Butch Walker admits his appearance last night on the Grammys playing banjolin in Taylor Swift’s backing band may have confused some viewers. “I’m sure there were plenty of people going, ‘Who’s the idiot with tattoos up there with her?” he laughs. While Walker is a singer-songwriter in his own right (his new country-rock-pop collection, I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart, is out February 23) he is best known as a behind-the-scenes producer and tunesmith who has collaborated with the likes of Avril Lavigne, All-American Rejects, and fellow Grammy performer Pink. But it was a YouTube video of Walker recording his own version of Swift’s “You Belong With Me” —a clip which has so far been watched a quarter of a million times—that resulted in his Grammys appearance last night. After the break, Walker recalls his night of glory, addresses the subject of Swift’s somewhat off-key performance, and reveals that not everyone likes to watch him pee.
Entertainment Weekly: So, Butch, how’s the hangover?
Butch Walker: The hangover is fair to partly cloudy. I had a blast, it was so fun. And it was great being onstage. You could tell by watching me: I was dancing like a… a… jerk, basically. I was elated to hear this huge pop star doing my version of her song. And performing with Stevie Nicks (who sang with Swift on both “You Belong With Me” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”) didn’t suck either.
Was there a problem with the sound onstage? There seems to be a wide consensus of opinion that Taylor was struggling to find the right notes when she was singing “Rhiannon.”
I didn’t really notice it being out of key that much. But I guess the TV doesn’t lie. I think a lot of people give her unnecessary grief. Her appeal is not in [having] some sort of big diva voice. Like, Pink obviously has a voice of God coming out of her when she sings and it’s beautiful and it’s powerful and bluesy. Taylor comes from country. It’s a different approach to singing.
It must also be pretty terrifying to perform with Stevie Nicks for a global audience.
There is that factor, you know. How about anybody try doing that without being nervous? It wasn’t even my show and I was nervous.
How did you come to record “You Belong With Me” in the first place?
I played it kind of jokingly at one of my shows, because I loved the song so much, and it went over really well. The next night I was in the studio and said, ‘I want to record a studio version of that.’ She’s known as a country star, but the song and production that she did couldn’t have been more pop. So I said, ‘Maybe I’ll do a country version.’ I recorded it in a couple of hours, filmed me doing it, and posted it on YouTube. I woke up the next morning and there were like 50,000 views already, because she had seen it and twittered about it and I guess she was in favor. It kind of took off from there.
We get to see you peeing in the video. What kind of reaction did you get from Taylor Swift fans about that?
It was hilarious. “Why is he peeing? That’s gross!” and “Why is he even in this video? Why don’t they just play the song? He’s stupid.” But I’m not complaining.
Why isn’t your version of the song on I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart?
It was never intended to be anything more than a lighthearted take on a good pop song. I’m certainly not avoiding it, and when people buy the record I think they’ll get some sort of download code or something to get it. But I didn’t want to have played music for 20 years, and toured my whole life, and all of a sudden I’m only known for a cover song. There’s some sort of pride and ego that gets in the way of that. I’m just trying to be careful in my old age!
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Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images