Sacramento native Karmen Buttler grew up in, essentially, the Partridge family — minus the bus. Her grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles… everyone had musical inclinations, if not outright talent. So it seemed quite natural that a 9-year-old Buttler would join the school band and, eventually, start writing songs as a young teen.
Buttler marked another major milestone around the same time. “I came out at 14 and, besides some very minor bumps in the road, have had a very smooth ride ever since,” she says, then fills in the blanks with a few more details. “Let’s just say it involved getting baptized into a born-again church so I could hang out with my middle school crush. Seriously, though, I had it pretty easy. It makes a tremendous difference when young people are allowed to be their real selves while growing up, and I’m so grateful to have had that experience.”
Moving through those early years, Buttler came to realize that music was her path and her passion. “It’s so easy, out of fear or presumed necessity, to over-occupy yourself with activities or tasks that aren’t aligned with your passions or values,” she offers. “We often do jobs we don’t care much about, or we follow paths that we think are more appropriate than our dream. My feeling is, anytime you step away from your true passion — your most important work — you are stepping away from your authentic self and that can cause great struggle and unhappiness.”
Before she came to that realization, though, Buttler attended Mills College in Oakland “for approximately five minutes,” she jokes. Bills being bills and life being expensive, she pursued hairdressing as a means to her music ends. “Over the years, it’s proven to be a great compliment to my artistic endeavors,” she says of her day job. “When you’re in a service industry, your primary job is to pay close attention to the needs and expectations of others — to really take care of people. I find this to be an excellent balance to the often solitary and self-consuming nature of being an artist. Hairdressing really became my way of taking care of others.”
Even as her music career blossoms, Buttler maintains a stable of styling clients in San Francisco because she understands the financial rollercoaster that is the artist’s way… also because she and her wife live in Marin County, which doesn’t come cheap. In between cuts and colors, Buttler ventures off to play shows in support of her Daze of Love album. Her calendar includes both queer music festivals and standard club gigs. In both cases, Buttler says, “My goal is to be myself and do me as genuinely as possible, regardless of the audience. When I’m true to that, I’m able to give so much more and that is, ultimately, my job as a performer and musician. And, hopefully, if Im doing my job well, the audience will feel not only entertained, but also taken care of.”