Old, Old Fashioned: Remembering Scott Hutchison

The Scottish songwriter passed away earlier this week...

The passing of Scott Hutchison leaves a gaping, gaping hole that will never be filled.

For his family, they have lost a son and brother. For his band mates in Frightened Rabbit they have lost a comrade, a songwriter of magnificent depth, emotion, and humanity. For fans they have lost someone capable of putting a voice to emotions they sometimes dared not to confront, achieved in a manner of staggeringly beautiful eloquence.

I met Scott over a dozen times in interview settings, and many more in an informal environment. The tributes paid over the past few hours have brought home his humanity, and it’s true: he had time for everyone, would always be there with a tender word, some soft – and sometimes not quite so soft – humour, and words of gentle encouragement.

He was a decent, warm human being. His work alone is a fitting tribute. Five albums with Frightened Rabbit, from a precocious debut to the stunning achievements of ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’ and onwards into a major label double. Live, he was a phenomenal presence, dropping his guard in the most incredible manner time after time, from tiny venues to huge arenas on tour with the likes of The National or Death Cab For Cutie.

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Everywhere, though, was this radiant, magnetic personality. Everything Scott touched seemed to exude a pure, instantly recognisable, creativity. Trained in visual arts – he studied at Glasgow School Of Art – he drew many of Frightened Rabbit’s album covers and gig posters, before recently illustrating a book of poetry for a close friend.

Some time ago, Clash invited Frightened Rabbit to send the office postcards from a tour of tiny venues in the Scottish Highlands. Most bands were wary of the invite, but Scott leaped to the task, grabbing the naffest postcards he could find and filling them with obscure reminiscences, ribald jokes, and the odd drawing or two. A lesser noted talent was his beautiful handwriting; Scott could make even the most prosaic sentences leap from the page.

I always kept a bit of a distance, wary of that crossover between the writer and the artist, but our lives seemed to intersect in odd ways. Maybe that’s because Scotland is, ultimately, quite small. In one interview Scott told me of his parents’ love of folk music, honed after his father moved to the Caithness town of Wick for work. My family are from Wick, and the organiser of the local folk festival lived three doors’ down from my grandparents.

Each detail brought the music closer to home, and each conversation makes his passing that little more difficult to comprehend.

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From the outside, it seemed as though the past few months had been kind to Scott. Our final conversation took place only three weeks ago, a phone interview to discuss the debut album from new project Mastersystem.

Walking through a Glasgow park he seemed full of optimism, eager both to progress the next Frightened Rabbit record and to perhaps work on something new with Mastersystem. I suggested he call the latter ‘Mega Drive’ and we both laughed, Scott signing off with his usual buoyancy.

All of which has made the past week incredibly difficult. It underlines how powerful mental health issues are, and why we must always be vigilant. It’s never rude to check in, to ask how someone is, to offer a kind word. But it’s devastating when it’s too late.

Scott’s passing robs us of an enormous musical presence, someone whose catalogue would doubtlessly have extended into fresh realms. He was a real artisan, an absolute craftsman; not every song he penned could channel the true power of the soul, but everywhere was an impish intrigue into song structure, chord progression, and performance. He was a wonderful vocalist, not only in his ability to go out each and every night and sell a song, but that beautiful, probing voice.

I saw him play live countless times. One of Scott’s best friends took charge of the University Of Dundee student union entertainment when I lived in the city, and his decision to base himself in Fife during the writing of ‘The Winter Of Mixed Drinks’ meant he was constantly playing acoustic sets for beer money.

I saw him play in cavernous East London churches and huge festival stages later down the line, but I also saw him perform in the side room of a church in Anstruther during those wonderful Homegame weekenders. He approached both the same way, an endearing, honest, often hilarious presence.

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The last time I saw Scott perform was at London’s Kentish Town Forum, during the 10th anniversary tour for ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’. It was a beautiful evening, one of the finest albums to be released in the past 20 years given the salute it deserves, with fans exchanging memories of its place in their lives.

At one point Scott performed ‘Poke’ completely solo. Perhaps the album’s true centrepiece – certainly one of its most naked, vulnerable pieces – the entire audience rose, not in celebration but more in tribute to sheer artistry, and the connection, the raw power Frightened Rabbit’s music could have. It was a profoundly moving moment, but one Scott took in his stride introducing the song with a typically self-effacing piece of onstage mischief.

The coming days and weeks will no doubt be extremely hard for a great many people, as we shift and adjust to losing such a wonderful voice, such a beautiful person. There’s always love, and there’s always music, but there’s a little less of both now that Scott is no longer in our lives. I will miss you.

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If you've been affected by Scott's passing or simply need someone to talk try try CALM on 0800 58 58 58 – they'll be there to help you.

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