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Thank you, Scott Hutchison

Frightened Rabbit at Lollapalooza 2016 - Friday
Frightened Rabbit at Lollapalooza 2016 (more by Brigid Gallagher)

Today, the music community was hit with the tragic news that Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison was found dead at 36 two days after he was reported missing. His final words to his fans on Twitter were: “Be so good to everyone you love. It’s not a given. I’m so annoyed that it’s not. I didn’t live by that standard and it kills me. Please, hug your loved ones. I’m away now. Thanks.”

We’ve already seen an outpouring of love for Scott from fellow musicians such as The National, Belle & Sebastian, Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai, Thursday, Kevin Devine, and more, and from his many, many fans. It’s no surprise that people are responding the way they are; Scott’s music has had a profound impact on people. His words have gotten so many people through tough times, and have changed so many people’s lives forever, myself included. When you go to any given Frightened Rabbit show, you usually find that the overwhelming majority of fans in the room are diehards. To their fanbase, Frightened Rabbit is more than just a band and their songs are more than just songs. It’s nearly impossible to ever think about them critically or objectively. Frightened Rabbit songs are like an old family photo, or a security blanket you used to hold, or a card from a childhood friend that you still have. For so many Frightened Rabbit fans, when you put their music on, it’s a reminder that you wouldn’t be the person you are today without them.

I was 17 when The Midnight Organ Fight came out, and — along with a few other bands’ records — it dominated my life for that entire year (and years to come). It was probably the most perfect time in my life to hear an album like that one; I was a teenager still learning how to process the kinds of all-over-the-place feelings you have as a teenager, and Scott’s lyrics on The Midnight Organ Fight felt like wisdom from someone just a bit older, who had just a bit more grasp on how to process all this stuff. At that point in your life, a musician that feels like they understand you can feel as important as your real-life friends and family, and for me, Scott Hutchison was that musician.

The songs on The Midnight Organ Fight are and will surely forever be embedded into my very being. When I saw Frightened Rabbit perform that album in full for its 10th anniversary earlier this year, it wasn’t just a great rock show. It was a reminder to myself of how far I’ve come as a person over the past decade. All these years later, Scott’s music still has the power to make you look yourself and your own emotions in the mirror.

Seeing that show, which included The Midnight Organ Fight performed start to finish but also other career-spanning favorites, was also a reminder of how far Frightened Rabbit have come since that album (and their scrappy but charming debut, Sing the Greys). The Midnight Organ Fight will probably always remain the band’s crowning achievement in the eyes of their fans (but not in the eyes of Scott, who called 2013’s Pedestrian Verse their best work), but Frightened Rabbit continued to make emotionally resonant music in the years since. Even Scott admits that the album’s followup, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, is a bit overproduced, but it had plenty of moments where Scott’s powerful songwriting cut right through the production. Lead single “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” remains one of the band’s most memorable, most signature songs, and it’s still a fan favorite atlive shows, but deep cut “The Wrestle” is my personal favorite and one of my favorites of the band’s whole career. It’s still filled with sadness (“I have no breath left,” “I’m torn limb from limb”), but there’s a sense of hope in that song. And that’s one of the things Frightened Rabbit always did best. Even when Scott’s words were at their most depressing, he always somehow elicited some joy too.

Another fine example of Scott’s ability to toe the line between sadness and happiness is Pedestrian Verse standout “The Woodpile.” Maybe the best non-Midnight Organ Fight song they ever wrote, “The Woodpile” is a vivid depiction of loneliness, but it suggests that there really is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s also one of the catchiest Frightened Rabbit songs around. The year after Pedestrian Verse, Scott released his underrated (and only) solo album as Owl John, which is as expertly written and arranged as any Frightened Rabbit album (and did feature Frightened Rabbit members). After the slightly more hopeful sounding Winter of Mixed Drinks and Pedestrian Verse, the Owl John album was more noticeably sad and introverted. It was perhaps the catalyst for what became Frightened Rabbit’s final album, Painting of a Panic Attack. With that album title, and song titles like “I Wish I Was Sober” and “An Otherwise Disappointing Life,” it reads like a cry for help given this week’s horrible news. Painting of a Panic Attack should remind us to always listen to our loved ones and always offer help.

The very last Frightened Rabbit release before Scott passed away was 2017’s Recorded Songs EP, which, among other things, featured a gorgeous duet with Julien Baker. That duet felt like a crucial moment for Frightened Rabbit. They proved themselves to be not just a band of their time but also one that impacted the future. It was easy to see how their style of raw, honest songwriting influenced someone like Julien Baker, one of today’s most powerful songwriters, and this duet felt like a passing-of-the-torch moment. So many of us, and so many of our favorite musicians, wouldn’t be where we are today without Scott’s music. This final EP is both a bittersweet goodbye, and evidence of their secure legacy.

I want to say rest in peace to Scott, and I want to say that I’m thinking of him, his bandmates, his family, his friends, and his fans, and that he will not be forgotten. But I also want to say thank you. Thank you for getting me through some of the toughest times in my life and impacting the person that I am today, and thank you for everyone else you’ve done that for, and will continue to do that for. The messages in your songs are timeless, and I hope that for years to come, impressionable young people get to hear these songs when they need them most.

Watch some video highlights of Scott’s career:

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In case you or someone you know needs support, here are some resources:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

Crisis Text Line, the free, nationwide, 24/7 text message service for people in crisis, is here to support. For support in the United States, text HELLO to 741741 or message at facebook.com/CrisisTextLine.

For support outside the US, find resources at http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

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