Featured Interview with Matt Butler from the Everyone Orchestra
Matt Butler is the conductor for the Everyone Orchestra. He is currently stationed out of Portland, Oregon. This year has been another busy year for Butler. We caught up with him before a set of shows in the Northeast. After talking with Butler it is clear that he is passionate about music, giving back to communities all around the world, and creating unforgettable moments that can take listeners to new levels in a live setting.
Q. Can you describe how you are going to create the lineup for this weekend, (April 19-21)? Would you like to talk about how you are going to put together the lineup for this weekend, and how it may be different from other situations?
A. I would say there is two real distinct ways that we do this, when creating an Everyone Orchestra show. One is the festivals, where primarily I am asked to create a lineup built out of individuals that are already there with their bands. Maybe I will bring in a couple special guests or something, but the primary gist of it is that the Everyone Orchestra is a great mutual meeting point for musicians, and this and that for others too. You can bring in a couple special guests to add to the excitement of the overall who is going to be at the event, and who is going to be in the mix with the improv. What we are doing this weekend is basically putting together a collective group of Everyone Orchestra past participants to do a series of shows. The really cool thing about these shows is the musicians get time with two full sets to stretch out, and really get into the improv. The music gets into a little bit of a deeper space, and the musicians get a little bit of a deeper connection with each other as the tour goes on.
The primary goal of what I do in bringing these people together is to put them on stage, and to create this truly spontaneous, reactionary musical creative environment. It’s not really premeditative, much at all. The musicians really have to be awake, be aware, and stay connected and ready to move in any direction that the band goes in. The intent behind this musical gathering is co-creation. As a group on stage, we are aiming to co-create some incredible music that is not just chaos, or avant-garde jazz. It can be anything, but what we all want is to make the people apart of it. So, when I turn around and get the audience to sing something, say we created a simple lyric like ‘We’re One’ or just ‘Water’. The audience is singing, and I will turn the band down just a bit. All of a sudden we are a cohesive organism performing a piece of music that we all just co-created. When that gets recognize from the musicians standpoint, and the concert goer standpoint, I feel like that is the most powerful piece of what the Everyone Orchestra does. When we accomplish that, I feel really good about what I am doing.
Q. Which musicians are the easiest to work with? Is there a formula to creating synergy? Do you feel what you do is a style of synergy, or something different?
A. I often use the word alchemic. I think there is synergy, and there is the magic between all of the different elements that we bring together. I’ve definitely had non-synergist energies on stage that have an incredible alchemic possibility that emerges. I’m willing to take a lot of risks, as far as putting different instrumentations, personalities, languages, cultures and whatever on stage, and trusting my abilities to work with everyone as a team. The only times that it really didn’t work is when someone was drunk, or the ego was so big, that is was too scary to break down, to let go, and go with the group synergy or energy. It’s a flat hierarchy on stage. If someone isn’t playing the game with everybody; everybody else immediately knows. (laughs) It is different then any other gig.
Q. There has been recent studies showing the positive benefits that music can provide to people on emotional and psychological levels. Do you feel that the concert experience is a way for concert goers and musicians to put in effort that may produce greater results afterwards?
A. The Everyone Orchestra can’t fall back into the map of playing a song you have done again and again. The comfort zone is embracing not knowing where it’s going, and being aware and listening. I think there is a real relief in that for a lot of people to kind. The players come back because they just have to show up, and have a good time and create. They are just like, “let’s do it”. They can jump in blindly and happily to what’s going to happen next. They rebel in not knowing what is going to happen next. There are other people that just want to play a song. Being in that space of not knowing is a little uncomfortable to them. It’s good for my creativity to be put on the spot like that, and have to react, and be a little afraid. It is healthy for my creative spirit to be put into the creative space, so that is why I go back to the Everyone Orchestra broth when I can.
Q. Last year the Everyone Orchestra performed twice at the All Good Music Festival. Do you plan on creating an entirely unique performance this year, or do you see yourself bringing back some of the elements from the year before?
A. The EO sets are very unique at All Good because they are so short. It is like a 35 minute set. So, we say, “Let’s jam the f*ck out of this one.” Maybe we will kind of change into it, but you really have to get into faster. I love it, I really do love it. It’s a short set, but a huge crowd. It’s really fun.
Q. Is there any shows or events you are excited about right now?
A. I kind of work on a first show basis. I can feel the energy building to the Boston show on Thursday (04/18). In light of the tradey, I feel that there is a lot of musical heeling and celebration to go on to bring people back to peace, taking care of each other, being present in the moment, and not regretting any moment of this life. Two weeks after that I will be in New Orleans doing a crazy late night JazzFest celebration. I’m definitely in reverence to the whole music culture from New Orleans. I have the blessed opportunity to play with some of the greats. To do EO down in New Orleans, I’m really excited about doing that. The last time I was in New Orleans it was my third EO I had ever done. I need to count on how many shows we have done, but it is over 100.
For more information link into the Everyone Orchestra website.