Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit: A Legacy of Hope

Remembering the Late Scottish Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist

May 12, 2018
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Scott Hutchison, who died this week aged just 36, was a handsome, stocky Scottish fella with a beard, often found wrapped in a checked shirt and with a guitar or, failing that, a fine whisky in hand. He was also the leader of the remarkable Frightened Rabbit, a band that meant a huge amount to their dedicated following and over the space of five albums helped continue the lineage of a particularly melancholic, defiant sound that is undeniably the defining sound of his home country.

Seeing Scott perform for the first time is not something many will forget—quick to laugh, warm and biting in his humor, powerfully, unreservedly passionate in his raw, tender delivery. Oh and those songs, those fucking songs—"The Modern Leper" with it's beaten battle-cry of "I am ill—but I'm not dead"; "Swim" asking the savage, introspective question "Are you a man or are you a bag of sand?"; "Keep Yourself Warm" cruelly observing that "It takes more than fucking someone you don't know to keep warm."

These were songs acutely observed from the last stool at the bar, witnessed from under the covers with awkward lovers, moments captured by someone who often can't decode their own actions—let alone those of the people close to them; these were songs that spoke to and of the heart—stoic yet sentimental, strong but entirely vulnerable.

I was introduced to Hutchison's music in 2010 by a group of pals who dragged me to Frighten Rabbit's early afternoon set at All Tomorrow's Parties in a holiday camp in Minehead. Considering the insalubrious setting I was not prepared for the incredible explosion of emotion that would overwhelm me to the point of repeated floods of tears during their brief set. It seemed impossible that someone would just "know" what you held in the deepest recesses of your heart and mind and would be willing, no, enthused even, to broadcast these complex, tough, shameful words to thousands of people at the top of their lungs. It was libation, liberation, loss, and love all bound in a bruised, beautiful string-ball and let loose, untied, across the crowd. Hutchison could move you to tears with a single line—the next you'd be howling along with every microgram of air you could push out of your lungs.

On meeting Scott later that day I found a remarkably humble, open human being who was willing to not only take pictures with us mocking my earlier tearful outburst but equally invite us in to his chalet, share his drinks with us, and allow a newb like me to quiz him on lyrics, favorite bands, future plans, and more for, frankly, too long. We took up so much of his time that day—a sunny day when he was surrounded by bandmates, brothers and fellow performers—but instead of giving a crazed fan the brush-off, Scott gave us open arms, a massive smile, and a bunch of beers. This was the way Scott treated his fans—like equals, like friends. He was, on the evidence of the limited interactions I had with him, exactly the guy who was narrating those songs of faith and devotion and that, as I'm sure you will attest, is a truly rare thing among celebrated musicians and artists.

In seeing Frightened Rabbit since, it had become obvious that Hutchison's songs were reaching more and more people—more to join the sing-along throng, more to understand and relate to his maddeningly true tales. They seemed, under hid guidance, to be the kind of band that could tip the indie scales and end up headlining arenas in the U.S. or stadiums in Europe. Now, due to Hutchison's hard-fought but lost battle with depression, those glorious possibilities are removed. More so—his brothers, bandmates, and fans have lost one of the lights of their lives. His fans have lost not just a hero—they can be surprisingly common in pop culture, worthy or not—but a genuine, relatable, lovable, admirable, and adored human being. I don't pretend to have known Scott; I don't pretend to know about his behavior in his personal life and private relationships—judging by his final missives to the world these were things that his illness made him feel were profoundly sub-standard—but one can glean a good amount from the soul that sang "When my blood stops, someone else's will not/When my head rolls off, someone else's will turn/While I'm alive I'll make tiny changes to Earth." Scott did the latter, to an enormous, almost unbelievable extent. Hutchison leaves a legacy, in the words of his band "...of hope, kindness, and color that will forever be remembered and shared." 

There are surely many alive today who would not be were it not for Scott Hutchison's words and music. It is just an unbearable tragedy that he is not among them.

Our most heartfelt thoughts go out to the Hutchison family and all who knew him.

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