Old Greg

After two years off, Greg Butera is ready to lead a band again—just don’t get too excited

All the way back in 2016, before that one guy became president and we were all a bunch of happy-go-lucky dorkuses unaware we were about to enter a seemingly never-ending period of turmoil, pandemics and so on, SFR crowned local musician Greg Butera’s Tell Me Now one of our albums of the year in our once-annual Music Issue (dang, why don’t we do those anymore? Naw, just kidding—we don’t do it because local musicians are whiners).

Anyway, of Tell Me Now, former SFR Publisher Jeff Norris, on loan from the admin department, wrote, “the record oozes pure country and keeps going with an intensity that makes Butera and his band sound like they might need to pack up a van and head east for Nashville.”

Butera hails from Houston and Austin, Texas, but the words rang true for anyone who was around at the time. Butera, frankly, is as killer a country and Cajun musician as Santa Fe has ever had, so why shouldn’t he have been huge? Well, as it turns out, he doesn’t super want that. In fact, he even delisted Tell Me Now from the streaming services recently, saying he just no longer likes the way he him sounds on the recordings.

Butera came to Santa Fe to attend the now-defunct College of Santa Fe. He managed to get out with a music degree before the school shuttered in 2009, and the relationships he built while living here kept him in Santa Fe for years to come. Did he move back to Texas briefly? You bet he did. But did he return to Santa Fe not long after? Also yes.

See, Butera has roots here as a musician. Perhaps you caught him when he played guitar with the tragically short-lived -indie band Treemotel? Maybe you’ve seen him flex his chops with John Francis and the Poor Clares at any of that band’s residency events at La Reina within the El Rey Court. Some likely know him as backup for Albuquerque musician Heather Trost, or as the leader of The Gunsels, a moniker Butera says he has, “used for literally every band I’ve ever led since I was 17.” However you might know Butera, though—and assuming you do—chances are you’ve wondered where the hell the guy has been in the last two years since he presided over his own performances. If indeed this has been of concern, please know Butera will revive The Gunsels for a pair of March shows at Tiny’s.

“Once I turned 30, I slowed down the music because I needed to make a little bit of money,” he tells SFR. “I spent my 20s trying to make music work, and I guess I wanted to try something else.”

That something else is welding, through which Butera following in his father’s footsteps and through which he’s managed to make a decent living as a sort of freelance gunslinger.

“My focus is just not working for anybody,” he says with a laugh.

And yet, Butera grew restless. After five or so years turning down most offers for gig and session work, he was ready to put up the Butera signal and assemble a who’s-who band of local talent, including fiddler Karina Wilson; bassist Cyrus Campbell; drummer Joseph Hecker; and pedal steel player John Graboff, the last of whom is kind of new to town, but folks in the know certainly know. The idea, Butera says, is to see if it still works, see how the old two-step crowd feels about dancing again and, possibly, kick off a series of shows if the reception is right. Think honky-tonk, Western swing and Cajun jams; think music from Hank Williams and the players of his ilk to a new cover of a song by local synth-pop -goddess Velvet Vision. This makes the set feel a little bit modern, sure, but The Gunsels is also a bit of an indirect homage to the time when country music was a whole-ass vibe rather than that thing you talk over while getting drunk.

Butera loves Tiny’s too, adding, “it’s the only place I’ll play.”

“And you can quote me on that,” he says, still laughing. “I just want to play at Tiny’s. Don’t call me!”

Much of the love springs from the dance floor, he notes, and the communal feel.

“And for a couple of the old-timers…I’m sorry we play too fast and I’ll try to keep [the tempo] medium, at least for the first half,” Butera concludes.

What this means for the future is anyone’s guess, though there’s at least one more Gunsels show slated for March 23. It would seem, however, that any Butera fans out there might want to get out and see him play live while they can. You never know when he’ll be back.

Greg Butera and The Gunsels: 8 pm Friday, March 8. Free. Tiny’s, 1005 S St. Francis Drive, (505) 983-9817

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