You’ll have to pardon the rambling nature of this particular post. The loss of Scott Hutchison feels especially personal, specifically heavy and heartbreaking. Stunned and saddened seem too cliché to describe the passing of someone who created work that found its way into the marrow of your bones, the neurons of your soul. But how do you eulogize someone you only “knew” through their music?

When I saw Frightened Rabbit on their 10th Anniversary tour for The Midnight Organ Fight, it felt like a privilege to be there. It wasn’t a small venue by any means, but there was a particular intimacy – Hutchison’s banter made an evening of mirth and celebration feel like we had all been invited to their party. I can’t imagine many people who saw them in February imagined this would be their last chance to do so.

His retorts to those in the audience chatting with him during breaks were so well placed and timed that you felt like he had taken improv classes – or should have been teaching them. The music came with twists, progressions, growth, and clarity that weren’t there when written and recorded in the mid-to-late 00s. There were choruses sung in unison, laughs shared, and a feeling of accomplishment from just getting to be there that night.

This was about ten or so weeks ago.

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I spent Friday thinking about what to say, how to say it, and how to summarize what his words and life’s work meant to me without trying to project my feeling onto others, whether they’re shared or not. I put something up on social media thinking that would give me some time to process what to say. It hasn’t.

This hurts deeply on two fronts. One, Scott Hutchison was an open, earnest songwriter. He didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. He had a suit made of the vital organ and wore it for those who needed a place of refuge from their own personal tragedy and battles. As my friend Josh Lore pointed out as to why it felt different compared to the loss of other artists, there was “such an emotional weight to his songs to begin with.”

Another reason that helped me to understand why this stings deeper was brought to light by Josh as well – Scott’s age. We’re similar in age, and to lose someone you went through the hurdles of adulthood with, in the sense that the music offered a soft landing when falling through the rough terrain of life, is certainly painful. Hutchison’s words seemed accessible to an entire generation of in-betweeners looking for their place in all of this while woes from the past decade plus lingered above.

Scott’s lyrics were a combination of Conor Oberst’s world-creating imagery and Ian Curtis’ painful honesty. Secrets seemed to be nonexistent in his art, and that created a magnetic realm where people from all walks of life who were struggling could find a connective solace. Someone was carrying their burden and making their feelings tangible in ways most couldn’t. The words became form to fill voids in a way we couldn’t ourselves construct. Unfortunately they were lyrics and hooks that came from a dark place too often.

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(Photo credit: Timothy Norris)

His bouts with depression were ours to view, but not necessarily ours to understand. We drew our own conclusions from his words and actions, glorifying this public display of forthrightness however we felt was appropriate to our situations. We’re guilty of romanticizing misery in art while neglecting where such art takes hold and plants its roots. The artists opens themselves, and we selfishly take it, patch ourselves up, and ignore the questions as to what led one to make themselves so vulnerable to us in the first place.

Depression is a rare disease in the sense that it doesn’t have a typical box to put it into. It hits each person differently, and it expresses itself in a variety of ways. You often hear people say, “If you’re feeling depressed, talk about it. Reach out to someone.” So what happens when someone is talking about it? You read interviews with Hutchison and get a lot of coy, self-deprecating jokes about his mental health while interviewers awkwardly shrug it off and continue on to whatever topic is next on their crib sheet. Not to say it was their duty to pry more, but it’s a consideration as we think about the current state of mental health and depression.

Saying “reach out/talk about it” also puts a lot of onus on the afflicted. It’s one thing to open up; it’s another thing for those on the receiving end to truly listen. There’s a good chance people around you are talking, but are you listening? There might be a place to talk, but put yourself in that situation where the ownership is seemingly all on you as someone battling depression – is there a place where someone will listen and commit to this fight with you?

If you can’t be that place, then get those who are hurting to that place – listen to others, create a safe place, and support those who are in need. You never know when someone will need it either. Answer the phone when a friend/family member/loved one calls you (even though our hip, cynical digital age views such actions as beneath those who have evolved into a society of communicating strictly through messages). If talking on the phone is too repulsive of an idea, draft messages that are meaningful and connective. Seek understanding and communication beyond the vapid, generic wires of social media.

Listen. Offer Support.

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(Photo credit: Jimmy Fontaine)

One aspect that has lingered through all of this is how to talk about a person whose work I find inimitable in the past tense all of a sudden. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it really is the past tense. His work will linger for a long time, surely as long as those who are fans are around and willing to revisit Frightened Rabbit and Owl John. As Frank Turner said in a tribute to Hutchison, “We all need to stick around to tell other people how fucking good Scott was, ladies and gentlemen.”

Will there be a bigger lump in my throat when I hear the line, “And you’re not ill, and I’m not dead; doesn’t that make us the perfect pair?” while listening to “The Modern Leper”?

Will our souls soar a bit lower during what is a very different type of rapturous independence presented on “Things” that carries a heavier meaning now?

Will we re-listen to Painting of a Panic Attack and pick apart every line and wondering “What if?”?

Yes to all. But as Frank Turner also pointed out, this isn’t about his death – what’s left to us now is to remember and celebrate Scott Hutchison’s life. An innumerable amount of people have been, and will continue to be, touched by his presence.

So I close this with Scott Hutchison’s words from “Heads Roll Off”:

When my blood stops, someone else’s will not
When my head rolls off, someone else’s will turn;
You can mark my words, I’ll make tiny changes to earth
And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth

That you have, Scott. Thank you.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing depression, here is a global directory where you/those you love can find a place to be heard.

***Cover photo credit: Roberto Ricciuti