Scottish singer-songwriter Rory Butler has been surrounded by music all his life – and it began in the recording studio that his parents ran in their home in Edinburgh. Memories of countless musicians coming and going through his home’s doors certainly left a mark on him, filling his head with the labyrinthine possibilities of music and how best he could pull part and rearrange its complicated movements. Tapping into a spring of gorgeous creativity that connects the British folk of the late 60s with a more modern Americana slant, he concocts a sound as affecting as it is authentic. And it’s all the more impressive as Butler had no formal musical training and simply learned how to play the guitar by listening to artists like John Martyn, James Taylor, and Nick Drake.
Butler is set to release his debut record, Window Shopping, on July 10 via Vertical Records and continues to refine this pastoral outlook through a selection of gentle hymns and lilting melodies. He gathers plentiful experiences, such as opening for John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Richard Thompson, and Lucy Rose, and builds a unique and hypnotic atmosphere of glistening acoustic guitar and soaring choruses. There is also substantial weight beneath these gossamer arrangements, with Butler using this album as a way to explore the differing angles of cyber addiction and how these interactions can foster a sense of detachment from the humanity around us.
Window Shopping was written and recorded as Butler traveled between his hometown of Edinburgh and the bustling sprawl of London. Balancing the plucks and strums of his acoustic guitar with a decidedly tongue in cheek humor, he’s crafted a collection of songs that sound playful but are littered with some truly complex themes concerning social media exhaustion and the need to develop our connections to those people holding in our own private orbits.
He speaks to the record’s thoughts on the consequences of our digital obsessions:
“My main issue is that it implants a negativity in impressionable young minds. It can be damaging to younger generations where there is an ideal and image that is difficult to aspire to, and its modelling young people an impossible reality. It equates to addiction. I’ve even been caught up in it, and I resent it.”
On recent single, “That Side of the World”, he delves into how we can often remove the human equation from terrible experiences so long as we can filter them through the lens of online perspectives. It explains that it allows us to remain distant while trying to rationalize the horrible things happening in the world. He recalls the moment he saw the image of a young child washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean during the Syrian refuge crisis, saying:
“I was hit by how the image triggered an emotional response to the crisis. It’s easier sometimes to remove myself from a reality, no matter how terrible, if it only appears as statistics and data on a page. The photograph seemed to have the impact of making things heartbreakingly real. I often struggle with how strongly I can feel about things, and yet how far they have to go before I act. I guess the song is a reminder not to let that happen.”
The track combines these dark lyrical passages with vivid acoustic rhythms and melodies that stretch out for miles. Butler’s voice is calm and reassuring even when asking us to look beyond the superficiality of our small insular world and see the larger social picture that is driving the actions (sometimes unconsciously) of those who must travel its turbulent paths. “That Side of the World” is a beautiful slice of folk-pop, but it’s one that tempers that beauty with words of warning and revelation.