Butch Walker on Ryan Adams Producing His New Album, 'Afraid of Ghosts': 'I Just Trusted Him'

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Noah Abrams

Butch Walker lives a double life: as a solo artist, he releases eclectic albums like Afraid Of Ghosts; he also writes and produces songs for some of pop's biggest stars on the side (including Katy Perry). Billboard caught up with Walker to talk about working with Ryan Adams and the inspiration for several of the songs on his latest full-length. 

Exclusive: Butch Walker Premieres 'Afraid Of Ghosts' Album ft. Bob Mould & Johnny Depp

Your seventh album Afraid of Ghosts, which debuts at No. 104 on the Billboard 200, was written after your father's death. How did that affect your writing process?

For some reason, it's sadly a lot easier to write songs when you've experienced some sort of heartbreak or loss. I don't think it necessarily came as hard to write the words down; it was more about, "What's the soundtrack to these words?" I think that was my biggest fear: completely trainwrecking the record by not doing the words justice musically or overdoing it.

Ryan Adams produced the LP. How would you describe your working relationship?

I just trusted him. I knew he wouldn't let the songs be overhyped or oversold. I was like, "I'm going to let Ryan be Ryan." I figured at best we'd have an amazing record, and at worst I'd have to rerecord it myself. After four days, having a finished record and being ecstatic and with it, I didn't even think twice about it.

You opened on his recent tour. How did his fans receive you?

If you play a room for critics or people who have heard of you as "that guy who wrote a Fall Out Boy song," unfortunately there's a preconception that that's what you're supposed to sound like. I had to win [the audience] over with the first few songs because nobody gave a f--- if I was even in the room. By the end at some places I'd get a standing ovation. Then they go home and Google you and realize you produced Katy Perry, but at that point, the joke's on them. Maybe that's the goal: to broaden horizons so you can't just box somebody in.

This story originally appeared in the Feb. 21 issue of Billboard.

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