In the years leading up to Moving Up Living Down (Warner Bros.), singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson has been a man in constant motion: lots of touring, relocating from the Maryland suburbs to New York City and recording the aforementioned album in two countries.
“The biggest inspirations of the album were the cities I visited, the inspiration and rhythms of the people,” Hutchinson says.
While in San Francisco, Hutchinson came up with a line that sparked him to write “Watching You Watch Him,” the album’s first single. It was featured in the season eight premiere of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, and since late March, the song’s official video has racked up more than 70,000 YouTube views. (Hutchinson’s music has done quite well on YouTube in the past: Clips for “OK, It’s Alright With Me” and “Rock & Roll” — songs from his last album, Sounds Like This — have surpassed 500,000 and 1.5 million views, respectively.)
Hutchinson checked in prior to the release of Moving Up Living Down and the start of his spring U.S. tour to talk about the new album, his catchy single and other subjects.
Medleyville.us: In explaining the new album’s title, you’ve said it reflects the “chutes and ladders lifestyle.” OK, fess up: Did the inspiration really come from playing the beloved Hasbro board game one wild night on your tour bus?
Eric Hutchinson: “Couldn’t be more wrong — it was Monopoly! Just kidding. The album inspiration came from me moving from the suburbs in Maryland to New York City. Getting to soak up that city while I was writing the album was so important.”
You road-tested the songs on Moving Up Living Down before you hit the studio. Which ones, if any, underwent the biggest transformation leading up to when you recorded them?
Hutchinson: ” ‘In the First Place’ is a song I was constantly tweaking all the way up to when I was singing the lyrics on the record in the studio. I go over every song with a fine-tooth comb, and I’m quick to throw out songs that I think get boring too quickly. That’s hopefully how you make an album that people can listen to over and over again.”
Let’s break down the single “Watching You Watch Him.” We’ve all been there — the one you want is so close yet so far away, preoccupied with someone else, and you’re on the outside looking in. So how did you go about putting your own lyrical spin on this familiar theme and matching it with cheery music and a buoyant melody?
Hutchinson: “I was backstage strumming my guitar at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco before a show. I hit a few chords and started singing ‘Walking through that door.’ I sang it into my phone, and when I listened back to it a few weeks later in my home studio, I heard the lyrics ‘Watching you watch him.’ This was one of those songs that wrote itself. It’s been great to have people respond well to it. I have fans come up to me after I sing it and say,’‘You’re singing my LIFE right now!’ Then we hug it out.”
Had you ever seen or even heard a requinto jarocho prior to one being used for the solo?
Hutchinson: “It took me weeks to learn to pronounce the instrument correctly! I was looking for a unique sound for that solo, and [producer] Mike [Elizondo] suggested the requinto jarocho, which is used in traditional Mexican folk music. I wanted this to be a song you could blast on a road trip through the desert, so I liked the idea of borrowing from Mexican music to do that. Plus, it’s gotten me really into the band Los Lobos.”
What’s the secret to capturing crisp handclaps like the ones heard on “Watching You Watch Him”? Those were made by human hands, right? And was there any studio enhancement?
Hutchinson: “I can’t give you the secret, but if you come see me live, all we do all night is sing, dance and clap.”
Talk about recording the new album in two distinct cities in different countries with two different producers — Mike Elizondo in Los Angeles and Martin Terefe in London.
Hutchinson: “It was amazing! I got to record for a month in London with Martin and then for another month in L.A. with Mike — two very different cities, and I loved getting to hang out and get inspired by their energies. I know that ended up in the music.”
How was your Live From Daryl’s House experience? Did anything happen on the air or behind the scenes that really surprised or impressed you?
Hutchinson: “Daryl was great! He and his band were so welcoming and such amazing players. I had a blast and still can’t believe I got to sing ‘Private Eyes’ with him. I had practiced it at karaoke a few nights earlier so I wouldn’t blow it.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Eric Hutchinson on tour (schedule subject to change):
* April 17: Bluebird Theatre — Denver
* April 18: Waiting Room — Omaha, Neb.
* April 19: Wooly’s — Des Moines, Iowa
* April 21: First Avenue Mainroom — Minneapolis
* April 23: Lincoln Hall — Chicago
* April 24: Majestic: Madison, Wis.
* April 26: Magic Bag — Detroit
* April 27: The Basement — Columbus, Ohio
* April 28: Beachland — Cleveland
* April 30: Club AE — Pittsburgh
* May 1: Paradise — Boston
* May 2: Highline Ballroom — New York
* May 4: Heirloom Arts Theatre — Danbury, Conn.
* May 5: 9:30 Club — Washington, D.C.
* May 6: World Café — Philadelphia
* May 8: Visulite — Charlotte, N.C.
* May 9: Pour House — Charleston, S.C.
* May 10: Bijou Theatre — Knoxville, Tenn.
* May 11: 3rd and Lindsey — Nashville, Tenn.
* May 12: Zydeco — Birmingham, Ala.
* May 14: House of Blues — Dallas
* May 15: Stubb’s — Austin, Texas
* May 17: Crescent Ballroom — Phoenix
* May 18: Coach House — San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
* May 19: Troubadour — Los Angeles
* May 20: Slim’s — San Francisco
* May 22: Chop Suey — Seattle
* May 23: Hawthorne Theater — Portland, Ore.
* May 24: Knitting Factory — Spokane, Wash.
* May 26: Hang With the Band.com Hangout — Las Vegas
Photo by Jeff Lipsky