Music producer Butch Walker has a philosophy that guides him in the assignments he chooses to accept.
“In the modern world of pop, where people sometimes get signed because they’re cute, not because they’re any good, it’s fun for me to get in a room with people who scare the s—out of me, musically, because they’re so good,” he says. “I didn’t get into this to be a fixer – I’d rather work with artists that challenge me.”
The comment explains his impressive array of clients — Pink, Weezer. Katy Perry, Pete Yorn, The Donnas, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and Carly Rae Jepsen, for starters.
He helmed “Painkillers,” the solo bow from Gaslight Anthem vocalist Brian Fallon, easily the most rollicking record of 2016.
“I got to be Jeff Lynne to Brian’s Tom Petty. He wanted to make a real swing-for-the-fences album, just the two of us, and I like those kinds of settings — less cooks in the kitchen, less things can go wrong,” says Walker, who still found time to write and record his own chiming new effort, “Stay Gold,” which he’s touting in The City this week.
Walker, 46, doesn’t advertise, and gets all his work through word-of-mouth, filtered through his manager, who decides which offers to forward to him.
“I’m not a big fan of going out and selling myself. I’m not very good at it,” he admits. “And I’ve had calls where they say, ‘Oh, you’ve really got to get involved with this, there’s a big push by the label and it could be successful.’ But that doesn’t matter, if I’m not loving what I’m hearing. Whatever style of music, it just has to excite me at that time.”
Like Lynne, Walker (who has published his autobiography, “Drinking Strangers”) has hook-savvy ears, razor-sharp on “Stay Gold,” his eighth, and shrewdest, recording.
It opens on the powerchorded title track, segues into the spoken-word “East Coast Girl,” a Celt-rocking “Irish Exit,” the ranchero-exotic “Mexican Coke,” and a closing Dylan-verbose exercise, “Record Store.”
In his old outfit The Marvelous 3, he was trying too hard to be clever. “Now my writing is more relaxed, and it comes from the heart and less from the head,” he says.
Walker, who maintains studios in Nashville and Los Angeles, is fielding so many pending requests for his services, he easily could be booked solid through early 2017.
“But I’m holding off, because I really want to go home and spend some time with my family,” he says. “My son just started third grade, so I want to be a dad for a little bit.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 18
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com