Hey everyone, James Campion here. You may have heard of Eric Hutchinson, or at least you’ve heard his songs. They’ve appeared on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and NBC’s Growing Up Fisher. He’s also played them on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Today Show. Perhaps you’ve seen him in your town, as Eric has been a touring songsmith now for sixteen years. His versatile solo performances or with bands through five albums filled with spectacularly crafted and exquisitely sung pop, rock, soul songs that brim with tasty melodies and infectious rhythms are a unique experience. But what makes Eric the perfect Underwater Sunshine Festival artist is he simply loves music – playing, studying, discussing and even inventing and publishing a game celebrating it called Songversations. And, full disclosure, over most of those years he has become a dear friend.
I first encountered Eric when he opened for Joe Jackson at Broadway’s legendary Town Hall in 2005. Performing by himself on piano and acoustic guitar, he used a biting sense of humor and engaging storytelling to augment an incredible musical elasticity that prompted me to sprint to the lobby to pick up what was then his second independent release, the live …Before I Sold Out. Within a week I caught his residency at the Cutting Room downtown and we sat for the first of dozens of engaging conversations over the years. It has been these invaluable moments of seeing how his process works that have allowed me entry into one of the most versatile songwriters of the 21st century, whose work continues to grow in theme and content with every release.
By late 2007 Eric had compiled the material with which he’d been touring America as a solo artist into what would be his major label debut, as Madonna’s Maverick Records signed him up, but unfortunately soon went belly up and the young singer-songwriter found himself promoting Sounds Like This independently again. Yet, on the strength of the funky “OK, It’s Alright with Me”, a foot-tapping tale of bar-hopping, “Rock and Roll”, and the eminently singable ode to breakups, “All Over Now” it would peak at #5 on iTunes making it the highest charting album by an unsigned artist in its history.
For the next few years Eric honed his craft and continued to tour relentlessly and soon Warner Bros came calling. In 2012, his second effort, Moving Up, Living Down introduced a maturing side to the songwriter, as he dealt with the issues of growing up in an otherwise arrested development pop firmament. The album’s reggae-infused opener, “Talk is Cheap” laid it out, and began the journey through burgeoning fame, “The People I Know” (“If I am not myself, then who am I pretending to be”) to self-doubt, “I’m Not Cool” (“I'm just a regular guy / In an insane world”), while taking time to add a house-burning paean to the soul music that inspired him as a kid growing up in Takoma Park, Maryland, as he name-checks Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and of course, his hero, Michael Jackson. “I cannot understand why more people don’t accuse me of just blatantly ripping Michael off,” he remarked to me with a smile.
That album would also include one of his most beloved songs, “Watching You Watch Him”, a piece of pop magic that simultaneously reflects unrequited love while more specifically decrying his lovely wife, Jill’s obsession for tennis champion Roger Federer. “Where do I fit in…” Eric sings with restrained tongue-planted-firmly-in-cheek pathos “…when I'm watching you watch him?”
Eric’s stride as a performer, singer-songwriter, and producer began to rise exponentially over his next two albums released under his Let’s Break Records label, Pure Fiction (2014) and Easy Street (2016), the former arguably the finest, most supremely fashioned pop masterpiece of the decade, and the latter a densely themed take on what achieving his dreams and also living with what he would soon confront as a life of living with depression had wrought on his most celebrated work.
Pure Fiction, replete with wonderfully crafted songs such as “Forever” and “I Got the Feeling Now”, opens with the album’s signature tune, “Tell the World”, which became a hit and eventually the theme song for the Microsoft Ten launch, but in classic Eric Hutchinson fashion was a satirical jab at the social media culture of everyone sharing every little detail of their lives as monumental event. With a fervor best described as musical ecstasy he sings, “All of the places we ever go / Feel familiar, I’m never alone / All of the people that I don’t know / Will be looking me up when they all get home” and because the damn song is so catchy you can’t help sing along with him, in essence, proving his point.
The flipside of both album’s plotlines fits in the opening track of Easy Street, “Dear Me”, a striking vocal performance of a heartfelt note to himself in the future. The song’s official video, featuring his worldwide fans revealing notes to themselves, is as touching an expression of trepidation and hope as one can find in four minutes.
But without question this past year Eric Hutchinson released his finest work, Modern Happiness, a completely realized confessional on his bout with depression and his continued recovery that inspired him to release the songs once a month throughout 2018 along with interview segments with yours truly that dissected the intense nature and lasting beauty of his lyrics and music. Recorded for the first time with his touring band, the Believers in one week, it is a live, unfiltered look into Eric’s art, love of song and musical comradery.
Eric comes to the festival this spring as an accomplished singer-songwriter who has, thanks to his recent Uncharted Territory Tour wherein in completed his professional goal of playing in every state in the union, taken his music…well…everywhere. Solo or with a full band, he is a dynamic performer and terrific songsmith (he loves that term) and I cannot wait to see him honor our stage.
Eric’s home on the Web
And on the Faced Book
On the ‘Gram
And the Tubed You