As a longtime fan of Scott Hutchison and all of his music I got used to a certain latent worry over the years. Hutchison, whose body was found Thursday evening after he went missing for two days, had public meltdowns before. But as soon as I read about him gone missing and taking his last tweets into consideration, this time it felt different. It felt worse. And I personally had a hard time getting my head around the final news on Friday. I still don’t have answers but a lot of questions. So I apologize in advance if these thoughts are not as coherent and lined-up as they possibly should be.
Frightened Rabbit have been very important to me. Not always all the time but constantly. I always followed them and Hutchisons other projects since I knew that there was his massive songwriting talent involved. The latest supergroup Mastersystem is another testament of that. It’s not like his music would dominate my life 24/7 but I kept coming back to it and, if the circumstances were appropriate, fell for it again and again. Hutchison himself decided that it’s time to not come back to anything anymore.
Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones.
— Scott Hutchison (@owljohn) 8. Mai 2018
I’m away now. Thanks.
— Scott Hutchison (@owljohn) 8. Mai 2018
Hutchison was very open about his mental health issues. It’s not like he kept anything from us there. But maybe some things even he couldn’t share. Foremost it was his lyricism that revealed a constant emotional turmoil. Which was a crucial part of its appeal, to be honest. Through his words shone brutal honesty and sheer vulnerability and thus shed a light on otherwise really bleak perspectives. In that, he was a songwriter of unparalleled class. But it also makes the events of the past week even more tragic. It feels like a fatal car crash you’ve seen coming.
Well I am ill but I’m not dead
And I don’t know which of those I prefer
Because that limb which I have lost
Well it was the only thing holding me up
As it is often the case with these tragedies: I start to doubt myself. Being generally drawn to melancholic music, in these situations I feel like an emotional vampire, feeding on the misery of others. I feel guilty for loving songs like The Modern Leper. On the other hand: These artists want their emotions out there. They want to share as much as – I am sure – they sometimes don’t want to anymore.
As I saw all the love expressed online after he went missing, I asked myself: Is it too much? Can’t that fuck you up just as much? Hutchison suffered from anxiety attacks. The name of his band, Frightened Rabbit, that he started out as a solo project in 2003, referenced the nickname his mother once gave her excessively shy son. All in all, fear was inherent to Hutchisons life. So, as beautiful as all the stories that fans shared about him were: I wondered if that amount of love can raise pressure as well.
It’s the old vicious circle: Music, public life, pouring all your heart and emotions into songs – all that might be potentially therapeutic. But what if you can’t live up to the external and internal expectations anymore that come with that sort of life? What if there’s no power left in you to do the one thing that you love and need to do above anything else? The emptiness of that thought is always around the corner.
But then again: Who am I to judge all the people who shared stories of how much Hutchisons music meant to them? Should I stop judging at all? The fact is: I never would have criticized a Frightened Rabbit song or album. There have been times I have been fed up by their sound, there have been albums I didn’t like at first. But I didn’t make it a public opinion, nor would I ever assume that my opinion should matter in that sense.
We here at NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION try to do exactly that on a daily basis: Let positivity outweigh the criticism. We recommend things we like, we rarely smash things just for the sake of it. And when we criticize we do that out of love and respect for the artist. I don’t know if we really can and do make a difference there. I hope so. But that’s just the ‘professional’, the music industry side of it.
There’s also a social side to all of this.
The leading imperative of our societies is the one of improvement of self. All we seem to rely on and all that is rewarded by society right now is constant self-optimization. The conception of man behind that is the belief that we are not good enough as we are. This is not a problem per se, since it fuels progress. But it is dangerous when the ‘you can be better’ turns into a ‘you have to be better’. That’s the moment when failure is not an option anymore.
At the core of a society not dealing well with failure lies another problem: We’re often not dealing well with one another on a personal level either. Why should we? Why wait for someone to improve when the already better one is only one swipe away? ‘I’m just like all the rest of em’, Hutchison sang, ‘sorry, selfish, just trying to improve’.
What a life. What a shining, beautiful life. I remember Scott giving great Scottish hugs, cracking jokes, apologising for being drunk, always being kind. He lit up the sky with his voice, his songs, his heart, and I will forever be in awe of his genius. He was the kind of guy who, if he came up in conversation, people would talk over each other, in a hurry to say how wonderful he was. He was my friend and today I am heartbroken. Talk to someone, don’t try to keep it all inside.
Friends, family and colleagues spoke of Hutchison as one of the kindest and most humble persons. He himself often expressed nothing but regret about the way he was. That giant leap between self observation and how others actually see you is a hint on how much his illness hindered his perception.
All the dark words pouring from my throat
Sound like an oil slick coating the wings we’ve grown
I don’t want to speculate. I don’t know to what extent Hutchison seeked for medical, psychological or the help of the ones close to him. Thus, I’m not sure whether his condition should be held hostage for a bigger problem that IS out there: A false image of manhood that denies mental health issues.
In fact I believe that few male artists gave in to their vulnerability and reflected on it as much as Hutchison did. But the stigma of mental diseases in general is real and persistent. We can’t afford to keep silent about that. These are diseases and they can be treated. It’s not a guarantee to get better but chances are good that you will.
US: If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center, or text MHA to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.
You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline. Trained crisis workers will listen to you and direct you to the resources you need.
UK: Samaritans. Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
phone: 0 800 / 111 0 111 or 0 800 / 111 0 222.
Hutchison’s words often were comforting because they poetically described our fallibility. He took all the struggles and all the self-doubt we endure and turned them into euphoric, life-affirming rock songs. I’m sure he’s helped many people a lot that way. He certainly taught me how to embrace my shortcomings.
In his music he’s been able to do all that. He’s been able to be forgiving about the doubts we all have and the failures we all make. He knew how we all hurt the ones we love and how that can become the most devastating feelings of all: To know that you hurt the ones you love. In his music, he knew how to comfort us for doing that. In his music, he stubbornly found the courage and energy to try and be a better person. In his own life, he couldn’t comfort himself.
Suck in the bright red major key
Spit out the blue minor misery
I feel sorry for Scott’s family, his friends and bandmates. What they’ve lost is more than I can imagine and I don’t see myself in the position to send condolences or express my feelings to them.
What we all lost and what I am mourning right now is a brilliant songwriter. I personally am devastated because of the simple and selfish fact, that there won’t be any more songs from Scott Hutchison. Go listen to those he left us. I promise, there will be at least one among them that can mean the life to you.
All the while, let’s stick to what he urged us to do: Be good to everyone you love. And let me add something here that he couldn’t allow himself: Be good to everyone you love. And when you fail at that sometimes: Go easy on yourself. We all fail. But no matter what we do, the world is still a better place with us in it. It surely is a bleaker place without Scott Hutchison in it.
Oh I’m dead now can you hear the relief
As life’s belligerent symphonies finally cease
There’s something wrong with me
And it reads nothing like poetry
Featured Image: David Lee (CC BY-SA 2.0)