Interviewed by Wes O'Neill on behalf of Down The Front Media
Jack J Hutchinson is a London based guitarist and singer songwriter. Described by Classic Rock Blues Magazine as “One to watch. Born to sing soul and blues”, in 2015 and 2016 he was nominated for a British Blues Award. His debut album ‘Feathers and Fools’ was released in 2013 followed by two Eps ‘Get It Back’ and ‘Unplugged’ and with his Boom Boom Brotherhood, Jack released ‘Set Your Heart For The Sun’ earlier this year. Down The Front Media caught up with Jack recently to talk about his new solo album ‘Paint No Fiction’ and his future plans.
Down The Front Media: You’ve got a new album ‘Paint No Fiction’ coming out December 1st through Pledge Music, how’s it all come about? What’s the story behind it?
Jack J Hutchinson: So, last year I recorded an album at Universal with a band that’s called the Boom-Boom Brotherhood and it was basically through that process I just had a batch of songs that I’d written that didn’t really fit within the Boom Boom Brotherhoods album and it was just, not like leftovers or anything like that, it was just different stuff that was kind of like more Americana based stuff, more sort of straight Blues, acoustic Blues, but then some sort of rockers as well that just didn’t quite make it onto that album. So I just thought ‘what are we going to do with all these tunes? are we gonna wait ‘til I’ve finished doing the Boom Boom Brotherhood album or what?’ and basically started recording this whilst I was still recording that last album, so I guess October time last year, I started getting in the studio and just doing a bit of recording. The original idea was to just do like a six track EP but then I wrote a few more tunes and then it turned into a full blown album. The musicians that play on it are completely different to the Boom Boom Brotherhood stuff, and these are guys that I’ve been jamming with around the London blues scene for the last 3 or 4 years, and a lot of the chaps that played on it were sort of saying to me ‘you know, when am I gonna get on a record? When can we get in the studio and do some stuff?’ and so there’s about six or seven different players on there who are essentially drinking buddies of mine and we hang out at the Blues bar in central London.
DTFM: *laughs* that’s a good mixture then, so the chemistry’s there already?
JJH: Yeah, well the chemistry was certainly there in the studio in some of the sessions, but yeah it was great to just get in there and the sessions were really easy going as well. When we were at Universal doing the Boom Boom Brotherhood stuff, it was great but you’re sort of looking at the clock a bit and you’re trying to get the takes down and you’re working away and hoping that you get that moment of magic on that day. Whereas with this record it was a bit easier to do in terms of the studio and we recorded at this little place called Shoebox Studios which is down in Honor Oak in South London and the producer Tony Perretta, he’s just cool, like there’s nothing in terms of looking at the clock, you just go in there and it’s about getting the best takes, so a lot of the sessions were essentially us just hanging out in the studio, having a few beers and recording and doing it in more of a sort of ‘let’s create that more rootsy vibe and get the vibe of the songs down’ as opposed to ‘you’ve got 3 hours to nail a track’ and I think that worked, and it works for the feel of the music really.
DTFM: What’s been involved in the writing process? The thematic ideas and things like that?
JJH: Well, some of the stuff last year, you know I talked about the Americana feel of a few of the tracks? It’s a bit more Neil Young Harvest. Essentially, a lot of the tracks are quite personal tunes that came about last year really. There was a lot going on in terms of my family and we lost a few family members, although I wouldn’t explicitly write about that, it’s just something that informs you and you kind of, you find yourself sat playing your acoustic and being slightly more melancholic about the song writing process. So there’s a few tunes that were informed by that and then some other tunes that are the sort of stuff that you knock out when you’re in a Blues bar, completely smashed and everybody’s just sort of having a bit of a rollicking time, so I wouldn’t wanna convey the idea that it’s 12 songs of really melancholic, not necessarily depressing, but stuff that’s sort of my soul laid bare, it’s not all about that, but it’s a good mixture, I think, in the end.
DTFM: So there’s a balance to it throughout?
JJH: Yeah, I think that when you record albums, a lot of the great albums they feel like there’s a journey involved with them. So you don’t necessarily have 12 tracks that all sound like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ but you might have, you know, like some of my favourite albums are ‘Physical Graffiti’ by Led Zeppelin, ‘Led Zeppelin III’, I mean ‘Led Zeppelin III’ is a bit of a marker in terms of what I approach with this record which is that there’s a lot of acoustic stuff on ‘Led Zep III’ but you still have ‘Immigrant Song’, you still have ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, that sort of stuff and I like albums like that, that have a bit of dynamic and you can feel like you’re going on the journey with the artist as well.
DTFM: So, ‘Rattlesnake Woman’ is the first single that’s come off of the new record, and the video, what plans have you go? Are you going to drip feed stuff out until the release? How are you going to play it?
JJH: There’s gonna be two more singles in advance of the record coming out, so we’re shooting a video for a track called ‘Deal With The Devil’ next week, we’re shooting that in a space up in Tottenham Hale which will be cool, and that’s more of a Black Crowes / Blackberry Smoke sort of vibe, it’s sort of Southern Rock feel. So that’s going to be the next single, and then there’s another tune on there, which is called ‘Written In Stone’ which is a sort of Neil Young and Crazy Horse sort of vibe, and we’ll probably stick that out as a single in advance of the record coming out.
DTFM: I listened to all the tracks last night, a couple of times, and there’s some real, strong writing in there. The ones that really stood out were ‘Deal With The Devil’ as you mentioned there but ‘Hold Me Close’ and ‘Send Me A Signal’, those really grabbed me and to me, there was a bit of Ryan Adams in there. Has Ryan got any influence on you at all?
JJH: Yeah man. I absolutely love Ryan Adams. I’ve got a funny story about Ryan Adams. Years ago I was getting to know a chap called Neil Casal who is now in Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood, and he was Ryan Adams’ guitarist for a while, and Neil was chatting to me about doing some dates in the UK and with me as the support. Then he sent me a message on Facebook saying ‘that’s not gonna happen now ‘cause I’m joining Ryan Adam’s band’. So I hadn’t really listened to Ryan Adams up until that point and then I listened to him and yeah, just really dug it and it’s like ‘Wow, you made the right career move there, man’. I think when he was in The Cardinals, Ryan Adams, there was some great stuff they stuck out and they were like a machine. I mean, people have been saying to me ‘Oh you’ve only released your last album 8 months ago’, Ryan Adams was sticking out 3 albums a year and I like that, you know?
DTFM: Yeah! Well that’s the thing in this modern day and age is that you release something and straight away people are like ‘when’s the next one?’
DTFM: Is that the attention span, or are people just really, really hungry for it? There’s the Bonamassa’s of the World that stick out two releases, possibly three a year and then other people will wait three or four years. So, on that note, is there going to be even more stuff coming from you after this album?
JJH: I was back in the studio on Monday, this week ‘cause me being a guitarist first and foremost, decided that one of the tracks needed a more mental guitar solo, so I went back in and did some more recording using an Electro Harmonix POG pedal which is what Rival Sons use and that sort of thing and it sounded pretty wicked, but anyway, I was chatting to my producer on Monday, and Tony said ‘it’s finished, what are you gonna do next? And I said ‘well I’ve actually been writing some more tunes, so I was thinking about maybe in January coming back in’ and he’s like ‘can you not have a break?’. You know, you might as well strike whilst the creativities hot, you know? I think a lot of artists go through phases where they’re not necessarily able to write tunes and you know, I’ve come at it from being a guitarist originally but, in all the bands I’ve been in, I’ve always been the chief song writer, so, you know, I grew up and I was into Neil Young, when I was a teenager I loved Paul Weller, that sort of thing and it was all about writing tunes and I think sometimes that gets a little bit lost. Writing new music is something that I find really interesting and playing those tunes with different musicians and sort of buzzing off how they interpret them as well. It’s just about keeping it fresh, man.
DTFM: What’s the plans you’ve got for the actual release then in December? Knowing you, you’re having some kind of booze-up, definitely! What’s going on?
JJH: *laughs* Yeah, so basically we’re gonna do a sort of ‘last waltz’, the band style gig on the 8th of December at the venue where I met most of the musicians, which is Ain’t Nothing But, in Soho. So there will be a core band, but then we’ll be getting up different musicians throughout the evening, playing different tracks off the album, playing some old stuff, playing some classic Chicago Blues stuff as well, and probably just getting really, really drunk which is usually what happens down there.
DTFM: December 8th, is that a weekend night?
JJH: It’s a Friday, yeah.
DTFM: Is there a tour afterwards, as well? Have you got dates planned?
JJH: I’ve got a lot of dates sort of in discussions at the minute in terms of next year. One of the main things is I’m going over to Spain in May, doing a 10 date tour at the end of May, which should be really cool. I did a mini tour of Russia maybe 3 months ago now, which was great and it was the first time I’d actually gone abroad in terms of gigging and I think once you’ve done it you a real thirst for it, so I want to get abroad again and do some more dates. I’ve got some dates in the Czech Republic coming up as well at the end of next year, so yeah all this stuff will be announced when it’s all concrete. I can’t give you the venues and things because it’s all still being worked out but that’s the main thing, is getting over to Europe and doing some dates over there. But then also, I seem to have neglected the North-East and Scotland and that sort of thing and people keep saying that to me so I definitely want to get some dates booked up there for next year and yeah, just gigging. I like gigging, man, I like playing and if a week goes by when I’ve not played 3 or 4 dates I feel like I’m slacking slightly.
DTFM: You play a lot. You’re out gigging an awful lot. Is that something that’s good for you in a way of creativity and keeping your edge, or is it more about looking to be almost in people’s faces so it’s like ‘right, yeah, we know exactly who this guy is’. How does it balance out for you?
JJH: I don’t really approach in terms of I’m doing it to promote myself. I do it because I just love playing and I feel like it’s a great way of maintaining mental health actually, playing gigs. I feel like I release so much when I perform that there’s a lot of pent up energy that can build when I’m not gigging and I’ve chatted to a lot of musicians who say the same thing. Big Boy Bloater said the same thing to me about when he’s had a few weeks off he’s like gagging to get back on stage. It’s weird ‘cause people talk about how do you promote a record and that sort of thing, but I guess I promote it but I don’t think I’m promoting it, I’m just enjoying going out and playing, you know? But I guess that’s how you’d interpret it ‘cause you are obviously promoting whatever you’ve released, but I just love gigging and I like playing and I like meeting people. I like meeting different audiences and it’s interesting as you travel round the country how the audiences are slightly different in the slightly different areas. We played up at Colne Rhythm & Blues Festival last month and that was absolutely mad! The audience was mad! You know a lot of really cheery, drunk people who just like their Blues. You get that in a lot of places and you know we don’t really play to too many tough crowds but that’s kind of a challenge in itself when you get those sorts of gigs and their quite good funf in many ways as well.
DTFM: Thanks so much for chatting Jack, good luck with the album and with the subsequent tour
The brand new album 'Paint No Fiction' is out 1 December.
The full tracklisting for the record is:
Deal With The Devil
Written In Stone
I Got Your Number
Hold Me Close
Cut The Noose
Set Your Heart For The Sun
Send Me A Signal
Skin and Bones
Hard Right In My Dreams
Holler (CD Bonus Track)