Taylor Swift collaborator Butch Walker on their much-discussed Grammy performance: 'a lot of people give her unnecessary grief'

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!

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Abba: New album on the way! (Well, sort of.)
Taylor Swift wins Album of the Year: Did the Grammys get it right?

Lady Gaga and Elton John: What did you think?
Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks’ Grammy duet: out of sight, or out of tune?
Grammys pay tribute to Michael Jackson with help from his kids: A fitting salute?
Grammys: the complete list of winners

Photo credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images


Comments (58 total) Add your comment
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  • Cardsgal

    So Taylor doesn’t have a “big diva voice” because she’s country, and that’s not what they do? Try telling that to Reba or Carrie Underwood. Comparing Taylor to singer-songwriters would’ve been more apt.

    • laura

      or Martina McBride or Sugarland … heck try telling that to Blake Shelton.

  • sam

    That’s an insult to great female country stars. I understand that he wants to defend her, but country music stars generally sing in tune.

    • laura

      the insult really is that people call swift a ‘singer’

      • Katie G

        agreed

      • Josieude

        Keith, we are having our 10th Anniversary LCC Scholarship Foundation Golf Tournament on September 21st. We are eniintaertng the thought of having music at the college the night before which is the 20th. Two questions, are you available and also what would be your charge for a Tuesday night show?

    • mUSIK iNDUSTRY

      I agree! That is an insult to country singers. Taylor can’t sing; Liz Rose writes her music. Did ya see all the suits joining taylor onstage at the grammys? Taylor is a fraud. Team Kanye. lol

  • Gabby

    I don’t understand how Taylor Swift’s music is classified as being country music. She sings Pop Muisc! Being from the south doesn’t mean your music is automatically country.

    • kel-c

      I thought she was from penn. last time i checked thats not quite the south.

      • Wondering

        You would be correct. PA is no more in the South than New York.

  • PeterBilt The Nature Boy

    I wish people would stop calling her ‘Country’. Its insulting to me. But what do I know. Her appeal is she appeals to the white teenage girls. And as we all know they are THE JUDGE AND JURY of who wins what Grammy’s

  • sara

    No Butch, people weren’t confused about you being there, but there were plenty of people going, “why can’t this girl ever sing on-key?!”.

    Butch, don’t try to blame her bad singing on coming from country music. Ever heard of Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Carrie Underwood, Patsy Cline?

    I do blame the country music industry for rewarding her off-key singing since 2007.

    • Cardsgal

      I do think Taylor’s talented, and I don’t mind that she can’t sing well. I’d compare her to someone like Guy Clark, a great songwriter and storyteller who interprets her own material well, but can’t, strictly speaking, “sing.”

    • Havok

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Though Taylor does have some catchy songs, Butch has more talent in his pinky finger than she does in her whole body.

  • ae

    Not having a powerhouse voice has nothing to do with her not being able to sing on key. There are many singers out there that don’t have the powerhouse voice but are incredible singers.

    • Wondering

      this should be a “duh” statement, but under the circumstances its not. You’re right though.

  • melrohner

    Why do people have to nit-pick and bash a perfectly good interview? Butch is being diplomatic, not being offensive to anyone here. He didn’t say that country music singers never had a “big diva voice”, just that it’s a different approach. Not being in the music industry in any capacity myself, I pretty much take what Butch says as the God’s-honest-truth. He knows his stuff. And by the way, Butch is from the south, too, with a definite rock background, so saying that he’s classifying TS as country because she’s from the south is not true. I think it’s a great interview!

    • Cardsgal

      I do work in the music industry, and to me, Butch’s comments unintentionally dissed the talents of many great country singers.

      • GoMe!

        Where? FYE?

  • flicketyflack

    Country music may have a different approach to singing but that approach does not involve being off key, which Taylor Swift was A LOT yesterday. Also Taylor Swift doesn’t sing in a country style anyway, her voice is very Avril Lavigne pop.

  • Tim

    I don’t know anything more about Taylor Swift than the Kanye bum-rush, but after hearing that ‘performance’ with the obviously peeved Stevie Nicks on the Grammys, it’s entirely possible that Ms. Swift is tone deaf.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Is nobody allowed to have an off night??? I just think it is funny that the same people who are complaining about Taylor’s singing last night are the same ones who are complaining that she won 4 Grammys.

    Her singing wasn’t great last night, there are many reasons as to why that is possible. She could have been nervous, sick, tired the list goes on and on. I recall many times that “divas” have off nights. Beyonce hasn’t sung 100% all the time but everyone here at EW seems to think she walks on water.

    Enough already! The show is over can we PLEASE move on?

  • whatevs

    I really don’t see why so many people are so angry about her being off last night. She is primarily a songwriter, and so what if she wants to sing her own songs instead of giving them to someone else? There are other performers and faux celebs who aren’t talented in anyway, yet we all know when they went to the bathroom today. Those are the people you should be mad at, yes I’m talking about Jersey Shore.

    • Butch Walker

      Jesus, people.. i was just trying to be nice because i have no reason to bash her. i know what good country singing is.. i grew up listening to it and have a wide knowledge of it so don’t even start with that crap that i don’t know what i am talking about. i love Patsy, Reba, and many others but people don’t write every word you say in a damn interview. just shut up and find something positive in the damn piece… jesus…

      • sara

        Wow, oh so sorry. Taylor sings beautifully and you were all so wonderful. Sorry if I actually enjoy people that sing on-key.

      • gpags

        Great interview. Congrats on the pub. and the spotlight moment. You are an amazing singer/songwriter. Don’t let these morons ruin your fun night. If you watch the video,when the sound quiets down on stage, she is singing just fine. I’m blaming her few pitchy moments on the monitors.

      • Nicole Rossi

        you go Butch.. I loved seeing you on the grammys You made my day…..

      • RockerChick

        *standing up & applauding* Amen, Butch!! There will always be people who will find any & EVERY reason to get twisted & offended…even where no reason exists. Breathe, people!!

      • Butch Walker

        Anyone can be Butch Walker

    • i bet snooki could have sang better last night than taylor did, at least.

  • blondie

    Butch knows what he’s talking about people pop, rock, country or whatever (he even does a good Patsy Cline cover). It was great seeing you Butch @ the Grammys even if you weren’t the one singing, it was awesome and you looked like you were having a blast! & Pink was..wow…amazing.
    As for everyone else why do you have nit pic bash on Taylor? I’m necessarily a fan either, but did you ever think maybe she had an off day? Celebrities are not 100% perfect 24/7.She had a big night, she could’ve been nervous etc.. who really wouldn’t be in that situation? She should be applauded that it was really her singing not from a tape or auto-tuned bs…if you don’t like her singing then turn the channel…

    • Anne

      The problem with the whole “she had an off night” theory is that she always has off nights when she sings on tv. Her cringe worthy performance of Forever and Always at the CMAs is a perfect example. If this was her first sub par performance people would be willing to write if off as nerves, but actually it is normal for her, and that is why people are starting to complain.

    • Miho

      keith is a cool dude now if you want to talk to him you have to pick the right time because he is eihetr sitting at the console in the studio with full attention on a mix or he is swamped with other musicians looking for a favor.Keep on keeping on Keith

  • Daniel

    Butch, you’re the man! Obviously none of these people are professional musicians. They’ve never sang on a big, loud stage where you may not be able to hear yourself as well as you’d like. You people ever try and sing with earphones playing in your ears? Yeah, you sound not as good as you think. Believe me! Anyways, even Reba, Martina, and Patsy have had their off nights. But what does Butch know, right? He’s only got one of the best fan bases around. He only puts on one of the best live shows you’ll ever see. And he was only voted Hottest Producer of the year by Rolling Stone. Give the girl a break. Plus none of your precious country stars sing real country anymore anyways….

    • sara

      I’m sorry, but it sounds like you haven’t been watching Taylor Swift perform on many awards shows. I’ve seen her on many awards shows since 2007, and that is an awful lot of “off nights”, but whatever you say, you guys are the experts.

  • caitlin

    all of you are getting heated because apparently Butch insulted you and the whole country world. get over it. you’re sitting in a cubicle typing hate mail on a website interview article about a reflection of a Grammy performance (note: i know not all of you may be in a cubicle or on a computer.. you could be in a park or in your car… on your blackberry or on your iPhone… hope i didn’t insult). try inhaling your denigrations, exhaling your denigrations… and stop there.

  • Julia

    Holly crap what about Taylor lucknor

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