Scott Hutchison is a man of many talents – and now a man of two personas. The Frightened Rabbit frontman has just released his first solo album, his Owl John alter-ego now a fully-fledged recording artist in its own right.
The eponymous long-player is just out on his band’s parent label Atlantic, produced by fellow Rabbit Andy Monaghan, with Simon Liddell of Olympic Swimmers (and Rabbits’ live guitarist). The ten tracks were recorded between Tobermory’s An Tobar and the West Coast of America, and while containing the trademark Hutchison vocal and songwriting, are still a bit of a departure from the band material.
We caught up with the Selkirk-born musician between Owl John solo gigs and a few band shows, and threw him some questions…
Firstly, how do you find the time to pursue two careers? Are you taking time off from FRabbits in a sense?
“I don’t really see it as being two careers. Every project I undertake outside of Frightened Rabbit contributes to the band in some way. The purpose of the Owl John album was to regain a sense of excitement about making music again, because it got to the stage towards the end of last year where I wasn’t really enjoying being in Frightened Rabbit. Not due to the other chaps in the band, just because of the pressures and stress it brought.”
Is it a case of you writing songs and being unsure if, in fact, they might fit better for the band, as well as the other way round?
“I didn’t have any songs written before we went in to make ‘Owl John’. It just emerged over the course of two weeks and there are moments on there that could easily exist on a Frightened Rabbit album, but the point was not to be wildly different. It was simply for it to be different enough to have a reason to exist.”
Scott and brother (and FR drummer) Grant have come out in favour of independence – Grant fully, Scott quoted as “leaning towards it”. Now the band have traveled the world do you envisage a difference in the way people treat us if it comes off?
“I don’t think most people outside of the UK are too aware of what’s going on. Scotland has always had a strong identity abroad and I think it may already be an independent country in a lot of peoples’ minds. Certainly a few of my friends in the US had scant knowledge of the current situation before I told them a bit more about it. That may sound like a negative generalisation, but I really don’t think the rest of the world cares too much what happens after the vote in September. But Scotland should care! Yes, please!”
So, for a band decidedly Scottish-minded, their next gig should be significant as the band play in Linlithgow – home of is this music? as well as Mary Queen of Scots – the former setting up home in the town in the 16th century of course, but on August 8th / 9th the town is home to Party at the Palace, the first gig in the town since, um, Penguins Kill Polar Bears’ show last year. Sadly locally-reared talent like Cindytalk / This Mortal Coil frontman Gordon Sharpe, Associates founder Alan Rankine, and Chvrches / Unwinding Hours man Iain Cook are unavailable.
How will Scott and the FRabbits feel about playing to an audience there to see a varied bill – including Horse, Brownbear, The Silencers and The View as well as headliners Simple Minds.
“I don’t really care what stage we’re on, who we’re playing next to or any of that. I think we see it as a good opportunity to bring some new bodies into the Frightened Rabbit kirk.”
“I like a bit of expansive 80s pop, and Simple Minds do that pretty fucking well. It also happens to be my last night in Scotland before I head back to Los Angeles, so there’ll be a party afoot. I particularly enjoy playing relatively early in the day for that very reason.”
The Palace show won’t be the first gig in a grassy expanse of the summer for the band, although Scott / Owl John’s solo gigs have been in more intimate settings.
“It has been nice to go back to the smaller venues, you can get a lot more chat going with the audience and I enjoy that. I think it’s always best to have variety in this life, and to be playing a tiny place called the Soup Kitchen in Manchester just 5 days before a show at a palace in Linlithgow… that’s fairly diverse.”
With the Rabbits’ considerable following, perhaps harking back to that capacity-busting itm? show at The 13th Note in, ulp, 2007?
“Yes, it’s been ages since I was even at a gig at the Note! Count me in!”
Frightened Rabbit play Party at the Palace on Sunday 9th August with Simple Minds, The View, Brownbear and Horse.
The two-day mini-fest kicks off on Saturday 8th with Deacon Blue, Hue and Cry, James Grant and The Bluebells. More at www.partyatthepalace.co.uk