Elvis Presley: Austin Butler Said One Song for Elvis Biopic Made Him Lose His Voice

In preparation to portray Elvis Presley for the Baz Luhrmann biopic Elvis, Austin Butler transformed into the king of rock and roll emotionally, spiritually, and physically. However, some challenges proved to be more difficult than others. One of these included tackling some of Presley’s most iconic tunes as a singer, including one tune Butler claimed made him lose his voice.

Elvis Presley and Austin Butler in side by side photographs.
Elvis Presley and Austin Butler | Archive Photos/Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Austin Butler was ‘humiliated’ and in ‘tears’ while recording Elvis Presley’s greatest hits

In an interview with VMAN, Butler shared his initial experience recording some of Presley’s iconic hits. “On my first day in the recording studio, Baz wanted me to get as close to performing as possible,” Butler explained.

“He had all the executives and everybody from RCA who returned from the offices and brought them into the recording studio. He goes, ‘I want you all to sit facing Austin,’ and he told them to heckle me.”

“So then they were making fun of me and stuff while I was singing,” the actor continued. “When we were filming this moment when Elvis first goes on stage, and he’s getting heckled by the audience, I knew what that felt like,” he shared. “I went home in tears that night. I did.”

Austin Butler admitted singing one Elvis Presley song made him lose his voice

Presley’s music catalog chronicles his growth as a performer, from his early days at Sun Records through the 1960s and 70s. He was a three-octave singer, categorized as a tenor, baritone, and bass, reported Elvis.au.

Trying to capture these changes in Presley’s performing styles was challenging for Butler, who worked with a vocal coach throughout filming to ensure his performance was similar to Presley’s. However, one song Butler said in an interview was the most difficult to master.

The actor told NME there was one song in particular that made him lose his voice. “Never Been to Spain.” The song is one of many featured on the live album Elvis: As Recorded at Madison Square Garden, released in June 1972 by RCA Records. 

“It just fires me up. I love to turn it on super-loud in the car and drive,” Butler admitted. “Singing ‘Never Been to Spain’ once on set, my voice went out. I lost the mid-range of my voice for a couple of days.”

He continued, “Thankfully, it was on a Friday so that we could take the weekend off, so I went on vocal rest and didn’t speak for two days to let the vocal cords rest. It’s a tough sing!”

The actor revealed some songs showed Presley’s pain more than others

Elvis and Priscilla Presley photographed approaching an airplane.
Elvis and Priscilla Presley | Getty Images’/Bettmann
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Butler admitted that some songs showed Presley’s pain more than others, particularly during his divorce from Priscilla Presley. “Separate Ways” was released as a single in 1972, shortly after the couple legally separated.

“Separate Ways” is co-written by Red West, one of Presley’s closest friends and a member of Presley’s infamous Memphis Mafia. West wrote the song about his marital issues and tailored the piece to suit what was happening in Presley’s personal life, reported Yahoo.

“It’s interesting tracing the songs around the time of his divorce, like ‘Separate Ways,’ and knowing that when he recorded it, he just stared up at the ceiling afterward and shook his head, with tears in his eyes,” Butler explained to NME.

“You’re hearing the voice of a man going through an incredible amount of pain, and there’s such honesty to certain lines he sings, so that made me feel very connected to his soul.”