Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison releases his solo album under the name and title Owl John on Monday (4 August). Along with an exclusive preview stream of the record, he’s also written this exclusive guide to the record for Q.
It’s been about ten years since I had the notion to add the word ‘Owl’ as a middle name. Scott ‘Owl John’ Hutchison. I thought it had a really splendid flow to it. I suppose I enjoy owls as much as most people, admiring their weird neck thing and having read Plop countless times as a wee one. I don’t buy the wisdom bit, but they are incredibly good at being owls and it would be nice to be as effective at being a human. Sadly, I’m not and it is from this croaking foible that songs come. The desperate crunch of failure sat right next to the fizzing, spumante spark of joy. They cackle and point at each other because they don’t understand their opponent. You will find me sitting between them, eating a bag of nuts (not Brazils, they make my mouth itch) and documenting the whole sorry episode.
John is a homeless.
John is a priest.
John is a witness.
John is a beast.
It was also approximately 10 years ago that I started a band called Frightened Rabbit. In that time I’ve dedicated so much of my life to that good wee band with a stupid name, I felt it was time to indulge John. Sing it with me…
John is a weirdo.
John is a thief.
John is a wino.
Listen, bleed, weep.
Owl John by Owl John
The album is presented in the same order as the songs were recorded, so this was the product of day one in the studio on Mull. We were feeling the songs out as we went and this one may be the clearest evidence of that, unfolding in sections as we came up with new ideas.
We numbered all of the tracks initially, as there were no lyrics to give them proper titles. This one stuck, as it seemed appropriate to the content that I eventually wrote to the music. Two people at the end of the world just waiting for the blast. A wonderful way to go.
It’s not a reference to a fascist punk movement, but a cry for help when you are trapped by a job that you once loved but have come to… hate. I didn’t really want to be in a band anymore by the end of last year and this song deals with that feeling. Nice to get a big, ballsy riff in for once. They don’t really work in Frightened Rabbit.
Songs About Roses
Similar in theme to an old FR EP track, Default Blues, this one is about the state of popular music today. There’s always been (and probably always will be) homogenous tripe on the market, but some days you feel utterly swamped by its unavoidable babble.
Los Angeles, Be Kind
I like that this one has kind of a west coast sound coupled with lyrics which speak of the uncertainty and anxiety I experienced upon moving to the west coast of the US. I decamped to LA a few months back and a lot of the album deals with how that felt initially. I love it now, but at first I truly felt like an alien in that city.
Ten Tons Of Silence
I often find myself paralysed by social situations and this song deals with that feeling. It’s amazing how a room can change from warm and welcoming to cold and dark within the space of a few words. I had the guitar part hidden away on my phone memos, and I’m very glad I managed to unearth it for this.
A Good Reason To Grow Old
A happy song! Rejoice! Ok, not entirely happy but it’s the story of a life being saved by falling in love and being loved back. It’s all very melodramatic in places but the sentiment is simple: sometimes you meet someone who makes you want to grow old in their company. On a side-note, I love the drums on this one. Not played by me of course, Peter Kelly pulled it off in some style.
This was mostly Andy and Simon’s creation, and you can hear their brilliant guitar playing throughout. To me, this one encapsulates the spirit of the album. It is not just about me and my songs. We share ownership of the material in a creative sense. Owl John is more than one person and it’s never more resonant than in this song.
Don’t Take Off The Gloves
Ah, the demon drink again. A well-worn topic, but some themes have facets that need to be explored. I think this might be the most surprising track on the album, musically speaking. That second verse took a bit of getting used to because it sounded a bit… errr… funky. I feel filthy just writing that down. But I hope it’s a welcome surprise. It’s one of my favourites.
Back to that feeling of alienation. I had to start my life again from the ground up when I got to LA. Going back and doing my driving test, getting shown how to fill out forms by my girlfriend, trying to use the post office; everything seemed so difficult to begin with. Now I stick to the right hand side of the road and I know what I’m doing at the post office. Not so stupid now, though it depends who you ask I suppose.
Scott ‘Owl John’ Hutchison @owljohn
For more head to owljohn.com