Wednesday 23 October 2019

Obituary: Scott Hutchison

Charismatic musician who found humanity in our flaws

INDIE STAR: Scott HutchisonTANSEY,
INDIE STAR: Scott HutchisonTANSEY,

Scott Hutchison, who died last week aged 36, was the founder and lead singer of the Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit; he was also a songwriter and artist, writing most of the band's often idiosyncratic lyrics and having a hand in the visual appearance of their record covers.

The band's name came from his mother, who would describe young Scott as a "frightened rabbit" when in a social situation.

In 2003 Hutchison began performing as Frightened Rabbit, or FRabbit, and was soon joined by his brother, Grant, on drums. Only 1,000 copies of their first album, Sing the Greys (2006), were made, but it was so well received that the following year a remastered version was released. "It's louder and everything is fuller and bigger," he said.

At their early gigs Hutchison would invite fans to email him for a free demo album, which he would send out with biscuits, many of which ended up as bags of crumbs.

The Midnight Organ Fight (2008) was a break-up album filled with inward-looking but sometimes unexpectedly exhilarating tracks about love, lust, loss and grief, characterised by the emotional urgency of Hutchison's distinctive, Scottish-accented vocals.

By this time Frightened Rabbit had been joined by the guitarist Billy Kennedy. The group later grew with the addition of the guitarist and keyboard player Andy Monaghan and others. The Midnight Organ Fight achieved considerable critical acclaim and the band were offered a supporting role on the American rock band Death Cab's UK tour in 2008, though this, on top of the band's own schedule, left Hutchison so drained that afterwards he escaped to a village in Scotland.

The ocean setting proved to be the inspiration for the songs that formed The Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010): "It influenced everything, from the time of day when I would write to the sound of the songs." The album's rich wall-of-sound effect drew comparisons with Arcade Fire.

Two more albums followed, Pedestrian Verse (2013) and Painting of a Panic Attack (2016), the latter alluding to the sense of dislocation that Hutchison felt after arriving in ever-sunny Los Angeles from his dour homeland.

Hutchison would sometimes speak of himself as two separate people: the first as a writer of soulful, introspective songs; the second as a touring artist: "If the guy that writes and makes albums were to come on tour with us he'd be extremely frustrated by the whole thing because it's too imprecise and it's not perfect."

He also discovered that his earthy lyrics would need toning down for the American market, especially his use of the c-word. "In Britain, particularly in Scotland that word is just … punctuation," he said with apparent bewilderment.

Scott Hutchison was born in Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders, on November 20, 1982, one of three sons of Ron and Marion Hutchison, and studied illustration at Glasgow School of Art.

At times he also worked with other musicians, and recently he and his brother Grant had joined forces with the musicians Justin and James Lockey to perform as Mastersystem, releasing a grungy, alternative rock album called Dance Music.

Hutchison often spoke about depression, and The Midnight Organ Fight includes a track called Floating in the Forth. "I've thought about it before," he said in 2007. "When I'm miserable, I'm genuinely miserable."

He went missing last Wednesday and his body was found the next evening near the Forth Road Bridge.

Scott Hutchison is survived by his parents and his brothers, Grant and Neil.

© Telegraph

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