John Butler got his first paying gig in the winter of 1997 at the Seaview hotel in Fremantle on David Pensabenes open mic night. Before the year was out he was planning to release his first album, some solo and some he had ideas for a band sound. Jason McGann, the sound engineer at Mojos and local busy musician, offered John his drumming skills. Skate and jamming buddy Gavin Shoesmith offered his Bass playing talents and soon they were rehearsing in Jason's small underground jam room. This is where they fleshed out songs for the first album, and the two releases that followed. In December 1998, at Mojos Bar, the first incarnations of The John Butler Trio launched their Self Titled album over two sold out nights. From that time on John supported himself 100% through music.
The band toured up and down the coast of West Australia frequently and in August of 99 Phil Stevens (John's Manager) got John a solo support opening up for The Waifs, among other bands. The band produced and recorded the Pickapart EP at Couch Studios which was launched in April 2000 at the Fly By Night musicians club to 900+ people. They then made their debut at The East Coast Blues and Roots Festival, which still stands for a career highlight for the JBT. The song Pickapart was put on high rotation by JJJ. The reaction to the song was strong and wide spread and soon, with help from Phil getting some grants and the first albums healthy sales, the JBT were now touring nationally regularly to huge crowds every where.
During a busy touring schedule in 2000/1 the JBT recorded their third release Three. This was the bands first album as a true band. They had played consistently for 2-3 years and were now sounding like a band. Gavin's love for double bass was introduced along with a more electric/amplified acoustic guitar sound, taking the bands sound to new places. In April 2001, after the band moved to Melbourne to consolidate the east coast, the John Butler Trio released Three nationally. The album was a breakthrough success and stayed in the top 30 of the national alternative charts for 9 months, making it to no. 3 twice; unheard of for an album to rise, fall and rise again in such a period of time, and all this independently. The band did a 30 day sold out national tour of large venues after which time Gavin left the band. Gavin left behind not only a standard to be kept but the now essential sound of the double bass and many good memories. He was later replaced with 19 year old Rory Quirk. They toured Australia extensively and the venues just seemed to get bigger and the fans seemed to multiply. During the Trios second tour in the States in March 2002, Rory announced that he was going to leave the trio to rejoin his and his brother's band, Quirk. Enter Andrew Fry, an amazingly talented bass player. It took only two rehearsals and Andrew was already bringing a new funk to the trio. A week later the third incarnation of the JBT was on another tour of the USA.
The trio played the already legendary Bonnaroo festival, South By Southwest music convention and the Sierra Nevada festival as well as many of their own shows. One month in the states, 2 weeks back at home in oz, Splendour In The Grass, and back they went again for a three month tour of the U.S. on this tour they supported rising star, John Mayer and the huge Dave Mathews band. After that John decided to take 6 months off to spend with his pregnant wife and soon to be born daughter Banjo and to have a break. During 2001/2 the JBT recorded 4 gigs, 2 in Melbourne at the Forum and 2 in West Australia. 1 at UWA and 1 at the Rockit festival. John chose 13 songs from those shows to release and 1 studio song, Home Is Where the Heart Is. This live release is a small snap shot of the band and the players (John, Jason, Andrew and Rory) over a period. The live album called Living was a double CD released 10th February 2003 and includes music that has been played live and released over the last four. John thought it was a fitting way to end one chapter and start another.