors, a communal bonfire nightly and an open mic.

Blind Faith tickets are sold out but Early Bird tickets are currently available. Details on VIP Packages, which will be purchased separately from weekend passes, will be announced in the coming weeks.  Tickects are available for purchase HERE

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Northwest String Summit 2015 Preview

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Just outside of Portland, Oregon, nestled in a majestic old growth forest lies Horning’s Hideout, home to Yonder Mountain String Band‘s Northwest String Summit, a gathering of the finest pickers and grinners you’re likely to see.  Joining Yonder in the picturesque setting are legends like Del McCoury and David Grisman, modern masters Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters and Elephant Revival, funksters The Greyboy Allstars, Nahko & Medicine For The People, Portland area home town heroes Fruition and The Shook Twins, east coast representatives like Town Mountain and flat picking guru Larry Keel and so many more.

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While the stages fill with once in a life time sets and super jams honestly, the location itself is the most mind blowing thing you’ll experience.  Horning’s Hideout is a nature preserve, and it hosts only one or two events a year, to lessen the ecological impact and as such, any opportunity to commune with the surrounding beauty is one not to be missed.  Between the strolling peacocks, the pristine lake and the wooded hiking paths you will be hard pressed to find a better place to see live music.  There’s a natural amphitheater that faces the lake and when the lights paint their leaves and the music fills the air there’s a magic feeling that permeates the entire festival.  With a strong focus on family, there are lots of lil ones running around, with tons of activities for them to enjoy besides getting an early education in music appreciation.

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Yonder takes their hosting duties very seriously, hosting workshops, sitting in with as many acts as they can, and just wandering the grounds sharing stories and love.  They help curate the line up as well, and having spent well over a decade on the scene have gotten to know so many of the finest players on the scene that they can pick most any band and know that they are bringing in friends they can count on to give their all for the musical cause.

 

With a stellar line up of incredible bands and players, a setting that truly defines the phrase “Natural Beauty” and a open, inviting vibe indicative of the Pacific Northwest, there is no finer way to while away a weekend than the Northwest String Summit.  See you there!

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Purchase tickets HERE!

The Nth Power/Corey Henry And The Funk Apostles Tax Day Funk-A-Thon Terminal West, Atlanta GA

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There are actually three certainties in life…Death, Taxes and a funky good time whenever The Nth Power takes the stage, and Tax Day at the Terminal West in Atlanta was no exception to that rule.  Hot off their nationally televised performance on VH1, the band came into town with a head of steam and a co-headlining band, Corey Henry and The Funk Apostles.  The bands have been taking turns opening and closing each night, with The Funk Apostles lined up to close this evening’s show, and it’s almost uncanny how well the two acts compliment each other.

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The Nth Power has had a couple of moments in the media of late, with their aforementioned TV gig and the departure of founding member, vocalist and keyboard player Nigel Hall.  Hall’s departure to finish his solo album left the band in quick need of a replacement, and they couldn’t have found a more able replacement than  Kreative Pandemonium’s Courtney Smith.  Smith harmonized and sang leads, rolled massive organ runs and crisp chords and fit in as if he had been there all along.  Quite a feat for a last minute addition, and his ability to seamlessly insert himself spoke volumes to his overall talents and humility.

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The Nth Power has always been about love, unity and soul and guitarist and lead vocalist Nick Cassarino fronts the band with an infectious twinkle in his eye and a passionate edge to every thing he does.  While his is a strong presence, one of the things that is most remarkable about The Nth Power is their balance, both musically and onstage personality wise.  While Nikki Glaspie is one of the more versatile and powerful drummers on the funk scene, she and bassist Nate Edgar effortlessly cycle back and forth between the pocket and the foreground, making a statement by playing their parts.  Weedie Braimah took his percussion playing to new heights, with a solo section that had the packed Terminal West crowd cheering both his playing and his over the top facial expressions and antics.  No one person seems to be trying to make it “Their band” and that seems to have created a harmony that comes through easily, and is all the more impressive when you realize it’s being done with a new player added to the mix.

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A stellar rendition of their TV broadcast hit “Only Love” and it’s contained and structured vibe was countered by a funky instrumental, appropriately named “420,” a tune that went on for a solid fifteen minutes of righteous interplay, round robin soloing and an obviously delighted audience.  While every band thanks the crowd after a show, the heartfelt appreciation from the players was a powerful scene, as they avoided all the cliches’ and told the attendees about their love for the city, and their hope to return soon.  Judging from the response to their moving message, I’m guessing it won’t be long before The Nth Power takes Atlanta by storm once again.

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Snarky Puppy has made a huge, Grammy winning splash on the funk and soul scene over the last few years.  A musical collective, when they come together as a whole they create devastating dancable new funk standards.  When not working as a unit, the various members pursue their own side projects, and keyboardist Corey Henry brought his newest, The Funk Apostles, along for the tour.  featuring an unorthodox line up of two drummers, two keyboardists, a bass player and a guitarist, The Funk Apostles crowded onto the stage.  The anticipation in the crowd was interesting to watch, as most had never seen the band, and few had ever even heard them and were clearly ready to see what the fuss was about.

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Opening with a droning, half time rendition of Prince’s signature tune “1999” was a bold choice, and the droning, plodding version gained an other-worldly atmosphere that was a revelation.  Taking his band through and hour plus set of tunes, Corey Henry took turns on the keyboards, a keytar and even did a lil break dancing to keep the crowd guessing.  Weedie Braimah came out and got his drum on for a sit in that took the drumming spectacle to a whole other level, and Henry showed a comfort-ability and versatility that comes from experience, such as touring the world with his other band.  The crowd stayed to the very end, and deciding to forgo the tired routine of leaving the stage, then coming back for an encore, The Funk Apostles simply rocked the house til the stage curfew in a show of both dedication and unwillingness to let the party stop, both traits any music fan should admire.

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Wakarusa 2015 Preview

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Summer is coming, and soon it’ll be time to take the music out of the clubs and under the wide open skies of Mulberry Mountain, Arkansas for June’s annual Wakarusa Music Festival.  They’ve pulled out all the stops for this years 12th installment, with Ben Harper & The Innocent CriminalsThe Roots, The Thievery Corporation and STS9 topping a massive line up that features something for every fans of all tastes.  With six stages, over 150 acts and four days to experience it all Wakarusa is an all out assault on your senses, designed to give attendees everything they ever wanted in a festival.

 

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There are Jamtronica heroes like Lotus, Big Gigantic and EOTO, reggae tinged acts Matisyahu, Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid, Jam band heroes Umphreys McGee and rising stars Dopapod, Twiddle and Trigger Hippy, funk all stars Galactic, who will will a set of their own and one with diva Macy Gray , blues and Americana bands like Split Lip Rayfield, The Ben Miller Band, Fruition and unclassifiably awesome acts like Quixotic, Marchfourth and even rap legend Chali 2Na.  We can’t even list all the acts we are excited to see at this years Wakarusa, but the full line up, in all it’s glory, can be found HERE.

 

The festival isn’t just music, however.  There’s a diverse assortment of vendors who will be selling savory food, arts and crafts and apparel that you’ve never seen but won’t be able to live without, a kids area, a general store and much much more.  The venue is uniquely suited for handicapped accessibility, with level grounds and hard packed paths.  The surrounding Ozark Mountains provide a scenic backdrop for the festival, as well as numerous hiking paths and sight seeing opportunities.  If you need to take a break from the real world,  the Wakarusa Music Festival is your one stop destination for fun in the sun and under the stars and as much music as your ears can hears!  We here at Honest Tune can’t wait to get back to Mulberry Mountain, and we hope to see you all there!

For tickets to the Wakarusa Music Festival, click HERE

Phil-Clarkin-Sign-PaintersPhotos provided by Phil Clarkin

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Summer Camp 2015 Preview

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Once again, moe., Umprey’s McGee will be joined by Widespread Panic, The Steve Miller Band, Keller Williams, Big Gigantic and dozens of bands from every genre are converging on Chilcothe, Illinois for a massive musical Memorial Day weekend at the Summer Camp Music Festival.  With acts from around the world like the John Butler Trio,  Gaelic Storm and Xavier Rudd performing alongside bluegrass all stars like Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Floodwood and The Infamous Stringdusters you’ll never know where your musical journey across the multiple festival stages will take you.   Jamtronica pioneers STS9, Future Rock and The New Deal will share the stage with DJs Paul Oakenfeld, A-Trak and Griz to take the crowd from trance mode to full freak out with their deep grooves and bass drops Funk stalwarts Karl Denson, Dumpstaphunk, The Nth Power and Victor Wooten will line up alongside old school legends like the aforementioned Steve Miller, The Violent Femmes and Bruce Hornsby there is LITERALLY something for everyone at Scamp.

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Scamp also delivers on the fun factor with special events like Field Day, where traditional camping games like dodgeball and capture the flag get a modern updating and a rock and roll edge.  The Soulshine Tent brings a number of work shops and susatainabilty exhibits to help illustrate the benefit of working together, raising the levels of mind and body connections to make the world a safer, more ecologically sound place.  Several noted live painters will be on hand, blending their command of shape and color with the music they hear to create works of art that could only be created in the moment.

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With close to a hundred bands filling the days and nights with song, dozens of vendors providing a wide array of savory food choices, artisans of all types sharing their creations it is indeed a fitting way to thank those who gave all for our great nation…a celebration of our way of life at it’s finest.  We here at Honest Tune can’t wait to see your smiling faces at Three Sisters Park to once again honor our national spirit and rock the night away!

For tickets to the Summer Camp Music Festival, click HERE

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