How Elvis’ Composer Made Austin Butler Sound Closer To The Iconic Musician
Here’s how Elvis composer Elliott Wheeler mixed Elvis Presley’s voice with Austin Butler’s to make him sound more like the musician.
Elvis composer, Elliot Wheeler, described how he blended the voice of Elvis Presley with those of Austin Butler to make the actor sound more like the iconic musician. Elvis is a biographical musical drama that premiered on June 24, 2022. The film stars Butler in the lead role of Presley and explores the musician’s rise to fame and his navigation of his career and stardom. For almost his entire journey, Presley shares a complicated relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who propels Presley to stardom but exerts too much control over his life.
Elvis also touches on the relationship between Presley and his wife, Priscilla Presley (née Wagner), played by Olivia DeJonge. So far, Elvis received relatively positive reviews from critics. Viewers praised the film for its dazzling, bright, and lively portrayal of the life of the king of rock n’ roll. Elvis taps into Presley’s energy and charisma, while examining the most tragic and controversial aspects of his life. Meanwhile, a common point of praise for the film is Butler’s performance. Butler beat out a number of stars to land a role and it’s not hard to see why, as Butler fully encompasses Presley, both physically and vocally.
In an interview with Collider, Elvis composer, Wheeler, described how he made Butler look like Presley for the film. Essentially, Wheeler mixed Presley’s voice with Butler’s. Butler sang each of his songs in full, but his performance was later spliced with Presley’s recordings. They used a lot of grunts, breaths and body movements from Butler, then moved on to Presley. By mixing the two voices, Wheeler created a much more authentic sound for Butler. Check out his statement below:
We ended up deciding [parts of] Austin performance. We used a lot of breaths and grunts and body movements that are Austin, and we were going back to Elvis.
Wheeler’s techniques are certainly an interesting approach to recreating Presley’s iconic voice. One of the biggest problems with musical biopics is not being able to recreate or do justice to the voice of the original singer. In most cases, cast and crew want to avoid simple lip-syncing to give a more compelling performance. However, if the voice cannot be recreated, it can certainly lead to heavy criticism for slaughtering an iconic musician’s voice. For example, Hank Williams’ grandson criticized Tom Hiddleston’s performance in I saw the light, because he didn’t believe Hiddleston quite captured Williams’ voice. Therefore, Wheeler attempts to remedy the situation by balancing Presley’s recordings with authentic performances by Butler.
Combining Butler’s performance with Presley’s voice does more than just put on a good show and honors Presley’s memory. It only seems fitting that a biopic honoring the life of a musician includes a bit of the musician within it. Wheeler’s method allows Butler to deliver an iconic performance, while incorporating Presley’s timeless and unmistakable skill set. Wheeler’s blend of Presley’s and Butler’s vocals ensures that the music in Elvis does justice to the iconic singer and also encompasses a bit of Presley’s original music.
More: Elvis: The Controversy Behind Colonel Tom Parker Explained
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