Talking his other “full-time occupation,” growing up with hip-hop, and singing from the soul
Is it too soon to reveal this summer’s go-to album? With an April 17th release date, Eric Hutchinson’s sophomore album “Moving Up Living Down” is setting the tone for the summer early. While you might not be able to soak up the sounds with your windows down just yet, you can consider this some solid seasonal warm-up music. Hutchinson pulls a variety of styles into a rhythmic whole, mixing folk-pop, jazz, and soul with plenty of keys and strings. The result is something bright and addictive, a simple sing-and-dance affair on the surface with compelling wordplay underneath. Hutchinson’s lyrics relay stories and observations from the people and places he’s encountered since his breakthrough single “Rock & Roll” put him in international demand. I connected with Hutchinson on the phone shortly after he arrived in California, where he’s preparing for a sold-out album-release show in L.A. He sounded as honest and relatable as the music he makes, and also excited as he talked about the new album and his past touring experiences.
So, you have a new album coming out called “Moving Up Living Down.” Can you explain the idea behind the title and what listeners can expect musically and thematically?
There’s a big influence from the city, New York City especially. I think it sort of has a big metropolitan influence for me. When I made my last album I was still living in Maryland where I grew up, and I moved shortly after that to New York City and that’s where I wrote this album. There are so many people and the energy is so great and I think it really got into the songs, ya know? And that’s what I really went for on this album, is the feeling and soul and I really tried to push that through. And I felt a pretty big responsibility to my fans because that’s the biggest thing that they always tell me, is “oh I put your album on to feel good – it’s feel-good music for me,” and I felt like I had to continue that tradition on this new album, but hopefully still be able to grow also. I guess in some ways that’s what “moving up living down” means, it’s growing up but still staying true to yourself
“Sounds Like This” was an album you handled independently. How was the process of making your latest album different?
It was an interesting experience but it turned out to be better. When I was making the first album on my own I had to worry about so much of the details, like finding musicians and getting people paid and booking the studio and all that stuff. It didn’t leave a lot of time for me to work on the music, where this time around I had a lot of great people helping and I got to concentrate on the songwriting and the singing, which is why I got into this in the first place.
It was kind of two things. One, we do my shows and these days everyone’s got their phones at all times – myself included – and so many people watch the show through their phone while they’re making videos or taking pictures or whatever, and I kind of had this image of taking a picture and what that meant, thinking, why do we take pictures, ya know, what are we trying to capture? I sort of felt like we capture a moment, really. For me, the song is about… kind of live in the moment and take a picture of how everything looks, sort of take a mental picture, cause everything’s gonna change whether you want it to or not. So for me it means to hold on to what you’ve got right now and get ready for what’s coming up next.
You’ve gone on tour with a lot of different artists, including Jason Mraz, One Republic, Matt Nathanson, and others. Are there any who you particularly bonded with or that had an influence on you?
Well, I toured for about six months with Kelly Clarkston, which was really fun. She and her band were really great, we went all over America and Australia and New Zealand together, and she was just really fun and I got to be really close with her and the band. So that was cool, and she ended up doing one of my songs on her new album which was a huge honor.
Did you check out any of the interesting landscapes in New Zealand?
Ya know, I wanted to… I didn’t have time, but I wanted to go through the Lord of the Rings tour when I was in New Zealand but I didn’t quite get there. But I’ve been to Australia a few times now and it’s just a great country, lots of cool stuff to check out.
The Lord of the Rings tour would be awesome, you should definitely try for that next time. Along the same lines, are there any single memorable moments from touring when you look back?
Yeah, there’s tons of stuff. A lot of the time when I’m with the band we like to play the game “what city am I thinking of?” where you give some details to a show, and there’s always some interesting little bits. The song “Best Days” on my new album really talks about that. I feel like I have a great job, you know, I get to go out and help people celebrate every night and watch them have a good time, and I get to have a good time with them, and I get to eat some good food along the way and sing my music. I’m really happy.
What does your life look like outside of music? Any interesting hobbies or passions?
I’m a huge food lover. I love eating, I love watching cooking shows, I love cooking. That’s sort of a full-time occupation on its own. I’m also a huge sports fan – I play a lot of fantasy sports. I’ve got two fantasy baseball teams right now, I play fantasy football, fantasy basketball, tennis… And I go to movies a lot too. I’m a huge movie fan.
Same here. Any particular kinds of food you cook?
I like making Italian food, actually. There’s a great place where I live in New York that sells fresh made pasta, so that always makes it good.
How would you describe your own personality?
Umm… I don’t know. I think I’d leave that up to other people.
Yeah, I realize that’s a pretty tough question for someone to answer about themselves…
I mean, with the music, I think it’s super soulful. I consider myself a soul singer, ya know, it’s about making people feel something, making people want to dance and want to sing. I’m trying to make people feel good, but also give them a little food for thought – things I’m trying to work out in my own head.
What kind of music do you have playing in your car or headphones these days?
I love all kinds of stuff. I’m really liking the new Shins album, I love The Strokes, I love a lot of the old soul music and R&B. I really love all kinds of music as long as there’s a melody driving it through, ya know? One of my favorite things to do in New York is go see the New York Philharmonic. They do open rehearsals and I go in to watch them play music that is 400 years old and it’s pretty inspiring.
I read in a press release that you’re a hip-hop fan. Who are some of your favorite rap artists?
The stuff I grew up loving was A Tribe Called Quest and Wu-Tang Clan and Snoop Doggy Dogg – that was his name back then, Snoop Doggy Dogg… I love a lot of rap though, and I’m a really huge fan of Kanye West now, and Jay-Z, and Mos Def – he’s got one of the best flows out there.
If you could spend a day with one musician, who would that be?
I gotta say Paul McCartney. I’d love to just hang out with him, see what’s goin on. I’m just a huge Beatles fan. They were paramount in my family when I was growing up. My mom used to quiz us about which Beatles singer was singing which song and who wrote what and I just think the Beatles almost feel like family to me, on some level.
Eric Hutchinson will be performing at The Magic Bag in Ferndale on April 26th at 8pm. You can find tickets on ticketweb.com.