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Band Notes: Eric Hutchinson

The Silver Spring native turned acclaimed singer-songwriter talks to Washingtonian before his sold-out 9:30 Club show this weekend.

Photograph courtesy of the 9:30 Club.
Growing up in Washington, Eric Hutchinson made a beeline for DC’s 9:30 Club whenever he could. “As far as I was concerned, it was where anyone worth seeing was playing,” the singer-songwriter says. Hutchinson, 31, a graduate of Silver Spring’s Montgomery-Blair High, just released his second album, Moving Up, Living Down, following the breakout success of his 2008 debut, Sounds Like This. He plays the 9:30 Club in a sold-out show this Saturday, but caught up with us first to talk about writing songs in elementary school, missing Silver Spring, and the great American songbook.

How are you doing today?

Good. I was just singing some lyrics from Rent to myself.

Which song?

“Seasons of Love.” A classic. My grandmother was a violin player, and one of my earliest memories is of watching her play in musicals. It was one of my first introductions to classic American songwriting.

When did you first perform at the 9:30 Club?

The first time was when I was an opening act for OneRepublic in 2007. Since then, I’ve headlined it once, and I’m headlining again this time. My favorite part is when you’re loading in and you watch the place turn from just a room to the 9:30 Club as the crowd comes in.

What’s it like to perform at a venue that means so much to you?

I’ve got to say, it’s a little stressful. Because you have a lot of friends and family there. My first time, I just wanted it to be done so I could say, “OK, I’ve had my 9:30 Club moment and now I can move on with my life.” But it’s very cool.

When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?

I knew I liked music early, and I sang these made-up songs. I was eight when my teacher at Takoma Park Elementary said, “Well, it’s nice that you’re making these songs up—what you do after that is you write them down.” So she actually wrote down the sheet music for it, which I still have, framed in my office. Then, in college, I made a recording and printed up a couple hundred copies. People would knock on my door and ask for the disk, like I was a drug dealer or something. I started to think, hey, maybe people actually want to hear me do this, and I started performing live more.

You were signed to Madonna’s record label, Maverick, but it shut down before your debut album was released.

It was a good learning process. At the time, it was definitely difficult but I learned a lot, and really I came out knowing more than ever that I wanted to do music. If I didn’t really want to be doing this, I couldn’t have stuck through it when times got tough.

How long have you been working on your new album, Moving Up, Living Down ?

I recorded it over two months, one in London and one in LA. I’d actually never been to London so it was a great way to first experience it, to actually live there.

Did you see any bands there?

I saw this guy named Paul McCartney … He was doing the Hard Rock Music Festival in Hyde Park. That was amazing, because I’m a huge Beatles fan. And the next day I saw Stevie Wonder, who’s also a big influence, so that was pretty cool.

How would you describe the feeling of this new record?

I think it’s about transition. I made my first record when I was living in the suburbs of Maryland, and then I moved to New York City, so this one is kind of about finding my place, going into adulthood. I traveled a lot during this album, so there were lots of hellos and goodbyes, lots of floating around.

What’s next for you?

I’m excited to be touring at the same time that people are getting to know the [new album]. I’ve always felt like the songs have a certain personality when I write and record them, but then they take on a different personality when the fans get to know them and sing along.

Obviously New York is great and all, but do you ever miss suburban Maryland?

My parents still live there, so I get to come back pretty often. When I was growing up, downtown Silver Spring didn’t exist in the way it does now—when I go there and stop by Whole Foods it’s like Utopia, with everyone getting along. So it makes me happy to see the city getting bigger and better. I have a ton of DC and Maryland pride and I’m happy to call it home.

Eric Hutchinson plays the 9:30 Club this Saturday, May 5. Tickets are sold out.

An abbreviated version of this interview ran in the May 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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