If I Were a Butterfly is Rayland Baxter’s fourth release, introducing the singer/songwriter making his debut as a producer, working with Tim O’Sullivan (Grace Potter, The Head and the Heart) and Kai Welch (Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull) after allowing the songs to reveal themselves as he wrote in an old rubber band factory turned studio (Thunder Sound) in the Kentucky countryside.
“I spent that year living in a barn with the squirrels and birds, on my own most of the time, and I discovered so much about music and how to create it,” says Baxter. “Instead of going into a studio with a producer for two weeks, I just waited for the record to build itself. I’d get up and go outside, see a butterfly and connect that with some impulsive thought I’d had three months ago, and suddenly a song I’d been working on made sense. That’s how the whole album came to be.”
Not limiting himself to his original surroundings, Baxter also recorded in California, Texas, Tennessee and Washington, enlisting an all-star cast of musicians including Shakey Graves, Lennon Stella, members of Cage the Elephant, Zac Cockrell of Alabama Shakes, Teleportation’s Travis Goodwin, and legendary Motown drummer Bobbye Jean Hall. Two tracks even feature the elegant pedal steel work of Bucky Baxter, Rayland’s father, who performed with Bob Dylan and passed away in May 2020.
If I Were a Butterfly opens with a four-year-old Baxter singing before drifting into a brilliantly crafted album that explores the many couplings of musical styles from Rock to Folk to little Country accents, reminding the listener of his creative individuality and unpredictability. “Billy Goat” is a breakup song, where the explosive guitar work features bandmate Barney Cortez, and stirs up a potent tension with its restless grooves and hot-tempered gang-style vocals. “My Argentina,” which closes out the record, is a piano-based ballad about a woman who took her own life, and is a stark reminder that sometimes life can be overwhelming. Throughout the record Baxter continues to explore different textures and tempos, most notably on two tracks the pay homage to his workplace, “Rubberband Man” and “Thunder Sound.” This album fulfills Baxter’s mission of showcasing a purposeful joy, spreading the joy across Triple A, including WXPN, Indie 102.3, Colorado Sound, Lightning 100, Birmingham Mountain Radio, and KTBG, and that just scratches the surface.