Selkirk-raised singer songwriter Scott Hutchison – the founder of indie rockers Frightened Rabbit – tells Michael Alexander why Supping Wi’ Fifers will take him back to his musical roots.
It feels as if Scott Hutchison, the lead singer of Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit, is playing hard to get when The Courier tries to speak to him about his forthcoming appearance at Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer this weekend.
I’m beginning to think he’s taken the name of his band to heart after several attempts to phone him at a pre-arranged time are met with the frustrating revelation that his mobile phone is switched off.
“Sorry my phone died!” reveals an apologetic Scott when contact is finally made an hour or so later. The joys of technology can, of course, afflict the best of us, so it would be wrong to bear a grudge…
However, there was a time when the Glasgow-based 36- year-old, who grew up in Selkirk, genuinely would have avoided the spotlight with the name Frightened Rabbit coming from a name his mother gave him in his youth due to his chronic shyness.
“I was very very shy as a child and still am a little bit socially,” says Scott.
“It was when I was wee and my parents took me to their friends’ houses and I was unwilling to socialise.
“I would just sit in the corner with what they said was a Frightened Rabbit look on my face.
“So I thought it would be amusing to call my band – that I had ambitions to play in front of many people – to call it after a social disorder.”
Scott insists he’s not shy when he performs. He feels most comfortable when he’s on stage and only gets nervous before hand because he cares.
That’s good news for Fife music fans because Scott is the latest act to join the bill for James Yorkston’s Tae Sup Wi A Fifer – the latest eclectic mix of acts to grace the stage at Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre.
Scott explained that he’s known James for years and was excited about stripping his music back to its Scottish folk rock roots.
He adds: “I first met James doing a charity project in Perthshire.
“A bunch of us were up in a house writing songs together for an album that came out in aid of a mental health organisation. “Prior to that I’ve been a fan of James’ music for many years so when he sent me the email it was a no brainer really – I was happy to do it.”
Formed in Selkirk in 2003, Scott was influenced in the early days by Scots bands such as Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, The Delgados and Ballboy.
Moving to Glasgow from a small Borders town, and seeing these acts perform live, Scott quickly realised that the dream of being in a band wasn’t necessarily as remote as it had first seemed.
Frightened Rabbit currently consists of Scott (vocals, guitar), his brother Grant Hutchison (drums), Billy Kennedy (guitar, bass), Andy Monaghan (guitar, keyboards), and Simon Liddell (guitar).
Since 2004 the band has been based in Glasgow.
Initially a solo project for Scott, Frightened Rabbit’s first studio album, Sing the Greys was recorded as a duo by Hutchison and his brother Grant, and released on independent label, Hits the Fan, in 2006.
The band subsequently signed to Fat Caty Records in 2007, and became a three-piece with the addition of guitarist Billy Kennedy for its second studio album, The Midnight Organ Fight (2008).
The album was released to strongly positive reviews and extensive touring, with guitarist and keyboardist Andy Monaghan joining the band to flesh-out its live performances.
After the band’s third studio album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks was released in 2010, and Frightened Rabbit signed to Atlantic Records later that year, and issued two EPs, before the release of its fourth studio album, Pedestrian Verse in 2013 which proved to be a critical and commercial success in the UK.
Disillusioned from touring, Hutchison, Monaghan, and Liddell recorded a studio album without the band, entitled Owl John (2014) and several other personnel changes followed.
But Scott says he has no qualms in going full circle – taking to the stage in Fife on Saturday as a solo artist.
“It’ll be just me on my own,” he says. “Sometimes it’s nice to take a wee break from the band with an acoustic low key quiet performance.
“I did start off as a solo performer under Frightened Rabbit. A lot of the songs are recorded in quite a large sonic space. So it’s nice to bring them back to their roots. “That’s how most of the songs are written on the acoustic guitar.
“So it brings a new perspective both for the audience and myself to take them back to that kind of raw original product I suppose.”
Frightened Rabbit have done extensive work with the Invisible Children music coalition project, going on tour with them in 2011.
They performed songs for them, including a cover of the Death Cab for Cutie song “Different Names for the Same Thing” as well as performing the song “Scottish Winds”, from their new EP.
At the end of the tour, they auctioned off the guitar they played during the tour, signed by the members, and the proceeds went to the Invisible Children corporation.
The band’s social conscience will again be evident on Saturday December 9 when they take part in Sleep in the Park in Edinburgh.
The “world’s largest ever sleep out event” billed as the Live Aid for Scottish homelessness has been organised by Social Bite and is headlined by Liam Gallagher.
“It’s a great thing,” says Scott, who will be performing with Frightened Rabbit in Princes Street Gardens and plan to sleep out under the stars with thousands of others.
“The goal is to end homelessness in Scotland and to highlight how difficult it can be to see through a Scottish winter without having a home. So the idea is that everyone camps out in a park to get a taste of what that’s like.”
Scott, who will be touring with Frightened Rabbit in Scotland, the UK and USA next year to mark the 10th anniversary of their second album, says a lot of material on their albums has been personal. But he also tries to include material that’s about others.
“We’ve been quite vocal in highlighting our support for refugees,” he adds.
“We do charity auctions at our shows for signed drum skins. It’s a selfish existence being in a band a lot of the time so it’s nice to be able to use what we do to help other people.
“We’ve always been keen on doing that. But we’re also so lucky that we can still tour. “We’ve almost always had as good a following in the USA as we’ve had at home, which is quite something.”
*Tae Sup Wi A Fifer, hosted and programmed by East Neuk songwriter James Yorkston, takes place at the Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, on Saturday December 2. Also on the bill are Serafina Steer and Alasdair Roberts. For ticket information go to www.onfife.com