Interview by Scott Preston
Singer/songwriter Meg Hutchinson brings her elegant, smooth voice to the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour stage on January 28, 2008. Although only 29, she has already won numerous songwriting awards in the United States, Ireland and the UK, including renowned competitions at Merlefest, Mountain Stage NewSong Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival and Rocky Mountain Folks Fest. Hutchinson’s new CD of original songs confirms that she is one of the great voices of the next generation of acoustic musicians.
I was fortunate enough to have the chance to ask Meg a few questions:
Cincy Groove: I noticed you will be sharing the stage with Lee Rocker from The Stray Cats when you appear on Woodsongs on Jan 28.
Meg Hutchinson: It will be fun and interesting. We have really different styles. I noticed that’s something that Woodsongs does alot, where they throw 2 artists up there who are very different. It keeps it interesting.
Cincy Groove: What stage is your new album at?
Meg Hutchinson: The album is done and is coming out March 4. We are doing all of this preliminary promo and getting it on radio and all these great things that a record label does for you. I have the finished copies but I’m not allowed to sell them yet.
Cincy Groove: Who did you collaborate with on the album?
Meg Hutchinson: Yes, I worked with producer Crit Harmon again , I had made my last record The Crossing with him. He is fantastic and we had really established a great shared vocabulary for working in the studio.
Cincy Groove: What do you like to do to kill time between gigs?
Meg Hutchinson: I love to walk. That’s such a part of my life when I’m home. I have a lab/shepherd mix and we go out walking everyday.
Cincy Groove: I also noticed you have a BA in creative writing.
Meg Hutchinson: I do, I found that if you focus on creative writing, you can get your way through any class. Because at least you can sound like you know what you are talking about. Its all about command of the language, you can get your way through a liberal arts education.
Cincy Groove: How did you decide on the title for your new album?
Meg Hutchinson: Come Up Full is one of the oldest songs of the collection. I was sitting somewhere in Maine watching the fishermen out in the harbor. They had to be up at 5 in the morning, these are fishermen that are in their 80’s that have been doing it forever. I had the high power binoculars, watching them and realizing how much of the time they came up with stuff that they couldn’t keep. They would continue to get up every morning and go to work. So that whole metaphor stuck with me and I think carried over to my career and personal life. So that sense of commitment and getting up everyday and that eventually things will work out.
Cincy Groove: I noticed that you used to work on an organic farm.
Meg Hutchinson: I did, I was a master lettuce picker.
Cincy Groove: What made you decide to quit working on the farm and start playing music? Or was music always there?
Meg Hutchinson: Music was definitely there all along. My first regular gig was at this local bar on Tuesday nights, it was dart league night. There would be drunk guys throwing darts in all the wrong directions. I would play my little folk songs and even then I knew this is what I wanted to do. Even though I knew this wasn’t the right audience, they humored me though, they put down their Budweisers when I finished a song and clapped. I just kept working on the farm and building an audience out in western Mass. It eventually picked up steam and I realized I had to move to the city to make the kind of connections I needed.
Cincy Groove: Do you ever go back to your hometown and perform?
Meg Hutchinson: Yeah I do, my family is all back there. There is this terrific funky little club, right in Great Barrington called Club Helsinki. It’s a great place, I’m going to be doing a cd release show there.
Cincy Groove: Do you come from a pretty small town?
Meg Hutchinson: I think its about 5,000 people year round, but the Berkshires is kind of known for I guess they are calling it America’s premier cultural resort now which is awful because everyone will start coming there now. Its right between Boston and New York so there are a lot of second homes and a huge summer population that comes out to go to Tanglewood and all of these music and dance performances.
Cincy Groove: Is there somebody who you want to work with and haven’t had the chance to yet?
Meg Hutchinson: I would say Greg Brown. Now that I am on his label, I just have so much respect for him as a songwriter. It’s a real dream come true to be on Red House Records. He is definitely somebody I would like to open up a show for.
Cincy Groove: How long have you been with Red House Records?
Meg Hutchinson: I just signed this past fall, so this is the first record with them.
Cincy Groove: Did you release your previous albums independently?
Meg Hutchinson: Yeah, I did a few records independently, it’s just great to see how different it is to have a team behind me.
Cincy Groove: Have you performed in Europe before?
Meg Hutchinson: I did a tour in Ireland, I just loved it. They have such an appreciation for music, poetry and Guinness. It’s like my perfect place. Drinking Guinness in Ireland is 3 times better. The taste is a lot sweeter, they take Guinness very seriously over there. I heard a few years back there was a big uproar because the Irish felt the quality of Guinness in the pubs was going downhill. So Guinness sent these teams out in these vans to check the pubs and make sure that the lines were all clear from the taps. They would literally inspect how Guinness was being served. They were very serious about it. I played the UK too.
Cincy Groove: Do you have a favorite venue you like to play at?
Meg Hutchinson: Well Club Passim here in Boston in Harvard Square has this long legendary history of being the center of folk music in Boston. I just played there last weekend.
Upcoming Tour Dates for Meg Hutchinson:
Monday, January 28, 2008 – Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour
Lexington, KY 6:45 PM
This show tapes and webcasts each Monday (6:45pm EST) at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 Main Street. They ask that you please remain seated until 8:15pm.
Thursday, February 21, 2008 – National Folk Alliance
Memphis, TN All Day
multiple showcases at the 2008 National Folk Alliance February 21-24th
(1) Black and White subway photo – Downtown Crossing T Station – Winter 2003, Credit: Lauren Ingram