John Butler (born 1 April 1975) is an Australian musician. He is the leader of the John Butler Trio, a band that has achieved two platinum records in Australia with Three (2001) and Living 2001-2002 (John Butler Trio album) (2003). Their 2004 album Sunrise Over Sea debuted at number one on March 15, 2004 and shipped gold in its first week of release. Butler is known around the town of Fremantle, Western Australia as the "Million Dollar Hippie" due to his political beliefs and musical success. Born to an Australian father and an American mother in Torrance, California, USA, he and his family migrated to Australia on January 26 1986.
After growing up in Pinjarra, Western Australia, Butler began his musical career as a busker in Fremantle before achieving his current fame. His band's first two albums (John Butler-1998 and JBT EP-2000) were moderately successful, allowing him to establish a largely word-of-mouth following. The breakthrough came with the Three album in 2001, featuring the tracks "Take" and "Betterman", both of which received considerable radio airplay on Australian alternative youth radio station Triple J and rated highly in their annual Top 100. Appearances at Big Day Out and other major festivals followed. By the time Sunrise Over Sea was released three years later, the single Zebra was getting extensive airplay on commercial radio and proved a major hit for the band. In 2006, the band promoted the album extensively in the United States.
Butler has used some of the profits from his musical career to establish a grant program for aspiring musicians.
Butler's live performances are influenced by his experience as a former busker in Fremantle. His playing style incorporates Western and Eastern styles such as blues, Indian and Celtic. He also performs lengthy instrumental solo pieces including "Ocean", "Mist", "Spring" and "Under an Indian Sky". Additionally he plays harmonica, didgeridoo, drums and chooses amplified acoustic instruments such as the 12-string (although he removes the G-6th string), lapsteel and banjo (in his recent productions). Butler uses mainly Maton 12 strings, and amplifies them using a Marshall Amplification JMP Super Lead Head, with a Marshall 4x12 cabinet, recognisable by the Southern Cross Flag painted on the front. He has a variety of effects including: distortion, reverb/delay and wah wah pedal effects to achieve a unique sound.
The "Million Dollar Hippie" nickname stems from his status on the BRW Rich List. In 2004, John Butler first made the BRW Rich List with reported earnings of 2.4 million dollars. His income in that year was higher than mainstream entertainers such as Rex Hunt, Shannon Noll and Portia De Rossi.
The present rhythm section for the John Butler Trio comprises Michael Barker (drums) and Shannon Birchall (bass), although Nicky Bomba played drums on Sunrise Over Sea before returning to his own band. Previous members are drummer Jason McGann (1998-2002) and bass players Gavin Shoesmith (1998-2001), Rory Quirk (2001-2002) and Andrew Fry (April 2002-November 2002).
In September 2006, John Butler Trio released a promotional studio diary of their recording progress of their latest album, Grand National, which was released in March 2007. In December 2006, the Funky Tonight EP was released, coming off an expected future album including many tracks from their live shows, such as "Daniella", "Fire In the Sky", and "Funky Tonight".
After its release on March 24, 2007, in Australia, John's Grand National album went straight to number 1 on the ARIA music album charts and the following week on April 5, 2007 John and the Trio did a free show at Melbourne entertainment hub, Federation Square. The one off show featured all the other performers who had collaborated on Grand National, including Vika and Linda Bull and Jex Saarhelart. Nicky Bomba also made a guest return for "Devil Running"'.