For years, Todd Butler had the well-earned reputation as one of the hardest-working musicians in the Comox Valley.
From regular paying gigs, to volunteer fundraising sets for a wide variety of causes, rarely did a weekend go by where his music could not be heard in one venue or another.
However, Butler played as hard off-stage as he did on-stage, and that lifestyle caught up to him in 2015, during a visit to Alberta.
He was admitted to Sturgeon Community Hospital in St. Albert, Alberta, with what he described as “catastrophic kidney and liver failure” in August of that year.
The Comox Valley community rallied around its friend in need. A crowdfunding effort raised more than $12,000 to help Butler with his recovery process.
It was a great boost, but the biggest help had to come from within.
Butler had to change his life, if he wanted to keep on living.
“It’s (kidney/liver failure) the best thing that could have happened to me, because I wasn’t listening,” he said, in a 2016 interview with The Record.
“This drinking problem crept up…I’ve looked down the tunnel of hell and beat back the devil. I didn’t know if I’d ever feel any joy again. But I finally beat that demon down.”
At the time of that interview, Butler was working on a new CD.
“Back from the Brink” was released online in July of 2017, and now he’s ready to introduce it to the community.
A Jan. 31 concert, to be held at the Little Red Church in Comox, is Buttler’s “official” launch of the CD, and his first concert in the area since his health issues arose.
“I did a show in Errington in October, and I had another one on Hornby, but those are the only two shows I have done in the past two and a half years,” said Butler in an interview earlier this month. “This concert is kind of a thank you to all the people that supported me during what was a really bad couple of years, and playing the songs for them.”
The aptly-named CD features 11 original tracks, most of which were written during Butler’s recovery period.
“I couldn’t play, or sing, or do anything for about a year – I was incapable of playing my guitar – I’d lost the ability,” said Butler, of the early recovery stages. “It was quite frightening. So when I started getting it back I started compiling tunes and figured I should make a CD of this experience. I chose those songs, because they all had to do with conquering the demon of alcohol that I was battling. They aren’t all about that, in fact there’s very little mention of that, but the theme in general is one of recovery and finding hope and discovering love, as a way to heal yourself. So it’s a pretty uplifting CD, for the most part.
“When I went into the hospital (in 2015) I had to sign a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, and when that happens, something inside you changes. These songs are all an expression of what has changed in me – how I’ve recovered, and found hope.”
Don Vinette (bass) and Mike Berman (drums) were the studio musicians for the CD, and will be playing with Butler at the upcoming concert in Comox. The CD was recorded at Vinette’s studio.
Butler said there is not enough space to thank all the contributing musicians, but he’s expecting a few cameos at the convert.
“A lot of local musicians contributed to making this CD – five or six different singers … I’d hate to mention some and miss others, so let’s just say it will be us and special guests.”
Admission to the all-ages concert is by donation. Doors will open at 7 and the show will start at 7:30 p.m.
“Come on down. It’ll be a party – my chance to introduce the slimmer, trimmer… nicer Todd Butler to the community,” he said.