'The Witcher's' Joey Batey on Composing Jaskier's New Tune 'Burn Butcher, Burn'

The Witcher Season 2 was released on Netflix on Friday, December 17, and with it comes another song from everyone's favorite bard, Jaskier.

Jaskier, portrayed by Joey Batey, follows up his hit "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" with the grittier "Burn Butcher, Burn", which he performs in Episode 4.

More sombre in tone to his first tune, Jaskier's song focuses on how he felt in the aftermath of his last encounter with Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), which saw the Witcher and bard part on bad terms.

Batey wrote the song alongside show composer Joe Trapanese, and he spoke with Newsweek about this change in direction for Jaskier.

How Joey Batey composed "Burn Butcher, Burn"

The actor explained that "Burn Butcher, Burn" was a way for Jaskier to "no longer rely on the stories of others," and instead tell his own story through music.

"The main thing that we wanted to do coming into Season 2 was explore Jaskier's discography and his musicality, and how he can shift and change and develop his own musical style," Batey said of the composition process.

He added he wanted Jaskier to "step away from perhaps the more poppier, catchy tunes and no longer rely on the stories of others to translate into the songs but rather explore his own stories and his own [life].

"And he gets the chance in Season 2 to be his own main character, perhaps for the first time in a long time, and is now separated from his friendship with Geralt."

Batey went on: "A lot of the song-writing process that we had took place over the pandemic, playing email tennis backwards and forwards with Joe and I, lots of late nights and early mornings.

"But it felt like we settled on something that was really representative of the grittier, darker tone of Season 2, and indeed of The Continent, and the socio-economic context of The Continent.

"It felt like Jaskier is allowing himself to perhaps explore his own emotions, which thus far we haven't seen too much of, which I found really, really enjoyable to play."

What it was like to perform "Burn Butcher, Burn" on set

"Burn Butcher, Burn" is the first song Batey has written for his character, as "Toss A Coin To Your Witcher" was written by Jenny Klein, and composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli for Season 1.

By having a more active role in writing Jaskier's song Batey said it allowed him to feel "real ownership" over the tune, which helped enhance his live performance of it on set.

He explained: "It meant that when I turned up and sang it on set I felt like I had real ownership over it, and that was so much easier to be able to jump around and dance on tables and stuff when you know where this came from, and you know the purpose of it."

Batey performed the song live "take after take" for "a whole day", he shared, saying of the scene: "I was singing in the freezing cold, because that's actually an exterior set. We were shooting in the middle of January and I think I drank more coffee that day than I have [ever] done, just to survive!"

The actor, who also performs in his own band The Amazing Devil, added that despite the cold conditions he didn't lose his voice, joking that that wasn't "for lack of trying."

Batey went on to tease that there may be more songs from Jaskier through the course of the season, saying he and Trapanese "wrote a lot" so "there might be a one or two little ditties that sneak in."

When asked if he'd consider releasing an album of Jaskier's songs, Batey laughed as he claimed: "I mean, by the end of this show, who knows? We'll probably work on that. But, yeah, I think people would get bored of me if I started doing [that]."

Exploring a darker side to Jaskier

One thing that Batey was keen to do in Season 2 was to make Jaskier a more "three-dimensional character" compared to Season 1 where the character was often the comedic relief.

"I think that's that's something that Lauren [Schmidt Hissrich, The Witcher's showrunner] and I talked about before shooting Season 2," Batey reflected. "I said that I wanted to see more of this three-dimensional character, the three-dimensional character that we see in the books, in Andrzej Sapkowski's books.

"In the books he's funny and he hides behind the guise of the fool, but he is a scholar, he is a philosopher and poet, and he's able to do all these things.

"And yet, more often than not, he uses humour to... not necessarily hide behind his own [character], [to] hide his emotions, but he uses it to get out of sticky situations and trouble basically.

"It's much easier to find out information from people if you pretend you don't know what you are doing, that's his own little secret that he has."

Reflecting on how the Battle of Sodden Hill in the Season 1 finale, and its aftermath, have impacted his character, Batey went on: "By the time we get to Season 2 he is a little darker.

"And I think it's the fact that he's an artist and he's a consummate empath he can't help but feel every emotion of everyone around him [after] seeing The Continent being plunged into this darkness following a huge battle and with an oncoming war.

"It's beginning to affect everyone and good artists accept that, and adapt to that, and change their art, and he is not necessarily a chameleon, he's more of an emotional chameleon.

"He does do his best to be positive and be the optimist, but in times of oppression and war like this, [it's] the first time in his life where he's taking risks and he knows that, you know, this is a sticky situation, he might not actually be able to talk his way out."

The Witcher Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream now on Netflix.

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Joey Batey as Jaskier in "The Witcher" Season 2, the actor spoke with Newsweek about writing and composing the song "Burn Butcher, Burn" for the show. Susie Allnutt/Netflix