By Sara Spangler, DC Music Live Contributor
Eric Hutchinson is a pop-rock singer/songwriter from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. His latest album, Moving Up, Living Down, is an upbeat, soulful follow-up to his debut album, Sounds Like This. For his latest release, Hutchinson was inspired to create songs people would want to dance and sing along to at his live shows.
DC Music Live had the opportunity to sit down with Hutchinson before he returns to his roots in Baltimore, Md. for a show at Rams Head Live on June 27.
How did you get your start in music?
I always loved music. For as long as I can remember I’ve always liked listening to it and singing it, and I guess in my head the next logical step for me was just writing it. I just started making up songs when I was probably 8, and I would record them. I had a music teacher who showed me that when you have an idea in your head, you write it down. She kind of showed me how to do that. I don’t think I really had a choice, I kind of always did music and now I get the privilege to do it for a living.
What were your musical influences growing up, and what current artists influence you today?
I grew up loving The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, stuff like that. I really love pop, any kind of traditional pop music. As for music today, I recently saw The Black Keys. I love Kanye West, I think he does a lot of interesting things. And Vampire Weekend’s one of my favorite newer bands.
What sort of impact would you say that growing up in the D.C. area had on your music?
I went to a school in a really diverse area, and I think I was just exposed to all different kinds of cultures and music. I think it gave me a really open mind. And that goes for everything, I’m open to all kinds of music and food, and I think I was lucky to be in a place that really represented the whole country.
What were some of the differences in recording your first album independently versus through a label for your current album?
It was definitely different the first time, but they were both fun for different reasons. The first time was really liberating because it was sort of a last-ditch effort. I had been dropped from my label, and this was sort of the end. I was doing it really just to prove to myself that I could make an album, and I felt like I was kind of just swinging vine to vine. It was really fun, and I felt really alive and to have the album get received so well was just so gratifying. The new album was different because the label getting involved let me think more about the music. On the first album I had to worry about getting musicians paid and booking studio space. This album I got to record in London with one of the producers and then in LA, and I kind of just got to enjoy it a little more. I got to just think about the songs and the singing, which is my favorite part of all.
Do you think getting out of town and away from everything helped influence the sound of the new album?
I think so. I wrote this new album in New York where I live, and then I recorded it in London and LA. There’s definitely something about the mixture of all those cities that added up to some of the energy of the songs.
Did the label have a lot of involvement or did they give you a lot of creative freedom in creating the album?
They were really supportive and in the end, the best songs made it onto the record. I had certain songs that I’d think were my favorites, but if you play it for five people and all five people like the song, it’s usually a good sign. Sometimes I’m too in the middle of it all to be able to tell right then, but later on when I listen back I’m like, “You guys got it right.”
How have your musical tastes changed since the making of your first album?
That’s a good question. I think on this album I was really listening to a lot of old soul music, and sort of a classic style of songwriting. There’s even a song called “The Basement” that talks about that type of music, the 50s/60s James Brown, Aretha Franklin, that kind of stuff. I really kind of got that energy from that music, because soul music is so much about feeling, and I wanted people to feel the music that way, too. That’s really what the live show’s all about, just coming out and leaving it all on the line, and having people forget everything else that’s going on with their life and just having fun.
What is the meaning behind the title of your new album Moving Up, Living Down?
It’s about transition. I made my first album I was still living in Maryland where I grew up, and then I moved to New York City, and it’s kind of about those years after you graduate from school, and you find your place in young adulthood and figure out what you want to do. It’s all that stuff wrapped up.
You’ve done a lot of touring since you put out your first album. What’s been your favorite place to travel so far?
I love playing all over the place. We just wrapped the first leg of our tour which was really great, and was sold out all over. It’s just amazing to me how dynamic this country can be. In one week I went from Texas to Seattle, and to see the difference in the people and the landscape, and everything is just so cool. We’ve had lots of good shows. We had a really good show in Madison, Wis., which wouldn’t be the first place I’d think of to be the best show in the world, but it was really really good and people had so much energy. I always say anytime people are excited is great. You can put me in a parking lot or you can put me in a stadium, but as long as people are excited about the music I’m ready to lead the way.
You recently participated in Southwest’s “Live at 35″ concert series. How did you get involved with this project, and can you talk about your experience performing on a plane?
Southwest came to me and said, “We do this thing where we put concerts on during the flight, would you be interested?” And I said, “That sounds a little weird, I’m a little scared about this [laughs].” They said no, they go really well, so we did it. And I’ve got to give the flyers credit because it was an early flight, like 8:30 in the morning or something, and it was LA to Denver. Honestly if it had been me I would have been like can you guys shut up now, I’m trying to get some sleep. But I got up there and we sang into the overhead mic, and my band got up and kind of sang backup vocals with me, and it was really fun. Everyone got really into it and we gave out CDs afterwards. It was definitely a unique show. It was really fun to do and people were really supportive.
Do you have any pre-show rituals before going onstage?
I love to eat good food, it’s my favorite part about traveling. Usually I just try to find the best deal I can. I usually go for a walk and try to get a sense of what the town’s like and where the venue is and stuff like that. And then I’ll do my dramatic singer stuff, my vocal exercises and stretches, and get ready to see the crowd.
Growing up in the D.C. area gives you a lot of professional sports teams to watch. What are your favorite sports and/or teams?
I love, love, love sports. I love baseball number one and basketball, and I’m a huge tennis fan actually and football, too. I get really big into it, do a lot of fantasy sports. Recently I’ve been getting into golf too, though I can’t play it. I’m really interested in it. I just love it all, especially with traveling a lot it’s always cool to get to see different people and what they’re into.
Finally, what are your guilty pleasures?
I can’t stop watching House Hunters on HGTV. That’s like the first thing I do now when I get into a hotel, see if they have HGTV. And then you start watching one and all of a sudden it’s 10 hours later.
Head to our Facebook page here for a few pictures from the show!