Ahead of the release of his debut album, Elijah Butler, 20, is set on making his dreams a reality, as his eight-track long LP is proof of his proactive and dedicated work-ethic.
Butler, a London-native who will be starting his senior year at Western Kentucky University in the fall, has already accumulated nearly 250,000 streams from just a handful of songs on Spotify.
“It’s sort of all over the place,” Butler said about the songs on his upcoming album. “It’s fun music with a little bit of meaningful stuff in there.”
This isn’t to mean Butler’s sound is unfocused, but instead to show he has a wide range of talent and can perform multiple genres (he even used to incorporate some rap verses in his earlier songs, but he’s moved away from this).
His debut song, “Cookies and Lemonade,” was released in July 2017 and now has over 100,000 streams alone on Spotify. The title comes from an inside phrase Butler and one of his friends frequently used to say to each other that went, “we’ll talk about it over cookies and lemonade.”
One night when he was in a New Jersey hotel room with his dad, Butler told his friend he was going to write a song titled after their phrase, and he ended up finishing everything but the song’s bridge before he went to sleep.
Butler had no idea the song would get this big, but the tune (which is basically a partially auto-tuned EDM song) helped kickstart his career and put him on the path where he could one day release an album.
The main reason Butler thinks the song gained popularity is because of how catchy it is. The synths, 808 drums and what he calls a “tongue-in-cheek” chorus all work together to create a very repayable song.
Even Butler’s mentor, Dave Grigsby, told him it didn’t matter if people liked “Cookies and Lemonade” or not, it was going to get stuck in their heads.
The song started to grow in popularity when he came back the next semester for school, and before long there were people suggesting he play it at his shows. It gradually built in popularity and eventual reached 100,000 streams by the end of the year.
Butler knows this is pretty unprecedented for a local musician in a town the size of London to achieve, so he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
Butler said he believes songwriting is what he excels at most, especially his ability to create a catchy hook, which he thinks comes from his love and longtime listing of pop music. However, he wants to start making music that talks about real issues in the world and tackle subjects like mental illness.
He wants to create songs that will make people who are in a dark place feel like they’re not alone or help them be uplifted when they’re feeling depressed.
With a change in subject matter would come a change in instrumentation, too. Four out of five of Butler’s singles are made up of the EDM-centric “Cookies and Lemonade,” a half-goofy, half-serious song titled “I Stole Your Girl” with rapping in it, and couple tunes he describes as “sappy love songs,” titled “Kiss Me Slow” and “Believe in Love” (his fifth single titled “People Say” is a guitar driven song in which Butler addresses people who doubt him).
He already plans for his second album to adhere more to real instrumentation, with more focus on the guitar, piano and drums, and he also eventually wants to add the harmonica and ukulele into his catalog while also following a more focused theme.
Butler said he wants to move toward a pop-rock sound. Until then, his debut album will showcase a large array of styles he can play.
Butler isn’t only looking down the road at his second album already, but also his career in general and how he can achieve his dream.
Butler said a lot of musicians are afraid to make their goals known “in fear of sounding crazy or weird,” but he has the opposite approach in that he's not afraid to let people know what he wants. He’s going to actively pursue making his dreams a reality instead of saying “if it happens then it happens.”
Butler said playing music allows him to do what he loves even beyond the actual performances and making of the music.
“I love writing music, I love performing, I love meeting people and I love traveling and I can do all of that if I’m able to make it some day as a full-on professional musician,” Butler said.
Butler added that he wouldn’t mind it if he never got to play in large arenas or stadiums and just toured the festival circuit and got to share his music with people that way because he’d still be doing the four previously mentioned things he loves.
“I love playing anywhere that’ll have me, but honestly, I’ve just got such a passion for it. There’d be some disappointment if I never got to make this a full-time thing and I’m not afraid to say that,” Butler said.
Butler's album is set to come out in the upcoming months, but does not have an exact release date yet (he is also still waiting to announce the project's name). He recorded his album with Jeff Powell, a producer in London, who he says shares his passion for music and encourages him, but is also not afraid to be direct with him.
Butler can be seen playing at the Sentinel-Echo’s Summer Music Series on the Facebook live stream on Wednesday at 1 p.m. He said all of his music comes off as more passionate when he performs it live compared to the poppy sound it has professionally recorded.
Butler will also be playing at the Richmond Centre Music Series on July 26 and at the Laurel County Homecoming on August 17. He can be found on social media on Instagram at @ImElijahButler and on Facebook at Elijah Music (facebook.com/musicbyelijah).