Interview: Jack J Hutchinson

British Rocker, Jack J Hutchinson has just released ‘Constellations’, the first single from his brand-new 10-track album ‘Battles’, due February 2024. Ahead of his headlining performance at Just Push Play Festival, we spoke to Jack about the single and the album, gigs, guitars, and of course; football.

How has your Summer been so far? The live footage from your performance at the recent Upton Blues Festival was pretty special – looks like you had a blast!

We’ve had a busy summer and there have been a lot of highlights, but Upton was pretty special. It was amazing playing for such a big crowd and get such a good response. My music is on the heavier side of the blues rock spectrum and I wondered if it was going to be a Stevie Ray Vaughan in Montreux moment! But they loved it. The highlight was having everyone sing along with the ‘one more for the road’ section of my track ‘Rapture’. By the looks of things, people took my advice and continued drinking for a while!

You had a recent run-in with Mother Nature at Biker Days Basel in Switzerland. Apart from the weather, how was your Swiss debut?

I’d say the two shows we played there were some of my favourites for a long time. Although I’ve done two runs of shows in America, I haven’t really been back over to Europe since before the pandemic, so it felt great to play there. The crowd was really up for it, and actually the lightning storm and torrential rain – which hit three songs into my set – created a bit of a ‘we’re all in this together vibe’. I ended up down in the pit with everyone getting completely drenched, so it was all a bit mad. But that’s what rock n roll is all about to me.

Just Push Play Festival is up next, with you headlining Friday night, who are you looking forward to catching up with next week?

I’m actually really looking forward to catching up with my drummer Phil Wilson! He’s been on the road with Kiefer Sutherland for the last couple of months, so I’m looking forward to chatting with him about that.

In terms of the other acts playing, it’s always good to see Troy Redfern – we caught up briefly at Upton and he’s just a really knowledgeable and nice guy, and his new band are sounding superb. Also, it will be cool to see the Scarlet Rebels chaps. They are also top fellas.

Away from the festivals that you played at, judging by your social media channels, you attended a couple of major gigs earlier in the Summer, how was GNR? And the Def Leppard/Motley Crue double-bill?

Guns n Roses are one of my favourite bands, so that was pretty special. I think along with Led Zeppelin IV, Appetite for Destruction had the biggest impact on me as a teenager. It’s amazing that, considering all they’ve been through, they are still out there delivering 3-hour shows.

Bizarrely it was the first time I’d seen Def Leppard and Motley Crue. It was a bit of a weird setup at Wembley with loads of seats bunched together at the front, with loads of empty space behind. It kinda killed the vibe a bit.

Your touring band went through a bit of a change last year, and now features Phil Wilson on drums and Charlie Rachael Kay on bass, how quickly did you all gel live on stage?

You just have to look at the list of names both of them have played with – Elles Bailey, Laurence Jones, Ashley Sherlock, etc. They are both pros who bring that level of consistently high level playing to their performances. I’ve never felt the need to tell musicians how to play my music – you just trust them to bring their own personality to the proceedings. But with Charlie and Phil they have taken certain songs in a new direction which has been exciting to experience.

The new single ‘Constellations’ flies out of the traps, how quickly did the song come together and did it give you any headaches?

I wrote the bulk of the song when I was in America in Los Angeles last year. I actually performed a rough version of it at NAMM the day after I’d written it! But at that stage, it was more of a rhythmic blues song, so when I sent a demo of it to my producer Josiah Manning he reworked the structure and tempo. It came together very quickly, which I always think is a good sign.

Would you say that ‘Constellations’ is fairly indicative of what the forthcoming album ‘Battles’ will sound like?

Definitely. I feel like it has a very clear vision and direction, which the album overall also has. The song is about facing the negativity that can seep into our lives and starting afresh, looking to the future with a more positive mindset. The whole album deals with those themes.

It’s been pretty well documented that I gave up alcohol a few years back. I’ve actually now been sober for three years, and there’s a clarity that brings to your life. For years I felt it was rock n roll to down a bottle of Jack Daniels after a show. I’ve come to realise it’s more rock n roll to always deliver live, and write kick-ass songs that move people emotionally.

What inside info can you give us regarding ‘Battles’?

It will feature 10 songs all co-written with Josiah. A lot of them are high-tempo rock tracks along the lines of ‘Constellations’, but I’ve definitely tried to reconnect with my blues roots on this album too. I was listening to a lot of Magic Sam, BB King, and Stevie Ray during the writing process, so there’s definitely some of that on there, but with a modern production twist. One of my favourite tracks is a song called ‘Stay With Me’, which has a very subtle approach to the guitar playing. I think some of my recent albums fell foul of me playing at 11 all the way through. This album has more light and shade, which I think is more reflective of who I am as a person.

The video for ‘Constellations’ was directed by Kris Barras and features your trusty Les Paul, you’ve recently changed to a Fender Telecaster, did you just fancy a change? And from a layman’s point of view – apart from being a gorgeous guitar, what’s the main appeal of a Telecaster?

I actually used one of Josiah’s Telecasters in the studio and after the session, he uttered those far too tempting words “You need to get a Telecaster”. So I did! For years I think I struggled to get just quite the right sound in a live setting, and sometimes my guitar would get lost in the mix. The Telecaster just has a real bite to it that cuts right through. I still use the Les Paul, perhaps on the more bluesy stuff, but the Telecaster is a bit of a workhorse – that always stays in tune!

Favourite Fender artist? Blackmore? Gilmour? Knopfler? Rossi? Springsteen? None of them?!

Stevie Ray Vaughan. There’s just no competition for me. I’d say along with Jimmy Page and Slash he’s had the single biggest influence on my playing.

You are back out on the road for a headlining tour in September and October, the gig at The Half Moon in London will be recorded for a future release. It’s quite a historic venue, isn’t it?

I remember playing there for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago and being a bit star-struck by all the names that have played there. Steve Marriott is one of my heroes, as well as John Martyn and the Who. There are loads though. You can feel that vibe in the walls – I truthfully believe that.

As a major Manchester United fan, what are your earliest memories of football? You must be too young to have been lifted over the turnstile?!

My earliest memory is my dad lifting me over a crowd to get Peter Schmeichel’s autograph back in about 1995. For years I was convinced I’d be a professional goalkeeper…until I broke my wrist playing in goal which prevented me from playing guitar for a while. I just thought if it’s a toss-up between the two, the Les Paul will win!

Who is the best player that you have seen play?

I saw Ronaldo play on numerous occasions, particularly in his first stint at United. He was just on another level. My favourite player was Beckham though, and I cried the day we sold him to Real Madrid.

On the great pub debate of United’s greatest player, do you favour Cantona, Beckham, or Ronaldo…or maybe even Giggs?

Ronaldo was the best player, undoubtedly. Pity he tarnished his legacy by throwing his toys out of the pram when he didn’t get his way. Mind you, that reminds me of quite a few musicians I know…!

What fellow-football fans do you like to wind up the most?!

I used to like winding up my mates who were Arsenal fans – but now they are good again I’ve been keeping my mouth shut!

Lastly, we’ve touched on gigs, the new album and single, guitars, and football. But the burning question that everyone demands an answer to is: Barbie or Oppenheimer? Or both?!

I went to see Oppenheimer yesterday. I’m a big Christopher Nolan fan and it didn’t disappoint. It’s such a powerful reminder of how precarious our existence is and that we should live every day to the fullest.

 

‘Constellations’ is available on digital platforms via Earache Digital Distribution https://earache.lnk.to/Constellations

‘Battles’ is available February 2024; pre-order information here

Tour dates:

Sept 16: South West Rally, St Austell
Sept 26: The Tuesday Night Music Club (TNMC), Coulsdon
Sept 27: The Half Moon, London
Sept 28: The Flying Circus, Newark
Sept 29: The Bullingdon, Oxford
Sept 30: Echo Hotel Music Club
Oct 1: The Patriot, Crumlin
Oct 4: Trillians, Newcastle
Oct 5: Bannermans, Edinburgh
Oct 6: Nightrain, Bradford
Oct 7: Louisiana, Bristol
Oct 8: Cornwall Rocks
Oct 27: Hallelujah Festival, Hartlepool
Dec 3: Planet Rockstock

Tickets: http://www.jackjhutchinsonmusic.com

More info:

Web: http://www.jackjhutchinsonmusic.com
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JackJHutchinson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JackJHutchinsonBand
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jackjhutchinson
YouTube: https://youtube.com/@JackJHutchinson

Photo Credits: Rob Blackham

Interview – Dave

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