Don’t feel too bad if you’ve never heard of Butch Walker. The musician/songwriter/producer and now author even admits himself that he will always be a mid-level entertainer, someone big enough to sell out clubs, but not a well known enough draw to pack stadiums. You have, whether you realize it or not, likely heard his songs on the radio, if not his one alt rock hit with his former band Marvelous 3 (“Freak of the Week”), then likely some of the songs he’s penned for Avril Lavigne, Pink or Weezer (among many others). Regardless of his current level of popularity, Walker has still managed to write a pretty damn entertaining memoir.
Beginning with his redneck childhood in rural Georgia,
“Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons From a Teenage Bullet Belt” quickly segues into some highly entertaining trips down hair metal memory lane in the late ’80s when Walker and his childhood buddies in the awkwardly christened SouthGang headed to the Sunset Strip to make their fame and fortune among the Aqua Netted crowd. They were signed and put out two dismal albums and imploded on a tour of China – told in hilarious detail. The book goes on to cover Walker’s short success with the ’90s band Marvelous 3 and his eventual role as a solo artist.
Though still releasing albums and touring, he has found his greatest success as a pop music songwriter and the one-time go-to producer for emo bands (Fallout Boy, Dashboard Confessional, All Time Low, the Academy Is…). Though slipping in the names of well known celebrities is obviously expected to a degree in a memoir, he does go a bit overboard with the rapid fire name dropping. It makes sense when you’re telling a story about working with an obnoxious Lindsay Lohan, but at some point it comes off like he’s simply trying to justify why he deserved to get a book deal.
Walker’s insecurities aside, “Drinking With Strangers” proves to be a truly compelling look into the music business and how one man found success and contentment even if it’s not always at the top of the charts.