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August 25 , 2010

Drinking with Strangers

Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt


The artist named by Rolling Stone as one of America’s best singer-songwriters and the 2005 Producer of the Year shares the inside story of his music career

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From his days with one-hit-wonder band the Marvelous 3 to his current work producing some of today’s hottest talent—from Weezer and Katy Perry to Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Panic! at the Disco—Butch Walker has proven himself a major influence in contemporary pop music. But the road to success wasn’t easy. Drinking with Strangers takes you into the studio and onto the stage, offering a rare glimpse into a life defined by raw talent, determination, a drive for perfection, and some ridiculous haircuts.

At age seventeen, Walker left small-town Georgia with his hair metal band and headed for the mean streets of Los Angeles. Full of piss, vinegar, and Jack Daniel’s (mostly the latter), these young Southern musicians were determined to become the biggest band on the Sunset Strip and land a major-label record deal. After many false starts—including an ill-fated concert tour of China—Walker’s rock-and-roll fantasies hadn’t quite come true, so he embraced the do-it-yourself approach. Taking control of his destiny, he learned to make success on his own terms, but not without some memorable, occasionally drunken stumbles along the way. Walker’s adventures taught him a number of life lessons he shares here with insight and candor, revealing the blessings of failure—and what it’s really like to spend your life going from gig to gig, drinking with strangers.

In a voice as wry as his lyrics, Walker pays tribute to his influences, from his parents to Mötley Crüe, from KISS to both Elvises (Presley and Costello). He offers a clear-eyed yet humorous look at the music business—the greed, the booze, the drugs, the infighting, the swindles, the unfulfilled promises—and explores its bad side, too. In documenting his rise to the middle, Walker frankly describes the delicate balance between success, selling out, and just knocking back another shot of whiskey to numb the pain.

Whether or not you are familiar with Walker’s music, Drinking with Strangers is a must-read for anyone who wants to make it in the music world, covering such essential topics as the digital revolution and its impact on both performers and producers, the art of creative collaboration, and what it’s really like to work with cutthroat competitors who might steal your soul (and your song). Unflinchingly told, Walker’s twenty-year journey of failing upwards becomes an unforgettable rite of passage.

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