The tunes on Eric's newest CD, Moving Up Living Down, are the embodiment of his deeply personal nature -- and during the course of our chat, Hutchinson described the emotional process that went into writing the album. Eric also opened up about the embarrassing story behind his very first song (entitled, no joke, "Robbery in Lovetown"), why he's proud of being "a dork" and what he's learned about life from Kelly Clarkson and John Lennon. Read on for the full interview!
One of the songs that really stuck with me on the new CD is "Breakdown More." What's the story behind that song?
That an interesting one actually. I wrote it ten years ago and I put it on a live album and kind of forgot about it -- that CDs out of print now. I sort of thought the song would go away, but my fans started to get a hold of it. They started asking for it on tweets and emails ... and at shows, people would yell out for it. So I started thinking about it again. I didn't even remember how to play the song, but I went and relearned it and made a few tweaks, and had a chance to fall back in love with it again. I put it on the album, and it was really fun to do a full production on it -- the producer Mike Elizondo did a great job. Time stopped for me a little bit while I was singing it -- that's a cool feeling.
Did you write that song from a specific personal experience, and if so, was it strange to be singing about something that happened to you ten years ago?
I always think of songs like clothing. There are some shirts you've had for like 20 years and you put it on and you still love that shirt. I guess that song is like that for me. I was like, "It's not going to fit anymore, it's not going to feel right," and when I started singing it -- it's now getting to be one of my favorites to do live.
Do you ever worry that you'll offend or hurt someone who's the subject of your songwriting?
There's always that risk, and sometimes I think about it while writing the songs. It depends. For me, I find the more personal the song gets the more general it becomes. If I just said "Oh I love you" then everyone's like "I've heard that before." But if you're like, "I really love your red hair and your green eyes,' then it's like you're already creating a picture. So for me, the songs that I always loved feel like there's a combination of words you've never heard before.
Another song on the new album, "I'm Not Cool" is kind of like a great dork anthem. What makes you dorky?
There's a line in the song where I say, "Cool people, maybe they're just born with it" -- that's sort of how I feel. I tried so hard for so long to be cool. Then there's sort of your own personal cool.
Why do you feel like you're not cool?
I play a lot of fantasy sports. I enjoy "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" ... I cried when they bowed down to the hobbits. I'm a dork.
You've overcome a lot in your career, like getting dropped from your first label, Maverick. Was there ever a moment you felt like giving up?
Yeah, I definitely did. I've gone through different periods of that. I don't think anyone that has a passion has ever not questioned whether they should be doing it or not. When I first got dropped off Maverick ... I got a little bit of money to go away. And I said "Maybe I'll just use this as a down payment on my house." But then, I just really felt like I would regret it the rest of my life if I didn't actually get a full shot at it. Looking back on it, I'm like "What the hell was I doing?" I went broke making the album myself, and I had no idea what I was going to do with it afterwards. Even if I made it and nothing happened, at least I'd be able to look back and say "Well I did try it -- I took it as far as it could go." That's still sort of how I feel about everything. I feel like I do as much as I can, because I always want to be able to look myself in the mirror and say, "If this doesn't work it's not from lack of trying."
You recently posted the John Lennon quote, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" on your Twitter page. What does that quote mean to you?
I subscribed to Beatles facts, and they give lots of good Beatles facts. I love that whole idea. There's no end goal. I've gone through life thinking that way, "Oh, if I could just get to this point, everything will be fine." Life keeps moving on. I just really like that quote. It points out, "life is happening, now."
You've been making music for quite some time now, but do you remember when you wrote your very first song?
There was a batch I wrote when I was 8 or 9. Their was one called "Robbery in Lovetown." I remember at the time having a discussion with my friend, saying, "Look, neither of us is interested in love, but this is what sells, so we gotta make a love song." One song from that time had a verse about going to McDonalds -- fine dining!
Please tell me you still have that recording!
I think it exists. It's on a cassette tape. If anyone has a 1988 Honda Civic we could play it right now.
Well you've come a long way since then! In fact, Kelly Clarkson recorded one of your songs for her new CD. As a former tourmate, what was memorable about touring with Kelly and has she ever given you advice about this industry?
We would do a duet every night. I would come up and we'd do 'Rock With You' by Michael Jackson, which was really fun. And on the last night we were doing pranks and stuff. I had a super super tight Kelly Clarkson shirt on. Form fitting shirt. I ripped all my clothes off and had the shirt on underneath. We did the song and she was cracking up. But, she's just a total pro, in a really good way. The main thing was seeing a tour of that scale and how she would keep her cool. She knew where she had to be and what she had to do. And she would bring a lot of joy to it all. That was fun. It was really cool to play for all the new fans.
OK, last question ... and it's a fun one ... if you could change places with anyone for the day, who would it be and why?
I'd love to be a baseball player. I love sports ... but I'm not very good at them. I'd love to see what that's like. [laughs] You don't think I look jock-y?!
Watch Eric Hutchinson's Video for 'Watching You Watch Him'