JESSE HUTCHINSON INTERVIEW
Jesse Hutchinson is a renowned musician based in Scarborough. A regular face in and around town, he recently supported Status Quo to great acclaim. Here, in an exclusive interview with ‘Pulse’ scribe Steve Rudd, he chats about his long-standing residency at ‘Cellars’, his involvement with bands such as Caine and Pepperland, and his plans for the rest of 2014…
Hey Jesse, how are tricks?
Hey Steve! Tricks are looking up, I feel. Yes, definitely looking up.
So how did 2013 pan out for you in general terms?
It was one insane year, almost literally! I had a lot of personal things happening, which was emotionally draining to the core. I discovered insomnia for the first time. I changed jobs, life, guitars and cars. I certainly would have my work cut out classifying 2013 as ‘moderately dull’. I also made some considerable progress musically, I think, on a very basic, instinctive level.”
You were recently invited to support the mighty Quo in Scarborough. Do you happen to be a fan, how did the ‘gig’ come about, and, more importantly, how did it go?
I wasn’t a fan. In fact, I was of the general opinion that they were just nice guys who had made a lot of money churning out naff songs to an inherently corny audience. Watching them play that night completely reversed that opinion. They played a fantastically energised and musically exciting set with a set made up of songs that contained considerably more depth of feeling than I had expected, with the obvious ‘three-chorders’ being a much less significant part of the gig than I had expected.
How the gig came about is something of a private revelation to me, and one that will interest anyone who has an interest in the concepts of synchronicity or some kind of ‘Universal’ intelligence behind events.
With a sneaking sense of embarrassment, I don’t mind telling you that I have rarely fantasised about any kind of musical notoriety or success, having made an internal decision decades ago never to really pursue that kind of goal, but – for unknown reasons – I’d been having a little private dream about playing a particular Stephen Stills song called ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Crazies’ with a faceless, non-existent backing band to a full-house at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre. Now, I realise that’s a pretty low-budget kind of daydream, but that’s the truth of it. The reason I say that there’s something in how consciously visualising something can bring it into reality and draw other people towards helping create that reality is this: at the time, I had no band at all. I wasn’t even playing electric guitar anymore. During one episode of this burgeoning fantasy, I get a message from Mike Lynsky – an old friend (and great trumpet player) from the Stage Door and Talbot days, asking if I want to play to six-thousand people next month on the bill supporting Status Quo. It just so happens that I had slowly formed what became Alabama Paydirt in the months prior to Mike getting in touch. Fast-forward one month, and I’m playing to six-thousand people in the full sunshine, opening the set with ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Crazies’, with a band behind me, whom I love, backing every nuance perfectly. I don’t think that happened by accident. I’m not saying it was a private project of God’s, but I do believe there was some form of assistance from a conscious ‘Universe’. So there!
As a result of the amount of sets you’ve played in and around Scarborough over the years, you’re a very well-known face on the music-scene. How has such a scene changed since you first started playing in the area?
Well, quite a bit I think. Significantly, we’re missing a dedicated music venue space. The difference in playing in a room where people have entered specifically to listen to a band as opposed to a pub or club where a band happens to be playing in the corner is huge. I think music in this town, or at the least the common expectation of it, has been reduced to a kind of visual juke-box in the corner of a room. This isn’t always the case; there are noticeable exceptions (the ‘Sigma’ venue beneath ‘The Cask’ is an appealing space that I plan to make use of this year), but I really think we miss that kind of dedicated space as a rule. It makes everything heightened; everyone in the room is vastly more involved in having or making a good time happen. The audience and the band share in the investment of the night and make the most of each other. Finally, I think the music-scene seems a lot more self-conscious than twenty years ago.
You have been a regular performer at ‘Cellars’ in Scarborough. What do you enjoy about the weekly performances there so much?
Continuing the theme, it was as close as I could get to a night with more of a ‘club’ feel – where it was about the music and the night and the atmosphere, and not just a pub with a band in the corner. I think it achieved that mostly, for a long time. It’s a classic pub – a place where age and fashion is irrelevant. I made some great friends down there.
Given that you’ve played in a great many bands over the years including Caine and Pepperland, have you ever considered trying to reform any of your old bands?
I’ve been very lucky to be involved with such good bands – I really appreciate that these days. I can’t believe you remember Caine! I loved that band, and everyone in it. Now, that was a band that knew how to project an energy. I did actually get together recently with Dave Vasey and the new line-up for Pepperland, but I realised I simply couldn’t give them the time they deserved, so that never took off – but Dave is the best songwriter locally I ever knew.
How old were you when you first started to sing and play guitar, and what prompted you to pursue your singing and playing?
By today’s standards, I was a late starter. I started at about twenty-one, whilst I was living in the wilds of Aberdeenshire. We lived in a remote croft, and there wasn’t much else to do. I’d set up an amp on the back of a old railway cart and play to the cows that would line up peacefully and watch. They’d listen for hours. I guess they didn’t get out much either. When I came back to Scarborough a year or so later, I spent the summer discovering Dylan and just got swept away in the magnetic field of his performances and vision. Everything I played or sang after that point was influenced by Bob.
One of the best ways for folk to become better acquainted with your music is to pick up a copy of your “Homegrown” CD which contains twenty-two tracks. Which are your favourite tracks on the release, and why?
Hmm. It’s tricky. I’m not sure that CD was the best idea. I’d recorded it at home, pretty badly, over a period of months. I could do better. I SHOULD do better! That said, it’s honest enough. I like ‘Heart of Mine’ which is an obsure Dylan song from the eighties, but one that I resonated with at the time. Apart from that, it’s honest – that’s all I say! I think you’ve just prompted me to do something properly this year!
So what have fans got to look forward from you in 2014?
Loads, I hope! Alabama Paydirt are being filmed for a documentary. We started last year and it’s been following us over the months. The people making it are the real deal, that’s all I can say – which is a relief, as I had visions of it and us being a new ‘Spinal Tap’… a frightening and all-too-possible thought. I have enough problems not turning into Alan Partridge on a daily basis. But, I’ve seen some of their work – and it’s just great. I’m also joining the brilliant local Irish band Ishka who start up gigging properly again in February. I really must learn the mandolin. I think I have about two weeks left! I’m really excited; we’ve had a few get-togethers and it sounds amazing. My new day-dream fantasy to is to play with Alabama Paydirt on ‘Later with Jools Holland’. Sounds out of reach? Maybe, but I have a funny feeling about this, so who knows? We’re also going to set up some kind of ‘Last Waltz’ type regular event, with APD as the hosts. You know, jugglers and fire-eaters and folk singers! Mostly, I’m just going to do as much as I can manage and enjoy it. I’ll be forty-four this year, which is insane, so I intend to enjoy each and every musical moment to its fullest.
Finally, what’s the best way for the curious-minded to discover more about you and your music?
I’m now playing every Tuesday night at the ‘Tap and Spile’ in Scarborough – which is working out great. That’s all solo – the acoustic side of things. For the wilder electric stuff, Alabama Paydirt will be playing alternate Wednesdays at the same venue. And people can always come and throw bananas at my mandolin playing with Ishka, anytime.
(Questions by Steve Rudd; Answers by Jesse Hutchinson)
Copies of Steve’s first book can be downloaded here