Michael Butera had an idea of where he wanted to end up, but getting there involved a lot of twists, turns and unexpected routes. A memorable journey no doubt, but not quite the one he’d set out for.
The singer-songwriter was born and raised in Melbourne, but it wasn’t where he wanted to start a career. Rather than trying to crack into his own local scene, he planned to move abroad and try his luck in London. Then a visit from a distant cousin altered his course.
“She had some connections, so she said to come try out the music industry in North America and see what it’s like,” Butera explains through a socially-distanced phone line.
“I wasn’t expecting to stay for more than a couple of months and it just turned into several years. I was fortunate enough to work with a label in Montreal and also a label out of Chicago and New York and it just kind of snowballed from there.”
An enthusiastic singer since childhood, Butera always knew he wanted a career in music. His mother enrolled him in singing lessons when he was six and something clicked, spilling out into young adulthood and beyond.
“I was locking myself up as a teenager in my bedroom while everyone was going to parties on Saturday nights,” he laughs. “I would be up until like two in the morning just trying to teach myself how to use software.”
“Instead of having a social life as a teenager, I chose to pursue music.”
Pursuing it half-way around the world wasn’t exactly what Butera had planned, but by now he’d come to realise that things don’t always work out as you’d expect.
As someone who likens his musical style to that of Adele and Ed Sheeran, he was hoping to leap into the world of contemporary balladry. However, the US labels had other ideas.
“They tried to break me in via the whole dance music kind of club scene, but that was never really my thing,” says Butera. “I appreciated them helping me try and get through, but it wasn’t really me as an artist.”
“I had to change certain parts of my choruses in the songs because they weren’t catchy enough, so I had to actually take away some of those lyrics that meant quite a lot to me, to fit into what they wanted.”
Although it didn’t feel like his scene, Butera was thriving. The once quiet, introverted boy from Australia had cemented a place in the industry, booking gigs, charity shows and music conferences in Miami and Los Angeles. He was even fortunate enough to work with Celine Dion’s brother Jacques in Montreal, who he linked up with thanks to another handy family connection.
It’s an impressive list of ‘pinch me’ moments, but Butera admits they felt fleeting at the time.
“Every artist has that goal to try and make some kind of success out of themselves and I feel like because you’re always working towards that, you can kind of get lost in the industry,” he explains.
“I think that’s why I didn’t have those moments where I stopped and went, ‘Oh my god, I’m actually working in the industry, something I’ve dreamed of all my life’. I didn’t actually take note of it.”
Now back in Melbourne, Butera’s taken his art into his own hands. He credits his seven years abroad for the technical skills that he’s used to craft music he’s passionate about, like his upcoming release ‘The Green Garden’.
The ballad sees Butera return to his roots, allowing his lyrical storytelling to shine through.
“Some people have told me that it’s very cinematic and could be in a movie soundtrack,” he laughs.
“It’s about that moment when you’re so in love with someone that you just imagine yourself moving away to this beautiful place where you get to spend your life with them and live happily ever after. It’s like a fantasy.”
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