People who like the new Eric Hutchinson CD, “Moving Up Living Down,” can thank legendary songwriter-producer Quincy Jones for some of what they hear.
Backstage at a charity event, Hutchinson met Jones and decided a simple “Hello, love your work” wouldn’t suffice.
“I was right in the middle of making my album, and I couldn’t let that opportunity pass,” Hutchinson said a recent phone interview. “So I asked him about making ‘Thriller’ with Michael Jackson and working with Frank Sinatra and all of that stuff.
“And he gave me a great piece of advice. He said, ‘With “Thriller,” we picked the best five songs that we had and we got rid of everything else, and we went and made the rest of the record all over again.’ I thought that was a really cool idea, and I ended up doing that, too. I kind of looked at the songs and threw out the ones I thought I could beat, and then went back and wrote more music. One of the songs I wrote in the second go-round was the single, ‘Watching You Watch Him.’ So I guess I have Quincy Jones to thank.”
You can thank Jones, too, when Hutchinson plays that hit song and other cuts from the new album during the Old Port Festival in Portland on Sunday. The folk-pop artist is scheduled to play the 98.9 WCLZ Stage at 4 p.m.
“Moving Up Living Down” — which hit No. 29 on the Billboard 200 album chart, No. 14 on the Rock Albums chart and No. 13 on the Digital Albums chart upon its April release — arrived four and a half years after Hutchinson surfaced with his debut CD, “Sounds Like This.” The gap wasn’t anticipated — in fact, in interviews from 2008, Hutchinson was saying he expected to be recording his next CD in 2009 and releasing it as soon as the end of that year.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. But Hutchinson isn’t complaining, considering that first album had a bit of a trying history.
Hutchinson originally made “Sounds Like This” for Maverick Records, Madonna’s label. When Maverick was rolled into Warner Bros. in 2006, he was dropped.
Undaunted, he put out “Sounds Like This” on his own Let’s Break Records in August 2007, and it became a success almost overnight. One of Hutchinson’s high school friends emailed celebrity blogger Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson’s MySpace page.
Hilton recommended “Sounds Like This” on his blogs, and it shot into the iTunes Top 10 alongside the likes of Kanye West and Dave Matthews. It eventually reached No. 5 on the iTunes album chart, the highest-charting record by an unsigned artist in iTunes history.
Then Hutchinson hit the road — and stayed there for three years — as a pair of singles, “Rock & Roll” and “OK, It’s Alright With Me,” made an impact on pop radio and he gradually moved up to playing bigger venues. Beyond helping to build a fan base, the touring also gave Hutchinson the chance to assess his concerts and road test songs he was considering for “Moving Up Living Down.”
“I really got to see how the set was working, and I got to really decide on what (types of) songs were missing a little bit,” Hutchinson said. “So I really made this album with the live show in mind. Every night for me, I got out on stage wanting to lead everybody there in a sing-along and just celebrate music.”
Now that he is touring behind “Moving Up Living Down,” Hutchinson said he’s looking forward to seeing how his songs evolve along the way.
“Once the listeners get to know the song or learn it, songs open up in a new way that I wasn’t expecting,” he said. “So that’s something I’m really excited for.”
Alan Sculley is a freelance writer.