Eric Hutchinson does not want to be the next John Mayer. Armed with an acoustic, and a mean set of piano chops, the 28-year-old Maryland native is about as far from your mom’s singer/songwriter as they come. In fact, on his major label debut, 2008’s Sounds Like This, you won’t find a single slowed down, schmaltzed up ballad. In their place, Hutchinson dishes out thought-provoking ditties like “Food Chain” and jazz piano driven gems like “Oh!” The result is a 10-song collection that stays upbeat even when Hutchinson is at his most serious, making for a feel-good record that maintains its musical integrity.
“I really don’t want to write love songs,” Hutchinson admits. “The ‘I miss you, I want you’ kind of songs have been done so much, and there’s so many other things to talk about, so that was already an idea. Now I’m traveling so much that I’m away from the people that I know and love, but I also get to observe a lot of other people having those relationships, so I think [the new] stuff will be a lot about bonds, family bonds and friendships and stuff like that.”
Unsurprisingly, the slow but steady rise of Hutchinson’s star has done little to inflate his ego. Since VH1 named the singer a “You Oughta Know” Artist last September, Sounds Like This has gone on to score some serious radio airplay, anchored by the album’s reggae-tinged lead single, “Rock & Roll.” For Hutchinson, the mainstream acceptance means one thing and one thing only: better sing-a-longs when he hits the stage.
“I feel pretty lucky that I still love all the songs that are on the album and I can put the passion into them every night,” he explains. “There’s no song that I’m dreading having to sing, so that part’s fun. And the audience continues to-it’s exciting to see them get more and more into the album. At first maybe it was just a single, and now they sing every song. It’s fun. It’s kind of just a celebration of music, and that’s what I always loved; just singing and having a good time.”
On tour, Hutchinson is the consummate musical workhorse, touring nearly nonstop since Warner Bros. officially released Sounds last May. And while the support of blogger Perez Hilton may have helped fuel Hutchinson’s fire stateside, elsewhere the process has been a bit more organic. Following the use of Hutchinson’s “Rock & Roll” in the season finale episode of Australia’s highly rated TV show Packed to the Rafters, the song went on to hit #1 Down Under and was eventually certified Gold by the ARIA Australian Singles Chart.
“I’ve been really impressed with how excited people are about the music and how excited they are to meet me and to see the show and stuff, and that part’s been really gratifying. I think the show is 50 percent about the crowd, and last week I had a person come up to me who said, ‘I lost my job today and I wasn’t going to come out, but I’m really glad I did and I feel a lot better.’ That to me is the highest compliment I can get these days. The show is really-I want this to be the best highlight of this person’s week.”
Worldwide hoopla aside, Hutchinson manages to keep a level head about his musical career. In conversation, he comes across as gracious, grateful, and a little meek about discussing his induction into pop stardom. It’s a refreshing outlook that Hutchinson backs up with some serious talent, hopefully signaling that there’s a lot more to come from this youngster in coming years.
“I’m excited to get back in the studio, but also it’s exciting for me to see the crowds continuing to grow and the music spreading. To me, I don’t feel like it’s quite stopped yet.”
Eric Hutchinson and Anya Marina play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Tuesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit ticketweb.com for more info.