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Book Review: "Drinking With Strangers"

Shaina Eng |
November 13, 2011 | 9:35 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Walker takes you on a trip inside the music world in his new memoir (butchwalker.com).
Walker takes you on a trip inside the music world in his new memoir (butchwalker.com).


Success is never easy, and it often doesn’t come in ways that you would expect.  Having traveled from Georgia to Hollywood with big hopes of becoming the “next big thing” in hair metal bands, Butch Walker is now considered one of America’s greatest singer-songwriters and producers. In his memoir, "Drinking With Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt," Walker talks about how he transitioned from hair metal wannabe to influential producer and songwriter, working with some of today’s biggest names in music, like Katy Perry, Pink, and Avril Lavigne.

"Drinking with Strangers" details how Walker first became invested in breaking into the business, after being influenced by bands such as KISS and Mötley Crüe.  As soon as he graduated high school, he bought a one-way plane ticket that would take him and his hair metal band, full of high hopes and naïve dreams, to Hollywood.  

After being signed by a major label (and screwed repeatedly, in every sense of the word), Walker decided to start over, and his new band Marvelous 3 (famous as a one-hit wonder band for “Freak of the Week”) was signed. However, the band disbanded after several years, and Walker decided to go solo, encountering many new challenges and transitioning into the role of pop producer, popular songwriter, and mid-level artist.

The way Walker writes makes the reader feel as though he’s casually giving some first-hand advice to a friend (while dropping the occasional expletive), though oftentimes he comes across as cocky and cynical.  He touches on subjects that are incredibly relevant in the music industry today, such as the role of the Internet and digital media, and he brings up the difficulties of working with cutthroat competition and “difficult” clients.

It’s quite obvious that he has become disillusioned to the glitz and glamour of the music industry, and though he talks about many of the successes he has had and the many friendships he has gained, his cynical attitude towards the greed of the music industry is ever present in his narrative.

“In the music biz,” Walker writes, “I’ve seen it all, from playing stages in the lowliest dive bars to taking meetings in the lowliest corporate boardrooms to being in the first rock band to ever tour Communist China, bringing late-period hair metal to confused locals surrounded by Red Army militia in rural sports arenas.” This insider’s look at the music industry is a must-read for anyone considering a profession in music, and Walker’s personal experiences reveal that success isn’t easy and nothing ever goes as planned.

Reach reporter Shaina Eng here.  Follow Shaina on Twitter.


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