Isaac Butler shot to prominence when he released ‘Moon Song’, a track that he tells me he didn’t really expect to go too far. Now with almost a million streams for that debut, he’s worked with Adele’s session musicians, developed a new style, and featuring on The Bachelorette.
Determined to make the most of his unexpected break, I caught up with Isaac as he made the most of lockdown, streaming and writing his way through our new circumstances…
Hi Isaac, first of all, how are you, and how are you finding this enforced break? Are you making use of it musically?
Hello! I am very well thank you. Yeah to be honest I’m finding the break OK. At the start I was freaking out a bit at having to cancel shows and all the festivals being called off. I also had a few supports slots lined up that obviously aren’t happening, but I’ve kept very busy over the last few weeks writing with people over zoom and keeping active on social media.
At the beginning of the lockdown I did a YouTube series under called ‘Distance Doesn’t Divide’ where I basically got each member of my band to record themselves in their bedrooms playing their parts in each of my songs. I then put all the videos together into a split screen video and posted them on YouTube. It was great craic and people seemed to enjoy them. I also got my first brand collaboration with River Island! I did a live stream gig on their Instagram and they sent me out some lovely clothes. So I can’t complain!
‘Moon Song’ was clearly a huge success for you. Were you surprised by the traction you could get with a debut single?
The reaction to ‘moon song’ was amazing. I put the song out with no real expectations. I was toying around with the idea of releasing original music so I played a few songs for my music teacher who I stayed in contact with after I left school.
Pretty much immediately after he heard ‘Moon Song’ he said we have to get that recorded, so he called up a friend of his Billy Farrell a well known Irish producer to help out. We recorded the track in a few days and I made a really simple music video with a few friends, and the rest is history. It continues to be the song the people know me for which is funny because I just put it up for the sake of putting it up, there was no reasoning behind it, and today it has just under a million streams, pretty crazy.
How did you end up on The Bachelorette, and how did you feel when you found out?
The Bachelorette is a funny one. I would never have found out that it was even on the show had it not been for a German lad who sent a video of the song to me on Instagram playing in the background of one of the episodes. I had absolutely no idea it was going to be on it. So to that German guy thank you very much!
To be honest, when I first found it I thought it was fake, it’s such a massive show with something silly like 2 million viewers an episode! I was very bloody excited. Also, a fun fact that now my biggest listenership is in Germany so hoping to get over there for a few gigs after all this is over.
You seem to have really loved music since you were really quite young. Were you ever put off by an industry that’s often perceived to be quite difficult to succeed in?
I do sometimes think about how difficult it is to succeed in music. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I think that right now in my life, I’m at an age where I can go at something 100%, if it’s something that I love, and that’s music. If I can somehow create a way to make a living out of singing my songs to people I’m going to do that any way I can. I think it’s going pretty well who knows what will happen.
How did the Los Angeles experience play into your singles?
My time in LA was so important for my growth as an artist. Before spending time there I hadn’t recorded with session musicians. I met people that were so unbelievably talented and different.
I got the ridiculous opportunity to work with string players that tour with Adele and have been on some of her records. I was pretty much in shock the whole time working with people of that calibre; it was an experience I’ll never forget. Having said that, though, it didn’t feel like I was a fish out of water, I learned so much from my time there but didn’t feel like I was out of my depth.
I found my sound in LA, working with the other musicians opened my eyes to the fact that a singer-songwriter doesn’t have to be restricted to just a guitar or piano. LA is where I decided I wanted that full pop-rock band sound.
Have you come to terms with the fame aspect of this kind of stuff yet? How did you find being on RTE Pulse, for example?
Haha, to be honest, I haven’t had an ounce of that! I’ve been recognized once or twice but not for my music for my striking resemblance to Elmo from Love Hate! RTE Pulse was great. It was actually my first live radio interview and the host at the time Shannon Keenan is now a good friend.
You’ve had tour dates cancelled because of the current situation. How much will you miss the stage?
Playing live is the bread and butter for me. It’s why I do this! I really do miss it so much. I had to cancel my headline in the Sound House in April, and all my festival slots obviously aren’t going ahead but it gives me a chance to really plan out the live show and make sure when we do play live again that it’s special.
My headline show in Whelan’s back in November was one of the best nights in my life so far. Having people scream back the lyrics of my songs that I’ve written in my bedroom is a feeling I can’t describe. I’m addicted to it.
How far off is a full-length record at this stage? Do you have a lot of songs ready to go?
Honestly, I haven’t even thought about an album, I feel like I have enough material to make one. I think though the way music is listened to now, that people are looking for singles.
I think in a way that takes away slightly from the romantic side of music but I’m also happy to embrace the change. I feel like for artists like myself who aren’t fully established it makes it a bit easier to experiment and play around with different types of sounds to figure out what we want to sound like. So I think for the moment I’m just going to look at releasing singles. I’m hoping July for the next track.
How do you feel the Irish music scene is doing in general at the moment? Are there any acts that particularly stand out to you?
Irish music is booming at the moment. I’m so excited that I’m in some way involved. we have such a great community in Ireland people seem to really help each other. I’ve really noticed in the last 12 months where I’ve been involved in camps and co-writes.
There are so many talented musicians and writers on the ground in Ireland it’s insane. For such a small country we pack a serious punch! No word of a lie my playlist at the moment is pretty much all Irish. I’m a big Picture This fan, ever since I’ve seen those boys play live I’ve wanted to do what they do and make people feel the way they make me feel. I’m a huge Horan fan as well and let’s not forget Dermot, a living legend.
What are your dreams for your music in the future?
For me, it all comes down to playing shows. My favourite moments of my life so far have been with friends and family at music venues, festivals and big gigs, and I just want to be involved in that!
Playing shows, singing my songs and enjoying people. If you’re looking for specifics, a sold out Three Arena and a headline slot at Electric Picnic would do the job for me ha ha!