Eric Hutchinson Reveals That “Easy Street” Was Filled With Challenges [REVIEW+PHOTOS] REVIEW+PHOTOS: ERIC HUTCHINSON @ THE GRAMMY MUSEUM 1/26/17
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The Grammy Museum regularly hosts intimate interviews with, and performances by, recording artists from all genres of music. In the 200 seat Clive Davis Theatre, attendees are afforded a unique experience, enabling them to learn more about their favorite performing artists while also getting treated to a short performance in the acoustically sound room. To learn more about upcoming guests and to purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.
Last year, Eric Hutchinson released his fourth studio album, “Easy Street”. It is an album that critics have heralded as being a return to his “indie roots”. It had been a long and arduous road, what with him parting ways from his long-time manager and record label, while at the same time waiting for results to confirm whether or not he had inherited muscular dystrophy (which he thankfully did not). “Easy Street” is truly an independent, labor of love and he spent a night in Los Angeles to discuss the journey and to play a short acoustic set of his songs.
During the interview, the audience was afforded an opportunity to learn more about this gifted singer-songwriter, while at the same time have their funny bones tickled on occasion (Eric’s dry humor is pretty, darn funny). We got to learn about his foray into DJing, learn about the stories behind songs (“Watching You Watch Him” is about his wife’s infatuation with professional tennis player), his upcoming music card game (keep an eye out for (“Songversations”), and his plan on checking off the last four states he has yet to perform in (Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Alaska) through a partnership with Microsoft for an “Uncharted Territory” tour with the goal of helping people cross things on their to-do list.
The foregoing notwithstanding, here were a few other tidbits that gave us a further insight into what makes him tick.
ON WHAT INSPIRES HIS SONGWRITING:
“Most people’s songs are are very black and white. I love you … you love me … you don’t love me … It’s hard emotions. But in my experience in life, I don’t really find that to be the case a lot of the times. There’s a lot of grey area in life, and that’s what I’m interested in writing about, like, “I love you … but you’re married to my brother,” (audience laughs) and that’s a more interesting song for me. [That’s] the grey area that we’re not singing about.”
ON HIS NEW EXPERIENCE BEING A RECORD PRODUCER:
I’ve worked with a bunch of producers, and I’ve always been really hands on in the studio, and it was just like, “Just go for it.” I have a really strong, specific vision and it was really satisfying. It was really satisfying … and that’s why I called the album “Easy Street”. It felt a little … surprisingly easy … just because I hadn’t considered myself a producer […]. The biggest thing I get from being a producer is the point of view. When you’re writing your own song, singing it, you lose perspective of what is sounds like and whether its any good or not. Having someone else [to offer musical suggestions], having a point of view to me is what I think I bring as [a producer].
ON WHY HE TOOK TIME OFF FROM COMPLETING THE ALBUM:
I didn’t know how to finish the songs. I would write these songs […], there were a lot of these songs that were half done. I write them into a corner and I don’t where to go with it, and I’d give up on the the song. There were a couple of them on this album that I kept coming back to … I felt like this was a good song, but I didn’t know what to do with it. So I put it away, then I went on tour, I wasn’t thinking about it. A some of them were like several years. Then I came back, and I felt like different person than when I had written the song. [When I went back to the song], it felt like I was co-writing with myself …but it was fun, and the part I didn’t know how to fix, I knew how to fix now […]. I think time is the great equalizer, if every song feels great when you just write it, and it still feels great a week later, that’s a good sign. If it sound great a month later, that’s a better sign. So for me, it was like, “I wrote this chorus two years ago, it still feels urgent to me now.” It felt like I needed to get those songs down.
ON THE JOURNEY OF RECORDING “EASY STREET”:
When I listen back on the album, I hear a lot of urgency. Pain. For me, soul music comes from recycled pain into joy … or something […]. The album should have been called “Challenging Street”. [audience laughs]. In a lot of way making “Easy Street” was like making my first album. It was just a major point of transition and transformation in my life. My first album, I got dropped from the record label I was on. They gave me some money […] so I just put that money into making an album, went broke doing it, got lucky and it sort of took off. And this album was a similar thing. The people I was used to working with were no longer around. I was starting over. There was a lot of freedom in that, [it] was exciting. I like that feeling of trying to impress nobody but myself and being, “Well, can I live with this stuff?” Can I look myself in the mirror and say, “I like these songs.”
ON MUSICAL TRENDS:
I’m tired of trying to keep up. I think I’m done with that, because it’s exhausting and it’s a moving target. Music takes long enough to come out, that by the time you’ve done something it’s not cool anymore. I’m always pop minded in general. I grew up loving The Beatles, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder … that was pop music to me. So, I’m always interested in a great melody, but I’m tired of trying to chase a trend or to make a song that sounds like something that I don’t necessarily like […]. So, I think I’m just getting more comfortable just being myself.
ON THE SONG THAT MEANS THE MOST TO HIM:
I realized that the last song on the album, “Dear Me” was the song that I could have never written before right then. I didn’t notice it until I went on tour and fans started talking to me about that song, and I started understanding … I mean I must have known it a little bit because I put it number one on the album, and it feels like my most personal song, for me right now. It’s the song that I’d like to be remembered for.
ON KANYE WEST:
I’m a Kanye sympathizer. I just love his music. I think that the way he thinks about music in collaboration is really genius. I have [an ongoing argument with a friend who] is not a Kanye fan. We’re often vigorously debating about it, but to me he’s a person who recognizes talent. He’s like a producer in the old sense to me […] like Phil Spector […]. There’s a lot of talent in understanding what people can do, and being able to put people together and overseeing … Quincy Jones didn’t play a single instrument on “Thriller”, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a massive effect on that album.
ON MUSIC IN HIS FAMILY:
My dad has muscular dystrophy […] I’ve actually never seen him play the guitar. He had this beautiful Martin guitar from ’68 or something that’s made of Brazilian wood, that’s no longer available. This guitar was in the house, but it was always off limits. It sort of represented that he couldn’t play, and it was around in plain sight, but I wasn’t supposed to touch it. I had my own guitar, [but] every now and then I’d go and play his, then he’d find out then get mad at me. But he just recently gave me the guitar […] and it’s getting rehydrated right now as we speak. It’s a beautiful guitar, it’s got a lot of meaning… he carved his name into the back of it, so … it’s not worth as much as it should be [audience laughs]. His guitar had gotten stolen so he carved his license number into the head , but it’s kind of cool cause it’s got his name and stuff on it.
This was my Dad's @martinguitar. He bought it in 1966. His guitar before this had been stolen so the first thing he did with this one was carve his name and drivers license number into the headstock. Its Made with Brazilian rosewood that no longer exists. My dad lost his ability to play and this guitar sat dormant for many years in our house when i was growing up – always off limits to me when i was learning to play. Finally, my Dad gave it to me as a gift when I turned 21. By then id gotten use to my crummy acoustic so i said "no thanks". We hutchinsons are stubborn I guess. Finally about 6 months ago I asked my dad if i could still have the guitar and he said yes right away. I took it to an authorized martin shop here in nyc and they humidified it for 2 weeks and replaced the cracked bridge. The maiden voyage on the new guitar had to be a dylan song for my dad!
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— Derrick K. Lee (@methodman13) January 31, 2017
— Derrick K. Lee (@methodman13) January 31, 2017