Mic Check: Butch Walker producing new records, watching ‘The Office’ during coronavirus time

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.

Butch Walker is chatting from a Whole Foods in Los Angeles. But don’t worry, he’s practicing his social distancing and wearing a mask that makes us instantly jealous – a “Star Wars”-themed covering made by a friend.

The Cartersville native planned to take his 12-year-son, James, back to his hometown for spring break, but count him among the millions whose travel plans dissolved because of COVID-19.

Walker and his family usually split their time between California and a farm in Nashville – an easy drive, he says, to visit his Georgia family – but for now, it’s a West Coast lockdown.

The prolific producer/songwriter/singer is readying the May 8 unveiling of "American Love Story," a rock opera he wrote two years ago, that he decided to release this spring since, well, why not? (I'll have a feature on Walker's epic new work closer to the release date.)

Here is what he recently had to say about life during coronavirus times.

How have you been spending your downtime?

I wish I could say it’s downtime! I’m actually still working. I do a lot of records by myself, and I’m finishing up (producing) three records, so it’s taking most of my time – a Wallflowers record, the new Jewel and Matt Nathanson. And I’m getting ready to start another Green Day record (Walker co-produced the band’s current “Father of All…”). I’m working in isolation, which is cathartic, anyway.

What do you miss the most during these times?

I’m a Southern hugger, and I’ve had 50 years of that, so having to retrain my brain to actually not go up and hug people when I see them, it’s weird. I guess now I know what it feels like to be the person who was always weirded out by me coming up to hug them! I grew up doing that — not in a creepy way — it’s just the way Southerners always greeted each other. Everyone is craving human contact and the ability to see each other face to face. It’s been hard, and it’s been a lot of Zoom living.

What music are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of stuff that people probably think I wouldn’t listen to since I’m making contemporary music. I like weird, old jazz, and right now I’m really into Ethiopian music. It’s so beautiful, the scales that are used for it. I know that doesn’t sound cool, but it is what is it. I go through phases where I only want to listen to metal or soft rock, and right now it happens to be Ethiopian. When I’m home with the fam, I haven’t been able to do much but watch every single rerun of “The Office.” I’m a huge fan of that beat of comedy, so I’m introducing my son to some older Christopher Guest mockumentaries. We’re having a great time. It’s been a blessing in disguise; he and I are getting a chance to connect. He’s such a little art kid, so it’s been great to trade (interests) back and forth.

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