Normally on Friday mornings one of the first things I do is start combing through my playlist of newest music to put together the Friday playlist.
I can’t do that today.
News I had been fearing for several days was confirmed just moments ago: the body of Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, was discovered in Edinburgh overnight. Hutchison sent out some cryptic Tweets Tuesday night (our time) and then disappeared. Those tweets were not unusual; Scott battled depression and would occasionally go off the rails with late night Tweets, only to apologize the next day. Wednesday did not bring apologies but rather appeals from Scott’s brother Grant, FR’s dummer, for anyone who knew of Scott’s whereabouts to ask him to contact his family.
The last two days passed with more pleas for help finding Scott from both his family and authorities. And now he is confirmed as gone.
I feel terrible for his family and loved ones. I feel terrible that Scott had so much pain that he was unable to find a way to manage.
I also feel terrible for finding so much joy in his songs about his pain. Over the last 10 years, since I first discovered Frightened Rabbit’s music, I’ve listened to and enjoyed no band more than them. I often found that a little odd, as his songs of romantic failure, depression, and internal pain came at a time in my life when I was happily married, having kids, and generally leading a placid suburban existence. What about late 30s/early 40s me connected with these songs of deeply damaged 20-somethings? Hell, even in the brief periods of my 20s when my life wasn’t going the way I wanted it to and I felt aimless and unhappy, I never reached the depths of what Scott sang about. So there was no connecting dots of my previous life with his.
I think it was always the utter, brutal honesty in his songs that kept pulling me back. Plenty of people sing of heartbreak and sadness. There was something unique to his lyrics that dove right into the uncomfortable bits, as he might call them, and made it impossible not to find some connection with them.
And there was always that glimmer of hope in even his saddest, darkest songs. There was the feeling that Scott was going to bash his way through the pain by strumming his guitar just a little harder, while his brother beat the hell out of the drums behind him, and through communion with his audience, find a way to get through another day.
All week I’ve been thinking of “Floating in the Forth,” the final full track on FR’s 2008 breakthrough album The Midnight Organ Fight. The song, which begins with a low moaning that sounds like a tug pulling from harbor, works through the process of a man stepping to the edge of a bridge – in this case the actual bridge that crosses the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh – and then deciding he’ll “save suicide for another year,” before exploding in a glorious, angelic closing sequence. “Take your life, give it a shake…” was the line I kept repeating to myself, hoping Scott had found the strength to do that one more time.
Initial reports say that Scott’s body was found near the Forth Road Bridge he sang about 10 years ago.
I was worried about Scott two years ago, as much as a fan who briefly met and shook hands with him once can be worried. The band’s 2016 tour had several “off the rails” moments, they may have broken up briefly two different times, and 2017 dawned with some real questions about their future. But they toured heavily through that year, released a fine, three-song EP in the fall, and 2018 dawned with optimism. The band did a small club tour for the 10th anniversary of The Midnight Organ Fight. Scott and Grant recorded with two other Scottish brothers as Mastersystem. Scott spoke with several publications about both where the band had been and where they were going. He seemed positive about their future, noting that several songs were already in the works for FR’s next album. Just a week ago he told a writer, when asked about his health, he said:
“Pretty fine. Middling. On a day-to-day basis, I’m a solid six out of ten. I don’t know how often I can hope for much more than that. I’m drawn to negatives in life, and I dwell on them, and they consume me. I don’t think I’m unique in that sense. I’m all right with a six. If I get a couple of days a week at seven, fuck, it’s great.”
So much of the best music comes from pain. As a music fan, you hope that the albums you buy, the digital tunes you stream, the tickets you buy, and the positive vibes you send back to the artists you love can ease their pain and help to sustain them. I’m very sad today that all of us who loved Scott Hutchison and his music could not help him keep his demons at bay.