Have you ever met someone with such a pure and unique personality that within minutes, you knew you need to know more? That’s how I felt when I met Buto, a young, inspiring singer/songwriter who’s as humble as they come.
At the age of 18, he spends his days working at Jirani, his parents’ coffee house in Manassas, VA, but that doesn’t stop him from making time for greatness.
With musical roots that run deep, coming first from his biological father who was a self taught saxophone player and drummer, then his stepfather Ken Moorman, who is also a musician, Buto’s love for music doesn’t come as a surprise.
“I went to a private school (in the second grade) and started taking piano lessons with Miss Bacon,” Buto said. “Every kid, after school, would go to her and learn one song, then they’d play that song at a recital.”
That first recital, he said, was when everyone saw his strength.
“I excelled, even more than the older kids,” he said. “I excelled a lot. And that’s really when things started.”
Not only did he have a talent, he loved being on stage.
“I got bullied a lot because of my name, but when they saw me perform at the recital
He continued with the piano, winning awards and blowing people out of the water at his recitals until he was 14. But then, he got tired of it and wanted to stop.
“I felt like I was over music,” he said. “I was being a lazy kid. I just didn’t want to play music anymore.”
So for about a year and he half, he said he didn’t touch his piano or have anything to do with playing music. But then he got involved in his church, and everything changed.
“The summer going into 9th grade, I got saved at my church. After that I started playing in the worship band,” he said. “As I got closer to God, I got closer to my music.”
Buto found himself inspired by a guitarist named Casper Ball, and said that was it. He was determined to learn the guitar.
“I just picked up the guitar and started playing,” he said. “My fingers started bleeding, I had callouses, but I was determined! I really wanted to play this guitar.”
Then he started listening to Ed Sheeran, and applying the 10,000 hour rule to song writing.
“The idea is that if you spend 10,000 hours doing something, you become an expert,” he said. “I applied that to myself and I made sure I wrote a song a day. And if it sucked, that’s ok.”
On the advice of his stepfather, who strongly believed in his talents, but knew he still had room for growth, he spent two years recording before he dropped his first single.
“I had people around me to tell me, ‘Don’t drop that. Don’t put that out. Because first impressions are everything,” he said. “If it’s singing, if it’s writing, if it’s art, if it’s speaking - when people hear you, you want to blow them away. You can’t ever get that first impression back.”
Ken, or “Papa K,” as Buto refers to him, also has a connection to music. In the 90s, he and his brother were in an R&B group called The Bottom Line. They were signed to Dreamworks, but just before they were able to record the full album, they were dropped from the label.
“To get signed was a huge deal,” Buto said. “But it didn’t work out. And that’s ok, because it brought us to where are now.”
Years after returning to Virginia, while in the middle of raising his family, Papa K decided to open a coffee shop where people can share their art and gather as a community.
“He said he was driving by, and God spoke to him loud and clear: You need to make a café right there,” he said. “He said it was the clearest he’d ever heard God speak to him.”
Jirani is especially significant to Buto, because this where he performs his music every Thursday night during their weekly open mic night.
“It really helped me to connect with people in the area,” he said, “People were coming in and seeing me perform, and I was selling my merch and just talking to people. And that’s how I started to build my following.”
He said the face-to-face interaction with people got them excited for his new music.
“I decided to drop one song a week (on Soundcloud, Spotify and iTunes),” he said. “Once you start getting people to listen consistently, that’s how you get fans.”
Dropping a song per week built up his momentum, and his fans always seemed to want more.
“It helped me build up my fan base
Buto is passionate about ensuring there is diversity in his music. The first song he released on Soundcloud was a remake of “Where Are You,” by Hillsong, Young and Free in August of 2016. But soon after, he released a hard rap original, and shortly after that, a love song about heartbreak.
“I didn’t want anyone to put me in a box, and I still don’t,” he said. “My whole vision is built off of the thinking of ‘this is what I’m giving you and don’t expect anything less.’ I’ve been putting out music that I love to create, and that’s important.”
He put out a handful of songs before dropping “Blessing,” which is by far his biggest hit to date.
“A lot of people in music have that hit song - and it’s awesome, but you need more than that,” he said. “I wanted my music to last and I wanted every song to feel like it could have been a hit. It’s that 8th song on the album that is going to make people really love you.”
Blessing rose on the charts thanks to being added to a Spotify playlist.
“It started out just like any other song. It got a couple of retweets on Twitter and people were listening to it on Spotify. But then a couple of months later, it really started to blow up,” he said. “I put up a video of my singing it on Twitter and it got about 100 retweets. That never really happened before, so I thought, ‘People must really like it!”
After three months, Blessing had 10,000 listens. Then, 15,000. And just in the past week, it’s gotten over 30,000 listens, thanks to the Discover Weekly radio playlist feature.
“It’s crazy! I’m just blown away,” he said. “I didn’t pull any strings. I just put it out there and people caught on.”
Buto’s family saw his growth and enthusiasm, so after he graduated from high school in 2017, he made a trip to Los Angeles to dive deeper into his music.
“My uncle stayed out in LA, so he still has crazy connections out there,” he said. “At first, my uncle wasn’t sure if I was ready yet, but when he’d heard how much I’d grown, he knew he had to get me in the studio.”
While in LA, he created his mix tape, “Spuddies,” and edited the official video for “Blessing.”
He also met producer Wave IQ (Fallen, by Jayden Smith,) Jason Edmonds (son of Melvin Edmonds of the R&B group After 7, and cousin of Babyface Kenny Edmonds)
“When I think of all of the things I’ve done- the hands I’ve gotten to shake - the people that I met out in LA - the people I look at on Instagram that I met from being out in LA, it was like, everything I’d been dreaming of was happening,” he said. “I’m actually starting to stop saying ‘Dreaming Of ‘ because I see it - I see the vision – it’s actually happening.”
Buto dedicates most of his free time to music. If he’s not writing, he’s performing, playing for family and friends, and working harder than ever to be the best he can be.
“It’s a long road and I still have a lot growing to do, a lot to go through, a lot to come,” he said. He plans to go back to LA in the spring to get back in the studio.
“Things are happening,” he said.
None of this, he says, can be done without hard work and dedication. He spends hours studying writers, studying music and “just sitting in my room watching music videos” to get the timing down and really understand the ins and outs of his industry.
“You have to be a student of it - talent will only get you so far,” he said “Hard work will beat talent any day.”
And that sentiment is one he is adamant about sharing for anyone just starting out in pursuing his or her dreams.
“People out there reading or listening – it’s one thing to have talent,” he said. “But imagine – if you have talent AND you work extremely hard? Well, then. The world is yours. Whatever that is. Work hard and you will get there.”
Follow Buto on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Instagram at @Butomusic. You can also find him at https://www.butomusic.com/