Close this search box.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our weekly
e-newsletter for news and updates

Advertise with us


Interview by Greg Phillips

Sometimes an album is so much more than just a release. Take John Butler’s new ambient meditation record Running River (out today) for example. It’s the first part of a proposed four part album series he’s calling the Four Seasons. Running River is the sound of an artist healing himself. After touring the world for so long and then coming to a sudden halt due to covid … and the music industry goal posts changing before his eyes, with streaming making it difficult to make a living … and then his trio disbanding … it was all becoming too much for the multi-talented artist. Adding to that he was giving palliative care to his dying father in his home, while at the same time his wife was looking after her dying father on the other side of the country. John’s upbringing was tough, due to his father’s violent tendencies, so the grief John was going though with the passing of his dad was complex. To put it bluntly, John had become a broken man. He didn’t want to deal with humans anymore and even now, is not sure if he’s ready to enter back into the fray entirely.  His only way out was to begin to heal and he started the process through the creation of this beautiful drone-like music he has created for the Running River album.

I caught up with John Butler over a zoom call to talk about the new album and found a fragile human, baring his soul in one of the most honest and open interviews I’ve ever been involved in. You can watch it here.

John Butler has been a household name in Australia for two decades; hardly a festival in the country has not been graced with the sounds of his unique guitar sounds and unmistakable vocals on hits like “Better Than” and “Zebra”. Today he releases his incredible meditative album Running River . After Butler’s release of his seventh studio album HOME and the subsequent global touring, tumultuous times lay ahead. Not only had the world been through it with Covid-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but his own world was turned upside down with the loss of his father, the disbanding of the Trio, the continuation of personal anxiety and weariness from years of being on the road away from family.

The recording of his next studio album proved difficult, with Butler fighting to produce and engineer the album himself, diving deeper into a world that was technologically challenging and not proving productive. The harder he tried, the further he pushed, the more lost he became. In the crash of things falling apart, came true surrender. That was the beginning of everything making sense, and the birth of his new phase of music – The Four Seasons. These ‘seasons’, each earmarked by an album, represent four different but connected musical journeys.

The first, Running River, is an ambient journey of relaxation and meditation. The second season will be an instrumental offering that harks back to John’s days busking on the streets of Fremantle, the third is a solo song-driven studio recording. The fourth and closing season will be a return to working with a band.

Running River, out May 24, is a whole different side to Butler – a journey of healing. Fans of his classic and ever-evolving masterpiece “Ocean” will already know the power and emotion of Butler’s instrumentals and Running River takes this to another level.

The artist shares that it’s the makings of an anxious and disjointed society that inspired the record, saying, “I feel that life in an age of post-truth, social media and relentless data inundation, environmental, social and political strain, and – if I was not too bold to say global society collectively, at least in the west – is a bit shattered in the nervous system department.”

In reference to this newly minimalist style, Butler says, “I’m always taken by how music by itself can make you feel and go to places that you can’t get to through intellect. I love when the lyrics of a song pass the baton onto the music to say everything the lyrics couldn’t.”

Running River is a soundtrack and prayer for a more peaceful 2024 and the perfect accompaniment for personal journeys. Whether it’s meditating, yoga, massage and remedial healing work or simply creating an environment for mindfulness in everyday life- travelling to work, putting the kids to bed or on a long drive, the album is a personal journey that will mean something different to every listener.

John Butler will be performing at this year’s Pranafest, Sunshine Coast QLD – May 31 to June 2. Info & Tickets from

John Butler website

Share this