Interview: Derrick Butler on Bringing His Neighborhood Together Through Jazz

Photo by Molly Olwig

Meet Derrick Butler, a young Jazz musician based in Los Angeles! Butler has been playing piano since he was about five years old and as he started high school, he started going into jazz. He has gotten the opportunity to play with different people and everything and is now playing jazz in college.

A friend (shoutout to Valerie Weiss!) told me about Butler and his friends playing jazz in his front yard every Sunday, so I was excited to check it out, and their performance was amazing! They drew a large, energetic crowd in the neighborhood, and everyone was having fun, clapping and singing along. Through our conversation, Derrick Butler shares how he and his friends started playing weekly neighborhood shows for the community: “The guitar player and I met in high school and we played in a jazz band together, and we’ve been best friends ever since. We always played together and this just something that organically happened. We’ve played with the other people before and wanted to bring all of them here and play along for everybody. It was only up from there and then we started getting more of the neighbors involved from beyond our normal circle, and it’s really exciting.”

Photo by Yising Kao: Kenneth Brown (trumpet), Brandon Stennett (drums), Justin Butler (bass), Eddie Hamilton (guitar), Derrick Butler (keys), Milan Willis (djembe)

On his musical influences, Butler mentions that he draws a lot of his influences from jazz, hip hop, and modern R&B, such as artists like Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat Stevie Wonder, Robert Glasper and Herbie Hancock. Butler shares, “I really want to learn to play different styles of music and become more well-versed in them, so I draw influences from different areas, specifically black music.”

Not only does Butler play instruments, but he also practices production, using the programs Ableton and Protools. When asked about his goals in the music industry, he responds, “I plan to go into audio engineering and recording and production, and also still playing of course. That’s what I've been focusing a lot on besides performing and playing so I'm really just trying to get more involved in that and be able to build a career in engineering.” Derrick Butler’s advice to aspiring artists is to “just listen to a lot of music and find a sound that you like, and expand on it.” Derrick Butler is going to continue to achieve his goals throughout college and beyond, so make sure to stay tuned for his future projects!

Photo by Molly Olwig

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