Photo: Ray whitehouse
Folk-steeped indie-rock act Frightened Rabbit began ten years ago as the solo project of Scottish singer-songwriter Scott Hutchison, who’s known for disappearing deep into song as catharsis after devastating break ups and other tough matters of the heart.
Since its humble beginnings in Selkirk, the band has moved to Glasgow, expanded to a five piece and, for the first time, used a collaborative songwriting approach on 2013 album, Pedestrian Verse.
Chicago caught up with Hutchison ahead of his appearance at Lollapalooza last Friday.
Let’s talk about your new record. Why did you decide to collaborate with the rest of the band when writing the songs?
I started writing it alone and then l realized quite quickly that maybe I was getting into bad habits and patterns with my writing. Also, everyone had been part of the band for long enough that there was a feeling of inclusion and trust, musically, that needed to be used. When I ended up going to the rehearsal space I said “The door is open. I’m going to be there working every day as I usually would.” And slowly one or two people would come. Then it was a process of finding our feet. I’d never really worked with anyone else before. I had been a bit controlling about the whole thing and I realized that’s not necessarily positive. It’s not for the better of the music. So this whole process allowed me to step back from that a bit more. I wasn’t less involved but I certainly had a more even viewpoint on the project as a whole, so it was really beneficial.
Do you think you’ll stick with this process in the future, or do you see yourself crawling back into a songwriting hole?
I probably would, but I wouldn’t do that for the band. I think the nice thing about this is that it’s completely changed the way we work as a band. It will allow for me to do some more solitary work away from the band.
So if you go through another breakup that material might become a solo project?
Well, I hope I don’t! But, yes. [laughs]
You tour pretty relentlessly. How do you stay sane?
When you get into the travel, show, travel, show momentum, it becomes normal. Then when you get home for whatever period of time, you have no idea what to do with yourself. I like being told what to do and when. When you have a structure to your day and then that’s taken away, things start to get a little weird and dangerous because you have no idea how to fill your time. I can end up sleeping most of the day. Touring becomes normal and normal life becomes weird, which is odd.
Is the time you spend at home pretty busy or do you try to keep to yourself and recuperate?
When I’m home, for however long that is, I feel obliged to see everyone and catch up with family and friends. My brother has two little girls and I want to be in their lives. It ends up being sort of exhausting in its own way as well. I’d love to lie around in bed all day. But yeah, I’m tired all the time, basically. Like, all the time.
Is it nice to be on tour with your brother?
Oh yeah. He’s a great leveler. It’s really easy to get caught up in bullshit when you’re on tour, because it’s not a particularly grounded reality. Having him there helps me stay logical and sane.
How’s the music scene in Glasgow? Do you find that people are supportive of one another?
Oh yeah, and it doesn’t really matter what type of music you play. I have friends in bands who probably don’t really like my band, and that’s all right. I have friends in bands whose bands I don’t really like either. I support them because I think that’s such an important thing. It’s a small community. I think everyone in Scottish music feels like a bit of an underdog. We’re not in London or Brooklyn or LA. We’re somewhere that makes a lot of music, and a lot of great music. But we’re not at the center of the industries. We feel quite protective over each other.
What compels you to stay in Scotland?
Well…that compulsion is waning now. I’m thinking of moving to the U.S. I’m not sure where yet. Things are more flexible now and I’m 31 and I’ve lived there my whole life. It just feels like it’s time to move.
Are there any up-and-coming bands in Glasgow that you think everyone should know about?
Oh yeah. There’s a duo called Honeyblood. It’s two girls and they are writing fantastic songs and the singer has an amazing voice. There’s another band called Holy Esque who I think will really start to be heard here. They’re a really exciting live band. It’s super raw, garagey pop music and it’s really good.
Tell me about your live show.
It’s really all about inclusion. I really try to break the barrier between the band and the audience. I celebrate that. Songs that I wrote a really long time ago may not mean a huge amount to me personally anymore, in terms of the content. But I have to be aware that some guy or girl could have heard one of those songs just a couple of days ago and it could have really resonated with everything that they’re feeling and it means the world to them. So if I just go on and sort of play those songs half-heartedly, then I haven’t done my job properly.
Belle and Sebastian played the Pitchfork Music Festival here a few weeks ago, and during the set Stuart Murdoch made a crack about how he was afraid of getting shot in Chicago. Do you find that people in Scotland have a negative perception of Chicago?
Really? Wow. Well I kind of like the grittier aspects of Chicago and I’ve never actually seen anything remotely violent here. It’s probably because my friends here don’t take me to those places. For a man from Glasgow, where there are so many knives that we have to have a knife amnesty like twice a year, that’s a little bit rich I think. I love Chicago and I nothing bad to say about it. Our live agent is based here and we toured with Maps & Atlases years ago and have remained good friends. I have a great affection for this place.
You made a switch to a major label recently. How your life has changed since then? Do you ever miss the old indie days?
You know, I actually don’t. It’s a very basic thing that’s sort of dirty to talk about, but we have more money now. That’s a good thing. I always wanted this to be able to pay my rent. That wasn’t the case when we were on Fat Cat. There were great people there who were working hard and doing as much as they possibly could, and we worked really hard for them. But that pressure has been taken off. Not much else has changed. We were able to rent a couple of houses to make the new record in and we wouldn’t have been able to afford that before. I feel like I get all defensive now, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting music to provide you comfort in other ways. Financial safety, you can’t really put a price on it, ironically.