Sunday Feature: Dexter’s Boutette still sharing his musical genius

Dave Boutette has strummed his way into the ears – and hearts – of people in these parts for decades, playing his unique melodies and telling stories through his music as only he can – in an engaging, enlightening and always fun style that has served him well over the years.

For Boutette, it’s the sharing of songs that holds all the magic. Whether banging out a set of saloon songs at a Michigan watering hole, or settling back for an evening of singing at a fire ring afterward, Boutette will hold listeners as long as they keep the lights on or until the rain starts.

Stories, advice, observations, or raffles are as apt to appear during a performance as are his songs. Blending many schools of American roots and popular music including folk, blues, swing, and old time country, his songs testify to the power of true love, rebirth, snow plows, and migrating fish.

The Dearborn native has called Dexter home now for four years. But he’s been a part of this area through his music for decades.

Boutette, 50, graduated from Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn in 1983 and majored in Marketing the Arts at Eastern Michigan University. More recently he has a “wonderful wife Kristi and wonderful kids Kieran and Kara.”

Many people over 50 have a very specific moment that captured their heart and soul and catapulted them into a life of music. It was Feb.9, 1964, when “four lads from Liverpool” walked onto the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater and introduced themselves to one of the largest television audiences in history.

But Boutette wasn’t born then, so you can forgive him for missing that show. It was another “act” who was “born to run” into the American songbook who showed the then 12-year-old what music had to offer. The clip he saw on television was of Bruce Springsteen in the now famous Phoenix River Tour video of Rosalita – “I ain’t here on business, I’m only here fun.”

Boutette instantly felt like “that looks like a lot of fun” – especially the part where the girls jump on stage and almost knock over an amused Bruce.

“The expression, the communal links between the stage and the audience, and the fellowship amongst musicians,” Boutette says is what the video and music said to him.

The hook was in – forever.

He has a wide range of musical influences and faves including Springsteen, Chuck Berry, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Kenny Loggins, Nat King Cole, Cole Porter and Muddy Waters.

But the most influential?

“It’s kind of goofy, but all through junior high I was a Van Halen devotee,” he said. “Showmanship, songwriting, instrumental virtuosity, and spunk, in the beginning they had it all, and there was nobody like them on Earth.”

Before stepping out on his own, Boutette spent 10 years with the Detroit-based alterna-rock bar kings The Junk Monkeys. The band toured the nation relentlessly supporting such acts as The Goo Goo Dolls and Hootie and the Blowfish, while recording under the Warner Bros./Metal Blade label from 1990-93.

Since going solo, Boutette has played all over the state of Michigan. He is a staple at many of the popular music events in the summer, from Chelsea’s Sounds and Sights to the Ann Arbor Art Fair to Milford Memories. He’s rocked out at such venues as the Blind Pig, the Ark, Midland Brewing, the Barking Spider, the BOB-Grand Rapids and the Michigan Theatre of Jackson.

And his favorite place to play?

“The Beaver Island Music Festival,” he said. “It’s a music festival in the middle of the woods, in the middle of an island, in the middle of Lake Michigan.”

Boutette has been in the middle of the music scene now for longer than he cares to remember, even though he remembers it all. It’s his original music that keeps his musical heart beating. Playing Dylan or the Boss or Van Halen is fun, but creating something that is truly yours and comes from your emotions, your inspiration and your soul is a special feeling and a gift he enjoys sharing.

“If you have something to say, put it to a tune that suits the sentiment, then find the right chords and rhythm to support it,” he says, describing how he writes a song. “That’s a very simplistic way to put it, but without distillation we could be here all night.”

His goals with music also are simple – at least to him. Boutette is humble and just enjoys sharing his special and unique talents, even if he doesn’t see them as special and unique. Few people can do what he does as his many fans realize – which is why they are fans.

“I just want to make music fun enough to never want to stop, and lucrative enough that I don’t need another job,” he said.

On his web site, there is a review of Boutette’s music. It’s the only review on the site probably since it sums up his music like a three-part harmony. It also does a great job of summing up Dave, the person.

“The real deal…..I know folks use that line all the time but he truly is ‘the real deal’. He’s the kindest man you’ll ever meet. He sings these way cool tunes. He’s a personality that is just unstoppable. You’ll never find a more positive force on this planet. You gotta love ‘em.” — The Nor-East’r Music & Art Festival

For more information on Dave, check out his awesome web site,

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