Australian singer-songwriter John Butler has been known to lace political and protest themes through his music. But on his latest album, "Grand National" -- his second to come out in the U.S. -- Butler deliberately went for a more upbeat tone.
"I'm just interested in this day and age and in this time to be really focusing on the positive," says Butler, 32, who was born in California and moved to Australia when he was 10. "I realize that whatever I focus on tends to grow. So I can focus on negativity and it gets bigger. I can focus on anger and get more angry. But I'm not as effective -- I can't sing well or play well, I'm not healthy.
"When I'm giving positivity the energy it deserves and working hard to stay positive, I find I'm able to inspire more people and play better music and sing better and be a better husband and father and human being. But that doesn't mean I'm some tuned-out hippie."
In fact, the centerpiece of "Grand National" is an eight-minute track called "Gov Did Nothin'," which focuses on the U.S. government's much-criticized response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
"We were watching it while we were touring America," Butler recalls, "feeling all the emotional reactions that were happening.
"We really kind of built up the song while we were recording it, moved things around in the arrangement, put a percussion section in and moved that around, brought in some backup singers. One of them did this wailing vocal over my (guitar) solo...It came about slowly but surely into this epic."
The John Butler Trio and Ki: Theory perform at 8 p.m. Thursday (July 31st) at St. Andrew's Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Tickets are $9.39. Call (313) 961-6358 or visit www.livenation.com