Singer-songwriter Jonathan Butler

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The Grammy nominee probes his life and loves on his new CD and is joined by his daughter, Jodie, on a performance of a track from “Living My Dream.”

Jonathan Butler's story centers on overcoming incredible odds. Born in Cape Town, the youngest of 12 children, he was singing and playing guitar by age 7. By age 10, he was performing in villages to help support his family. As a teen, he landed a deal with a London-based label, and his music was played on white South African stations. He left apartheid behind in the early 1980s and moved to the U.K. Now living in Southern California, the multiple Grammy nominee has had success in several genres. His latest CD, "Living My Dream," combines African rhythms with contemporary jazz and soul and contains several collaborations, including one with the late George Duke.


Tavis: Grammy-nominated Jonathan Butler brings a lifetime of experience to his latest CD, “Living My Dream,” with 11 original compositions that celebrate his faith in God, his love for family and ties to his native South Africa.

A single from the album titled “African Breeze” originally written for the hit movie, “Jewel of the Nile,” recently entered the Billboard Smooth Jazz singles chart at an impressive number eight.

He’ll also close our show tonight with a performance of his song, “Heart and Soul,” which will be joined by his daughter, Jodie, who I’m excited to finally meet. Jonathan Butler, I am always better when I’m in your presence.

Jonathan Butler: Man, likewise.

Tavis: It’s good to see you, man.

Butler: Always, always.

Tavis: I like that hat too. I like that hat, man.

Butler: Yeah. I’m styling to you tonight, man.

Tavis: I like that. Can I just tell you, first of all, thank you.

Butler: You’re welcome.

Tavis: The last time I saw you, I was being honored with a star on the Walk of Fame.

Butler: Yes.

Tavis: And you and Dave Koz and Larry Phillinganes and Larry King and Jay Leno and everybody was there. But you all performed and you were so – that day, I mean, at the reception we had afterwards, your rendition of “Falling in Love With Jesus” still has everybody talking about what a great day that was. So thank you for honoring me by coming to the star.

Butler: You’re so welcome. Your mother, that’s an anointed lady. When she got up to pray, I was like that’s an anointed lady right there…

Tavis: Well, that’s why I’m here.

Butler: And so are you.

Tavis: Well, I appreciate that.

Butler: I’m blessed, I’m blessed.

Tavis: You are blessed and you are anointed and I’m glad to know that you’re still doing your thing. Tell me about “Living My Dream.”

Butler: Man, you know, I really didn’t think that I had this record in me. But one is, it’s a declaration. I mean, at 52 years old, I’ve been singing and traveling since I was seven years old. You know, that’s how I felt.

I felt, you know, I’m living my dream. I have just about everything I want and need in life and I’m doing what I love in life and I’m able to bless people wherever we go.

I see them on Facebook. You know, I ran into a little girl who said that she was gonna commit suicide after the show and I prayed with her. She was 12 years old. You know, it’s definitely a declaration that I feel more comfortable these days saying that than it would be 10 years ago or 20 years ago, you know.

Of course, Jodie Butler is the cowriter of the album, so credit to her because she kind of like yanked it out of me. Dad, you gotta go in that studio and you gotta work, you gotta work.

I mean, I was not interested. I didn’t feel I have it. But she and her friend of ours, Dennis, dragged me into the studio, so we made this album. It’s out of the chapter in my life and, of course, George Duke and Marcus, you know, on the album, great musicians playing on it. So it’s alive. Nice that it’s a live record with people playing.

Tavis: Those are great collaborations, Marcus and the late great George Duke. I miss George.

Butler: I miss him a lot. I got so close to him. It was so interesting after his wife had passed away, I went to write with him and we sat there for it seemed like forever just talking.

And I said at one point, I said, “George, I think I came to write with you.” He went to his wine cellar and he grabbed a bottle of wine and I said to him, “I guess I graduated.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I’m in your wine cellar [laugh]. I’ve been coming to your house for so long, but I’ve never been in your wine cellar.”

We talked for hours, man, and he was sharing his heart and he was sharing just how he felt about life and himself, I mean, his friends. You know, within 20 minutes, we wrote his favorite scripture, “Be Still,” and we wrote that piece in 20 minutes.

Tavis: How beautiful is that? I mean, every parent, I suspect, revels in their children and their accomplishments. But how cool is it to actually work and write with your daughter?

Butler: Oh, my gosh. You know, we are so alike in so many ways. She sits next to me on the plane. We order the same things. If I ask her this, she wants the same thing. It’s amazing. It’s really cool. We were in Paris together about two or three weeks ago and we did the tribute to The Beatles with Sergio Mendez and Alex (inaudible). It was just the two of us and it was just amazing. It really feels – to have your kids so close to you, it’s fantastic really.

Tavis: In terms of actual compositions, how will your fan base find these tracks as compared to the other kinds of material we’ve heard from you over the years?

Butler: You know, so much of this album goes back to how I used to make records which is all live musicians. And the writings of these songs are really just about my family. It’s about my personal turmoils and it’s also about celebrating South Africa, as you said in the beginning.

So when they connect with it, hopefully they will connect with just the true essence of who I am, you know. I’m not afraid to express my pain or my joy. I mean, I’m the kind of person who can never keep it to myself. I have to let it out.

Tavis: Has it always been that way or has it gotten easier as you’ve gotten older?

Butler: It’s always been that way ’cause, you know, I was alone most of the time as a seven-year-old with no parents around, no siblings to look after me. So, you know, if I was punished or if I was going through difficult times, I’d had to deal with it somehow. And the stage is where I literally can do it. I felt like I can go onstage…

Tavis: Let it all out.

Butler: Let it all out. And I guess, in my relationships with people, you know, personal as well, I feel better if I can tell you how I feel, you know. Unless you’re one of those persons like, you know, how you doing? Oh, I’m blessed, man, highly favored [laugh]. But you got a whole lot of stuff going on, you know. So I tend to just want to let it out. It makes me…

Tavis: That’s what makes for great songwriting, though, if you have any outlet to put that on paper, yeah.

Butler: Yeah, yeah. Well, like I said, I got to thank Jodie for helping me through this album.

Tavis: I’m gonna make room for you and Jodie to do your thing in just a second here. Before I do that, “African Breeze,” as I mentioned the song that you originally wrote, “Jewel of the Nile” is like, what, 30 years old now?

Butler: It is, it is.

Tavis: One of my favorite movies. I loved “Romancing the Stone” and then the follow-up, “Jewel of the Nile.” But how does it feel to reprise a song and make it fresh that many years later?

Butler: I believed in it then. You know what I mean? But it was for a movie and I did it with Hugh Masekela. Actually, I wrote it for the two of us and the trumped was really cool. I felt like, you know, it’s nice to be recording your archives and find something that people may not have really paid attention to and just revisit it and just, you know, juice it up a little bit.

It’s great. I really love it. We play it live now and it reminds me of “Wake Up,” you know, some of the earlier stuff that I’ve written instrumentally.

Tavis: It’s also nice to pay yourself a royalty [laugh].

Butler: Yeah [laugh].

Tavis: I think I’m gonna borrow from myself [laugh].

Butler: I wrote that, I wrote that, I wrote that and I wrote that, yeah.

Tavis: I think I’m gonna borrow from myself, yeah. The new project from Jonathan Butler – anything he does, I love. He’s just such an amazing talent and an even better man. The project is called “Living My Dream” and we are delighted to have him on this program.

But for the first time ever, he’s brought his daughter with him. Jodie and Jonathan Butler are going to perform “Heart and Soul” for us. He wrote this song with his daughter. It’s one of the cuts from the new project, again, “Living My Dream.”

I’m gonna get out of the way so that Jonathan and Jodie can do their thing for you in just a moment. Jonathan, I love you, as always.

Butler: I love you.

Tavis: Love to have you back on this program.

Butler: Absolutely, absolutely.

Tavis: Thanks for watching and, as always, keep the faith.


Butler: Jodie Butler, y’all.

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Last modified: September 5, 2014 at 10:55 am