How did Scary Fragile come about?
The story of how this album came together is quite a long one. Essentially, I recorded two different versions of this album. The first version was for the American label which ended up passing on it. The second version was for the U.K. label that was all set to release it and then the American label stepped back in and wouldn’t let the U.K. label put it out unless they paid a lot of money, so ultimately, they passed on it as well. After all of this back and forth, it became clear that I was not a good fit for Geffen and we spent the next year or so negotiating me out of my record contract. I was lucky and actually got the rights to both versions of this album. The version I’m releasing is the first one I recorded with producer David Kahne in NYC. I still feel like that is the version that captures what I set out to achieve on Scary Fragile.
Can you describe working with producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Regina Spektor, Kelly Clarkson, The Strokes)?
David’s a genius; I worked with him for three months on Scary Fragile and learned about life, religion, books and movies, the recording process, different gear. Although I grew up in studios, watching David made me realize I’m not as much of a perfectionist as I’d thought I was. When somebody calls me a perfectionist, I don’t feel weird anymore since I am nothing compared David Kahne. He scrutinized over a snare fill for two hours. I personally love that; it was kind of frustrating at the time, but it’s also cool to know there’s somebody out there so dedicated. He’s got these amazing ears which is one of the many reasons why he’s so successful. I was happy just to be around him and learn and observe the way he worked. I would like to be a producer at some point; it’s definitely something I want to incorporate into my career more. David has definitely encouraged me and he’s said I have the ears and the intelligence to make good records. To hear that was incredibly encouraging, and from what I’m told, David doesn’t work with people if he doesn’t think they’re good, so it was a compliment just to be in the studio with him.
What was the inspiration behind the first single “Gun For A Tongue?”
The lyric “watch out for this girl she has a gun for tongue” was the first one I wrote. The lick sounded a little James Bond-ish to me and, I’ve always loved soundtracks and instrumentals. “Gun For A Tongue” is actually the one song I brought to David Kahne un-finished. I had written the first verse and had vague ideas for the chorus. It was just one of those songs that when people heard it, they would get excited and you see that “first single” look in their eyes. However, the song wasn’t even written at that point; I didn’t need that pressure–I just wanted to finish writing it. David got very excited and being a passionate musician, he very quickly imagined what the rest of the song could be. This was the one song we butted heads on because we both had strong ideas on where it should go. In the end, we just had to take a break from it. Ultimately, I ended up finishing the song with producer Brian Malouf.
What instruments do you play on Scary Fragile?
I almost played everything, but I didn’t play drums this time. Shawn Pelton played drums on this album and Brian Young (Fountains of Wayne) played on “Gun For A Tongue.” When I was writing Scary Fragile I initially had recording with a full band in mind. I was hoping to jump in the studio with a well-rehearsed group. I had to wait for David Kahne to finish a couple of other projects he was working on, and out of habit I started doing pre-production at my home studio. When I write a guitar part I also hear the bass, the drums and the piano part; it all comes rushing in at the same time. Since it’s hard to push ideas aside and not get them down, I did a lot of pre-production myself at home. By the time I got in the studio with David, the demos were pretty dense in their ideas. He listened to the tracks and said there’s something really special with the fact that you play everything. On the first songs we ended up just putting live drums on them and keeping pretty much everything else. After that point, the whole idea of having a live band was pretty much thrown out the window. David felt there was something more unique and special about staying true to what I do, which is playing it all myself and David did do some keyboards and programming.
What instruments do you play live?
Most often I end up playing guitar for the live show. I use a lot of different alternative tunings, not just the standard chords. It’s a lot harder to teach another guitarist my guitar parts than to just play them myself which is unfortunate because I really like playing bass. My favorite instrument right now is the bass; it’s a lot of fun.
What would you describe as the most moving song to you on this album?
I felt very vulnerable when I wrote “To Feel Love.” Now I feel I've got enough distance from it that I don’t feel too exposed. When I wrote those lyrics they were very relevant and raw to what I was going through at the time. Regarding “Bright Red,” people at my former label were concerned about the lyric, “help throw me a rope/I think I’m drowning in shallow people.” The label said, “It sounds like your angry and people don’t like an angry woman.” It was funny for them to react to that line. Everybody feels isolated at times whatever your situation is: work, your job, school or whatever.
Tell us about your home life growing up in Australia and how you feel this shaped you as a musician. When did you start singing? Did you have any formal training?
I had a nomadic lifestyle growing up; we traveled all over the country, picking up roots every year or so. I loved my childhood. In fact, I didn’t want to grow up. I have six sisters and we are all either singers, actors, or something creative. My father is a musician, a rock & roller, and my mother was a ballerina before she became a primary school teacher. I was scared of growing up because usually around age 16 we would end up leaving home and running off with a theater company or joining a band, which is exactly what I ended up doing. I joined my sister’s band, so at least I was still with a sister. My family is a tight unit; it was the only security I had since we didn’t have a house. We had a motor-home and I was constantly leaving any friends I made. All of my sisters are still making films or are fashion designers or musicians; we all still travel around a lot, so we occasionally bump into each other in foreign cities! My adult life is very similar to my childhood. Music was a priority and art was held highly in my parent’s eyes. They felt really strongly about choosing art even if it didn’t make money; they felt like it was an honorable thing to do.
What is the story behind your unusual name?
My second eldest sister’s name is Rebecca–she went to school one day and came back crying since there were two other Rebecca’s in her class. From then on my Mom and Dad vowed to be creative with the names. They called the next sister Sunshine because she had burning red-orange hair. I actually wasn’t named for a couple of weeks. Two people came up to my parents individually in those weeks and suggested the name Butterfly, but my Mom wasn't quite convinced. If you don’t name your child during a specific period, the state will name the child for you so they gave my parents a week to put a name on the birth certificate and make it official. In the final week, my Mom was hoping something would inspire her. The first thing she saw when she went to the dance studio was a lady who usually wears a plain leotard wearing a full-on butterfly leotard. A couple of days later she walked into an old school hall and there was nothing left on the walls but a child’s drawing of a butterfly. Then on the final Friday, Rebecca came home from school and had this seven inch kid’s record that she wanted to play. It was called The Butterfly Song. So my mom was like “alright, I get it” and they named me Butterfly.
You’ve lived in Nashville for about ten years now. Describe how being a part of the Nashville music scene there and your involvement with Ten Out Of Tenn has shaped your sound.
It’s crazy that I’ve lived here in Nashville for about ten years now. I never thought I’d be in one spot this long. This is the longest I’ve been in one city ever and it’s great. It's the friends I've made that have kept me here, as well as the fact that it's a lot more affordable than living in L.A. or New York! It was a nice surprise to be invited to be a part of the Ten Out Of Tenn Tour. I didn’t think they’d invite an Australian into the group, but I guess I’ve been here long enough that I am part of the Nashville scene. It’s a nice, supportive community that has developed here.
You’ve had many songs licensed to TV shows and films. How do you feel this is important for an artist in today’s music climate?
It’s huge. I’m working on more licensing now for Scary Fragile. For Flutterby, I survived financially off of licensing from TV and it was incredibly helpful because I wasn’t getting any radio play. The label had given-up on trying to get radio play. TV is great since it has the added bonus of visuals. If the program is the viewers’ favorite, they already love the characters, so when a song comes on during a really dramatic or emotional scene, the song means ten times more to them vs. hearing it on the radio. Anytime you hear your song on TV it’s exciting. Gathering your friends to watch it and then your face gets bright red when it comes on. It’s as if I’m five-years-old again. There’s truly something about TV, the magic of TV. As an artist, TV is a powerful outlet right now, and thank goodness for the music supervisors that have made it so. If they hadn’t created these opportunities for artists then, I don’t know. I mean, there’s the internet, but so far there is nothing on the impact scale of placement on TV.
Which song placement for TV or film were you most excited about?
“Bitter Song” was played on Grey’s Anatomy during a pivotal season arch. It was so nice the timing of that too, since I had delivered the album to my former label and it was just sitting there and I was waiting, waiting for a response. I sent the album over to Alexandra Patsavas at Chop Shop, the Grey’s Anatomy music supervisor. There was so much negativity going on; I mean I wasn’t hearing back from the label about the album, etc. Alex told me just a few days before the show aired that they’d accepted the song for the show. It was encouraging that so many people in the industry were still rooting for me and my new stuff was actually good, you know!! It was very moving. They played “Bitter Song” twice in that episode.
You have a side band called Elle Macho–tell us about it.
I started another band Elle Macho and it's been so much fun. We just finished recording our first EP which will come out later this year. There's been no pressure to be anything; we didn’t have to prove anything at all. Elle Macho came at a good point when I was frustrated with my solo stuff. It’s the old part of music that I love–approaching it with no pressure or labels, completely free. It's been such a good experience and it's rubbed off on my solo stuff which I’m grateful for because I’d lost a bit of spark trying to get off my label and was wondering just how far I should take my music career. I finally came to the realization that I’ll always be doing music. My expectations of where it might go or how famous I might get have changed. My expectations of music are simple now. I just want it to be enjoyable and for that to show in my writing and when I perform. The music part has to be enjoyable–that's the only way to keep moving forward and growing as an artist.
A conversation with singer-songwriter-musician BUTTERFLY BOUCHER