The Capaciousness of Butterfly Boucher

Australian singer/songwriter Butterfly Boucher is one of those rare talents who can play pretty much any instrument you put in front of her which is exactly what she did on Flutterby, her 2004 debut — she sang and played almost every note on the record, save drums and cello. One critic called the effort a “a low-key tour de force” that “reflects an uncommon maturity and breadth of talent.” And that guy wasn’t alone in his praise. David Bowie and Madonna both took notice, as well, but it was Sarah McLachlan who really stepped up to the plate. She offered Boucher an opening slot on her world tour and, when Butterfly’s label wouldn’t provide tour support, McLachlan cornered the head of the company at a party and took him to task. With that business handled, the two hit the road together and continue to enjoy a friendship all these years later. “Last time she came through, I emailed her and said, ‘Oh, I’d love to come to the show.’ And she wrote back and said, ‘Well, I’d love you to sing on something.’ I said, ‘Okay, deal,’” Boucher offers. “And then she said, ‘And I fully expect you to take me shopping.’ Which — I’m not a big shopping person. I’m stoked that she’s a friend of mine. She’s still as encouraging as ever.”

That long-standing encouragement also showed itself when Boucher decided to honor Flutterby‘s 10th anniversary by re-recording it with some of her very talented friends — Sara Bareilles, Katie Herzig, Ruby Amanfu, and, of course, Sarah McLachlan, among others. Even though the 2004’s Flutterby still feels incredibly fresh and lively, 2014’s Happy Birthday Flutterby is more capacious, less brash. That more settled vibe reflects Boucher’s inspiration for the project: “I just had this moment of gratitude — and I’m not saying this to blow smoke up anybody’s ass — but I really did have this gratitude of thinking about all the support and the fans over the last 10 years, especially the ones who were there at the first Sarah McLachlan shows I did and bought the album. It kind of blew me away and I, more than anything, felt like doing something to acknowledge that.” She continues, “The whole process was a lot more emotional than I thought it would be, revisiting those songs — particularly because we recorded in the same studio.”

Even though Boucher and company worked with the same songs in the same studio, the process was very different. This quintessential do-it-herself artist had to step aside and practice non-attachment. “It is a kind of spiritual practice. It’s something I want to get better at,” Boucher quips. “But I really tried not to do — because I have a tendency on all my albums to play all the overdubs and all the instruments — so this one I really wanted to be special in that I didn’t do that.” To clear that bar, Boucher turned to some of the biggest talents in Nashville and asked them to fill her shoes. She laughs, “And there was some complaining. k.s. Rhoads was like, ‘I don’t understand. You’re the best bass player in America and you’re getting me to play bass on your song?!’”

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It’s an interesting thing to hear an artist’s re-take on their own seminal work. How remarkable it would be to hear Joni Mitchell re-work Blue or Indigo Girls re-visit their eponymous album. Boucher says, “I almost didn’t do it because I thought it would come across as an egotistical thing to do. And, for people who did like the first album — and maybe this is just the negative thing in my head — but I thought people would think, ‘Why are you remaking an album you already made? Haven’t you thought of any other songs since then?!’” Rest assured, dear fans, she can and does write other songs.

In fact, she recently contributed “It Pulls Me Under” to Ruby Rose’s Break Free video, a piece that traces Rose’s transformation from ultra-femme to über-male. “That song was just kind of sitting around. I’d written it for a Grey’s Anatomy episode, but it didn’t get used,” Boucher recalls. “When [Ruby] reached out to me, she only had two days to find some music for it. I really felt this piece of film deserved the right music. This is such a better use of the song and an uncanny fit, emotionally and lyrically.” Boucher is also writing and rehearsing songs with her Elle Macho bandmates, Lindsay Jameison and David Mead. “We have about nine songs on the go. Kind of just slowly working our way toward what will probably be a new record. But not putting a ton of pressure on it,” Boucher says. “I have really tried to make decisions that have put less pressure on me so that I don’t feel weighted down, in the hopes that having more space in my life also opens up things that may not have happened if I didn’t allow room for it.” Invariably, that space gets filled with things like co-producing Missy Higgins’ last outing, The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle.

This credo of leaving space and not applying pressure seems to be serving Boucher well because it also allows time for self-reflection about what might want to come next on this musical journey of hers. “I am definitely between… something. I am between having dedicated a good 15 years to the idea of being a solo artist and fully immersing myself into being a solo artist. That was my focus. And, now… I think you reach a point where you’re just like, ‘Is that growing? Have I grown out of that idea?’” She explains, “I’ve been very conscious in that I haven’t scheduled any tours and I really am open to what comes next. It’s so much work and it’s so hard. But there’s no other way of doing it. If you don’t love it, it’s a waste of breath and life.”

 

This article originally appeared in Curve magazine.