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Myron Butler and Levi
   
         
   

The Bio

Myron Butler has been a work in process from the day he was born. With God-given musical talents that needed no formal training to coax them into full blossom at a very young age, his destiny was set before he even knew what the word meant. Having spent a significant part of the last ten years working in collaboration with modern Gospel's music innovators, Kirk Franklin, and as an integral part of the group God's Property-whose two-million-plus debut album still ranks as the runaway bestseller in the history of Gospel music-he possess one of the most formidable résumés in Gospel today. With the release of his debut solo album, Set Me Free, Myron Butler sheds his role
as the man behind the success of others and assumes a place of his own, center-stage, in a role he has literally spent his life preparing for, as a songwriter, producer, performer and artist in his own right.

 

If that sounds a bit dramatic, that's because it is, and more than just "a bit." Set Me Free is nothing less than the curtain rising on a career that is destined to not only inspire, encourage, entertain, and uplift, but to seriously shake things up in the world of Gospel music. Ladies and gentlemenůmeet Myron Butler.

With a command of a broad range of genres, Myron makes music that is as engaging and memorable as it is hard to pin down. If R&B/pop would be the broad musical umbrella over Myron Butler it would have to be broad enough to include strains of traditional Gospel, funk, rock, hip-hop, and gorgeous balladry, often masterfully interwoven into the same song

 

"Set Me Free," the album's title cut, is hooky, high-energy, melodic hip-hop with Myron and Levi both in vocal overdrive. "There are so many people, in and out of the Body of Christ, who are bound by mistakes or hurts of the past," says Myron, "when it doesn't have to be that way. God says He gave His Son so that we could be free indeed. We all have things that have hurt us in life, but I wanted to write a song to encourage people to not continuously carry around burdens that God Himself has already lifted from us."

On "Everything," Myron and Levi deliver a soulful, smooth-as-silk ballad of total commitment to the Almighty. "Our culture is driven by the idea that the acquisition of material things is the secret to happiness," Myron says.


"I've been blessed in my own life to have reached a level of success where I've been able to purchase lots of `stuff,' but it doesn't take long to realize that's not going to bring inner-fulfillment. You can buy a million-dollar pinky ring, and when that doesn't do it you can buy another. And you can keep on going until you run out fingers. I want people to see that we already have everything we need in the promises and presence of Christ, and not to waste time, much less entire lives, looking for fulfillment in ways and places and things that can never provide it."

"Heal the Land" is a haunting ballad, calling on God for the healing of a nation in troubled, uncertain times. "There are so many distressing an catastrophic events happening all around us today," says Myron, "and I won't go so far as to say its God's judgment against us, but I do know that if we as a people would turn our focus on Him to be the healer, and the solution, and comforter, that's where the answers-and the changes-will be found." Myron was born near Tampa, Florida, but moved to Dallas at a young age, where he sill lives today with his wife and their two young children. With a natural affinity for music, and growing up in a household where, as he recalls vividly, "everything revolved around church," it was no surprise when he was playing in the church band by the age of nine, and writing songs at thirteen.

"I seemed to have a knack for teaching and directing, even then," he remembers, chuckling at the thought. "I would write songs and then get a bunch of my cousins together in our living room-sitting on the good furniture even, where we weren't usually allowed to sit-and teach them each their part to whatever I had just written. Even back then, something was just drawing me to music. In whatever way a child understands things, I knew that was what I was meant to do."

Myron was given freedom of the radio and records as he grew, and the key artist of his own artistic development comprise a fairly even mix of the best of both the Gospel and secular music of his youth. That long and diverse list includes Gospel greats the Clark Sisters, the Winans, and Andrae Crouch, as well as R&B and pop superstars Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores, and Cameo. As he grew a little older and his horizons continued to expand, the work of a number of modern jazz greats, among them John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Art Tatum, also planted musical seeds in the fertile field that was quickly growing into a sound and creative identity uniquely his own.

Myron had his first original song, "Lift Him Up," recorded by Dallas' DFW Mass Choir when he was only17, and he made the acquaintance of the one of the choir's directors, a young man named Kirk Franklin. The two struck up and maintained a friendship that several years later would provide Myron with a direction and purpose, and success, beyond anything he could have imagined at the time.

Meanwhile, Myron became instrumental in forming a young community choir of his teen-aged peers in Dallas during his last two years of high school, but left them to attend Morehouse University in Atlanta upon his graduation in the early '90s. Being away from home for the first time in his life had a life-changing effect on Myron, leading him into a strong church involvement in Atlanta, and a relationship with Christ that took on greater depth and personal meaning than he had ever known before. At the same time he soon realized that his planned pursuit of a degree in psychology was not on the divine road map that had been laid out for him.

Myron didn't return to college after that first year, but lingered in Atlanta an additional year, searching for direction and clarity regarding just what he was intended to do with his talents. It wasn't long before he felt a strong calling to return to Dallas, where the core of the choir he had begun four years previous, despite numerous changes of personnel in its young membership, had nonetheless continued to grow and flourish, becoming known and popular in and around the area, and calling itself God's Property. In the intervening years, Kirk Franklin had formed a group called the Family, and with his 1994 debut release had exploded into a million-selling, multi-market smash. Myron rejoined his friends in God's Property, becoming the group's main choral director, and renewing both his friendship and creative kinship with Franklin where it had left off upon his departure for Atlanta.  

God's Property had already begun to back up Franklin and the Family on occasional dates in and around Dallas, and after Myron's return that interaction flourished all the more. Myron's credentials as a songwriter grew exponentially when he landed cuts on two major releases in 1996, "Victory" by Kim Burrell, and "Thanks You for Your Child," on the No.1 Gospel Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas.

By late 1996, with Franklin's success as artist, writer and producer soaring to even greater heights, the bonds between Kirk and Myron, and God's Property had grown to the point that Kirk expressed a strong interest in doing an album with God's Property. That interest became a reality in June of 1997, with the release of the Franklin-produced album, God's Property From Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation. In just over a month the album's lead-off single, "Stomp," had hit No.1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, with the album roaring up behind it to soon top the Billboard 200, R&B/Hip-Hop, and Gospel charts. Spending more than a year on the mainstream Top 200, and an unprecedented two years on the Gospel chart, the album racked up over two million in sales, becoming the biggest-selling Gospel release ever.

As writer of "Up Above My Head" on the God's Property album, Myron's talents as songwriter, artist and director were certified and serious, and his collaboration with Kirk shifted gears from occasional to ongoing, as the two young men developed a creative rapport together that would yield numerous hit songs and albums as the 1990s moved into the early 21st century.

While protracted legal and contractual wrangling gradually, and sadly, spelled the demise of the actual group God's Property, Myron managed to maintain a positive frame of mind, moving forward in his own development as a songwriter, and later co-producer as well on two No. 1 Gospel projects, Kirk Franklin Presents 1NC in 2000, and sang on the soundtrack to the major motion picture, Kingdom Come, the following year.

As his stature and recognition in the music industry continued to grow, Myron, even as he maintained his creative interaction on various projects of Kirk's, was finally able to turn his focus toward his lifelong dream of writing and recording his own project as a solo artist. In 2002, with a large and ever-increasing catalog of original material, he began forming his own band and vocal ensemble, called Levi, and comprising a core group of singers who had first performed and recorded with him in God's Property.

With determination, but also careful deliberation, Myron assembled the group he wanted and sounds as well as personal dynamics and interaction he was looking for, giving the new group the time and space it needed to coalesce around his vision. In the meantime, he had already begun the process of cluing key industry colleagues into what he was up to and letting a quiet put persistent buzz build around it. By 2004, sensing that both the time and the music was right, he began discussions that led to a place in the EMI Gospel family, and Set Me Free.

Myron quickly and readily acknowledges the huge role his friend and colleague Kirk has played in his own artistic development, and the evolution of Gospel music in general, and the two remain close today, often bouncing songs and ideas off each other for what both still consider valuable, two-way input and feedback. It also clear that Myron is intent and excited now at the prospect of making his own mark on the new and vastly broadened landscape of modern Gospel music.

 

"Kirk really opened a lot of people's minds and ears to hear new types of music under the banner of Gospel," says Myron, "and that's also encouraged me to stretch things a little more even, and go wherever my own ideas, and influences, and inspiration lead me." With great successes, as well as some serious "growing pains," to show for the last ten years, Myron makes no effort to contain his enthusiasm about the new chapter in his life, career and calling that is now opening.

"My greatest hope is that people who feel hopeless and at the end of the line would hear these songs and feel encouraged and empowered, and find God through them," he concludes. "I want to encourage the believers, but I realize so many people are in a place where they have already decided that `God," and `the church,' and `Gospel music' have nothing to offer them. So I'm trying to give them some serious jams where they can put the top down and cruise, and get off on the music and the groove, and at some point start hearing the words and being affected by them. Those are true breakthrough, life-changing moments, and I can't imagine accomplishing anything more, or greater for the Kingdom than that."

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