Interview: Eric Hutchinson
Fri, 10 Oct 2008 14:19:34
Eric Hutchinson Videos
Even though he's from D.C., Eric Hutchinson still reserves a place in his heart for Beantown. "I feel connected to Boston because I went to Emerson College. It was a special part of my life, and I had a good time up there. I was a film major, but I was always doing music as a hobby. When I graduated, I just ended up pursuing music instead of film." It paid off. Currently, Hutchinson is touring behind his Warner Brothers debut, Sounds Like This, an eclectic musical cocktail of funk, folk, rock and blues. The record infuses pop tunes with a simultaneously theatrical and soulful sensibility. Making things even more interesting, Eric brandishes a sharp, sophisticated wit, a la Woody Allen. In between shows, he sat down with ARTISTdirect to discuss his creative process, blogging and switching majors.
You have a sound that encompasses a lot of different styles, but it feels very personal at the same time. It's everything from folk to funk. Where do you usually start?
For me, the song always lives and dies by the melody. There's always got to be a good melody. A good test for me is if I can write the song, but strip it down to just me playing the guitar or the piano or just singing—is the song still compelling on its own then? I usually start writing that way to make sure that I like the song by itself.
The record has a natural sound.
Thank you. A lot of the idea behind it for me was I wanted to make it feel organic.
It seems like anything's possible sonically, you throw in a lot of different instruments, but they all fit.
Totally, there are so many cool songs out there other than guitar, bass and drums. So I like the idea of trying to make an album that sounds a little different.
What's your lyrical process like?
I have to have an idea of what I'm writing about. Sometimes, I'll start writing a song and not realize what it's about, or as I'm writing I'll realize what it's about. Other times, I'll look back a couple months later and be like, "Oh, I was right in the middle of this and I didn't even realize that it was going on." For me lyrically, I'm trying really hard. In terms of movies and music, everything's always really black and white. There's a lot of, "I love you" and "I don't love you." I think life has a lot of grey areas, and I'm interested in exploring those lyrically. It's like, "I love you, but I'm dating your sister" or "I love you, but I can't be with you because you're making me miserable" [Laughs]. It's just different parts of life.
On the blog on your web site, you mention you're a Woody Allen fan. It's ironic because you have a similar sensibility to Woody.
Thank you! I think there are a lot of things in life that don't get written about in songs. I'm trying to make songs that are interesting and different.
More people identify with ambiguity than simple black and white stories.
Things don't always wrap up the way they do in the movies. I'm interested in that stuff that you're told about as you grow up, but then when you grow up, you realize it's not necessarily true. Things aren't the way that you thought they were.
Do you read a lot as well?
Not as much as I'd like to. I have a hard time concentrating, but I do like reading. I don't get to do it as much.
How do the songs translate live?
The show is really high energy. I look at the show like I'm the host of a party or a talk show. I feel like it's my responsibility to make sure people have a good time. It takes a lot of effort and money to get out to a show these days, so to go to a show and not have a good time is not really an option on my side of it. We always try to include the audience a lot. There's a lot of singing, dancing and clapping along. We want people to have a good time. I get a lot of comments from people telling me the album makes them happy, which is nice to hear.
“I'm interested in exploring life's grey area lyrically. It's like, 'I love you, but I'm dating your sister.'”
Given your film school background, did you get to have a lot of creative input in your first music video?
It was a lot of fun to make the video for "Rock and Roll." There were a lot of props, extras and costumes. It was fun to be in the middle of all that. I was involved in it. Not as much as I'd like to be, but I was definitely throwing ideas out there and helping to organize things. I enjoy doing that stuff. I hope to be even more involved the next time around. There are definitely similarities between making a film and writing a song. When I was doing film, I was writing, directing and editing. It's the same thing when you're writing songs really. You have a basic idea, and you figure out how you want to tell it. You find the words to make sure you're getting the point across the right way.
You enjoy blogging?
I try to do it as much as possible. I get a lot of emails from people who like reading that stuff. I'm a big believer in pulling the curtain behind the hype machine. I'm on a major label and a lot of that stuff can seem forced and formulated, so I like to show people that I'm a real person and I'm working hard. I like them to see that it's not just a big machine. It's not some big pop machine that's making me out to be something. It's fun for me to keep a list going of things I like. It's a fun re-cap for me—taking stock of what I've been doing. Being on the road is a lot of fun. I'm set for about 175 shows this year. It's great to make new fans.