Six Questions For ... Eric Hutchinson
Eric Hutchinson was scuffling on the music scene, flying beneath the radar, when he got an unlikely boost from celebri-blogger Perez Hilton.
In a breathless, exclamation point-heavy post last September, Hilton noted that he was "obsessed" with Hutchinson and raved about his "beautifully crafted songs," adding: "His music is what you want and what we need to hear on radio - good pop songs with soul and charm."
Perez predicted that the pop-rock artist from Takoma Park "has the potential to be huge." Within a day, Hutchinson's independently released album, "Sounds Like This," had rocketed into the Top 10 of the iTunes album chart.
Which, of course, inspired Perez to post about the power of the internets and the greatness of independent music, etc. "Good songs and great albums can still be made and get out there to the public without having to be a part of the corporate machine," he wrote.
This was apparently before Hilton began negotiating a deal for his own imprint label with Warner Brothers Records, part of the Warner Music Group's corporate machine.
Anyway, Hutchinson himself also negotiated a deal with Warner Brothers: The label will re-release "Sounds Like This" on May 20. He performs Saturday night at the Birchmere.
You've signed with Warner Brothers; didn't you get the memo that the major-label system is imploding?
(Laughs) I got the memo. It's definitely an interesting time to be getting involved with major labels. But Warner Brothers was really enthusiastic about it, and I feel like they got the album; the fact we're able to put it out as is - with nothing changed - is really important to me. And all these bands doing it themselves, like Radiohead and Madonna - people forget that a lot of people have only heard of them because major labels dumped a lot of money into [promoting] them. I still look at myself as an independent artist; now I just have an army of people doing jobs for me. ... As much as the labels have struggled, I still have a romantic view of them. All these people I loved, that I grew up listening to, were on Columbia and Warner. So there's that stamp of approval there. When I got the proof spec of the reissue, to see the Warner Bros. logo on there, it was really fun, in a weird way.
With Warner releasing the album without changing anything, I guess this means you're not redoing the first single, "Rock & Roll," to add hand claps from Perez?
Exactly! Although we're trying to get him in the music video. Perez has been great to me - really awesome with his unexpected support.
Well when you dreamed about making it in the music industry, of course you expected your big break to come from a guy who became famous by doodling filthy/naughty things on photos of celebs, right?
Right, that was the thinking when I was lying in bed as a kid. (Laughs.) It's definitely a sign of where the industry is at this point. When I was younger, this wasn't even conceivable. A blogger? But I've been doing this for five-six years now, and I'd always heard these stories of musicians taking each other under their wings, taking them out on tour. Well, I opened for a bunch of different artists, and nobody took me under their wings. I kept waiting for that big break, and it wound up coming from Perez. ... He gave me a break when I really didn't have any idea of what was going to happen with my career. He's been really helpful to me. Sometimes when I talk to people, they'll bring him up and start trashing him. I'm not going to do that at all. I consider him a friend.
So on Wikipedia, which is not exactly the most trusted source of information out there, it says that you "placed second at the Los Angeles Songwriter's Grand Slam" in 2002. Is that true?
Sort of. That's the problem with Wikipedia: Something is said somewhere and it becomes fact. I'm pretty sure that came from when I was getting started and I had fliers made to promote my college shows. I came in second for something, but I couldn't remember what the contest was called. But I used it as a selling point on the flier. I used to do that a lot, because nobody had heard of me. I didn't even have an album out. I used to make up quotes from fake newspapers, so if somebody saw it, they'd say, "Oh, there's a quote from the Boston Examiner that says he sounds like John Mayer; I might check him out." I do remember that it was same contest that Sara Bareilles placed first in the year before I came in second.
Who'd you lose to - and what restaurant are they working at these days while your career takes off?
(Laughs.) I can't remember her name right now, but she was also from the DC area. We were both in Los Angeles then. I think it was Cat Parsons. I don't know what she's doing now; I haven't seen her since then. I do remember that she had a cello player, and that just blew me out of the water. And the cello was being played by Dermot Mulroney; she was his nanny or something like that. It was really odd. I guess I got beat by him, too.
You're living in New York now. So, complete this sentence: New York is to (blank) what Takoma Park is to (blank).
I don't want to offend anybody there. Maybe: New York is to Jupiter as to Takoma Park is to Earth? It's a whole different world. It's big and exciting, but Takoma Park will always feel like home to me. My parents are still there. They actually do a 4th of July parade in Takoma Park, and it's one of the oldest in the area. I want to get to the point where it makes sense for me to be there, presiding over the parade, like Steve Francis did. That would be awesome.
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