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Origins is a recurring new music feature in which an artist charts the influence of their latest hit single.
The career of Austin-based musician Jason Butler has been peppered with more than a handful of impressive collaborations. Under the moniker Thee Conductor, he’s released material with the likes of Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, and Bill Dolan of 5ive Style and Heroic Doses fame. For his debut full-length as Thee Conductor, Cotton Tornado, Butler again has enlisted the talent and camaraderie of his friends and musical colleagues.
Due out October 20th, the LP boasts contributions from Kevin Shea, Jana Horn, A.Sinclair, Choctaw Wildfire, and Michael Patrick St. Clair, among others. It was recorded in Butler’s Texas hometown using a hodgepodge of both acoustic and electric instruments. Very much a product of its many creators and outside influences, a press statement describes it as a “structured and intentional, yet open and collaborative, art project.”
As a first look at Cotton Tornado, Butler has shared “Face Crinkle”, his joint track with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. The song is comprised of two steady, separate drum patterns bonded together by the gentle strum of an acoustic guitar. Vocally, Billy’s distinct croon leads us through a narrative about sincerity and emotional pain. “Well it’s hard to be honest/ When the words you say aren’t so easy,” the song goes. “Your face crinkles as my words sprinkle/ All atop of your ears.”
Check it out below via its official music video. Directed by Scott A. Shellhamer, it follows a downtrodden marionette in Billy’s image who meets a bloody demise.
For our latest Origins feature, Butler details three sources of inspiration for “Face Crinkle”, such as Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and the music of Jim O’Rourke.
Vince Guaraldi — “My Little Drum” and “Little Birdie”:
I later realized Mr. G influenced the concept of the entire album. He himself worked with many musicians, guest vocalists and heavy players. There is something quite nice about his often linear and sometimes simplistic piano writing. The space in his music allows his songs to breathe and happily welcomes horns, strings or vocal additions. I think “Face Crinkle” took a bit of that same approach.
Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree:
The song itself is about coming to terms with the realization that love has been lost or actually never existed, then having to convey that to the person whom you thought you cared for. This is reflected in the video but we then connected that to the idea of releasing your burdens to the world and once those were gone, giving parts of yourself to others until you no longer exist. The Giving Tree came to mind.
I think my music throughout the years has probably been inspired (subconsciously) by Mr. O, including the writing and horns on “Face Crinkle”. His arrangements are much more complicated but he has a way of making songs that are easy to connect to musically, lyrically, sonically. My favorite music to listen to has always been pop music that incorporates string and/or horn sections which I think came from listening to Ennio Morricone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly record on repeat when I was five… My dad loved the Spaghetti Westerns.