How the Composer of Elvis Made Austin Butler Sound Like an Iconic Musician

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Elvis composer Elliot Wheeler described how he mixed Elvis Presley’s vocals with Austin Butler’s vocals to make the actor look more like an iconic musician. Elvis is a biographical musical drama that premiered on June 24, 2022. In the film, Butler plays the main role of Presley, and he explores the musician’s path to fame and his path to career and fame. Almost throughout his journey, Presley shares a complicated relationship with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), who promotes Presley to fame, but controls his life too much.

Elvis also talks about the relationship between Presley and his wife Priscilla Presley (nee Wagner), played by Olivia DeJong. So far, Elvis has received relatively positive reviews from critics. The audience highly appreciated the film for a dazzling, bright and lively look at the life of the king of rock and roll. Elvis uses Presley’s energy and charisma, and also draws attention to the more tragic and controversial aspects of his life. Meanwhile, one of the common points of praise for the film is Butler’s game. Butler beat a lot of stars to get the role, and it’s not hard to see why, since Butler completely embraces Presley, both physically and vocally.

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In an interview with Collider, Elvis’ composer Wheeler revealed how he made Butler sound more like Presley for the film. In fact, Wheeler mixed Presley’s vocals with Butler’s vocals. Butler sang each of his songs in full, but then his performance was combined with Presley’s recordings. They used a lot of Butler’s grunting, breathing and body movements, and then switched to Presley. By mixing the two vocals, Wheeler created a much more authentic sound for Butler. Check out his statement below:

As a result, we cut [parts of] Austin’s performance. We used a lot of breaths, grunts and body movements typical of Austin, and switched back to Elvis.

Wheeler’s methods certainly represent an interesting approach to recreating Presley’s iconic vocals. One of the biggest problems that musical biographies face is the inability to recreate or pay tribute to the vocals of the original singer. In most cases, the actors and crew try to avoid simple lip sync in order to achieve a more convincing performance. However, if the vocals cannot be recreated, then it can definitely lead to harsh criticism for cutting out the vocals of an iconic musician. For example, the grandson of Hank Williams criticized Tom Hiddleston’s performance in “I Saw the Light” because he did not believe that Hiddleston fully caught Williams’ vocals. Consequently, Wheeler tries to rectify the situation by balancing Presley’s recordings with Butler’s authentic performances.

The act of combining Butler’s performance with Presley’s vocals does more than just a good show, and honors Presley’s memory. For a biographical film dedicated to the life of a musician, it seems right to include a bit of the musician himself in it. Wheeler’s method shows that Butler can show a cult performance, including Presley’s timeless and unsurpassed skill. Wheeler’s mixing of Presley and Butler’s vocals ensures that the music in “Elvis” pays homage to the iconic singer, and also includes some of Presley’s original music.