“I Arbitrarily Picked The Guitar and Fell in Love with It,” – Christian Lee Hutson Discusses Song Writing and Green Man Festival

Kansas City born singer/songwriter Christian Lee Hutson kicks off the UK leg of a European and UK tour this weekend with a set at the now sold-out Green Man festival.

Christian is touring in support of his latest album ‘Quitters’, produced by his friends Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst and available via ANTI-.

Andy Howells caught up with Christian who was touring in Amsterdam earlier this week to discuss music, song writing and Green Man Festival.

Christian Lee Hutson is to play a series of UK dates in support of his latest album, Quitters. Photo; Jacob Boll.

Green Man Festival is among several UK dates for you, isn’t it?

Yes, I think it might be the second show. But it’s right at the beginning of the of the little UK run.

Will this be your first visit to Green Man Festival?

Yes, I’ve never been to Green Man, but I’ve heard so many awesome things about it. A lot of friends have played. It’s like a comfy nice environment.  

I think the thing that appeals to me most about Green Man and other festivals is the programming. The people who put together the line ups of festivals like Green Man or End of the Road, I feel like, just choose good bands, and that for me, as an artist is my favourite part of playing a festival. Playing my set for whatever… 30 minutes and then going to see, like four other bands that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see.

Tell me a little bit about yourself, and your journey in music.

I was born in Kansas City, but I grew up in Los Angeles. When I was like 12 years old, my mom said “Christian, I had to learn a musical instrument when I was a kid, and I think that you need to learn how to play pick of the instrument. You can be flute or piano.”

I arbitrarily picked the guitar and fell in love with it. I figured out how to play Damn it, by Blink 182 on the guitar the first day I got it, and I was like, “Whoa. you can just play a whole song today with a guitar.” I think that feeling was that immediate to me it made me keep chasing it.

How did your mum react to that?

She was not crazy about how into it I got, as I immediately neglected everything else in my life. All of a sudden, I went from being a “Straight A Student” to failing out of school.

I understand you’ve learned several other instruments along the way. So, I think you more than met the criteria, haven’t you?

Yeah, I did take it her request of me becoming a well-rounded human being a little far.

Andy Howells interviews Christian Lee Hutson

As your music career got underway, you were part of a duo, The Driftwood Singers?

Yeah, that was my when I was 18, I did that for a few years. I got really into rural American music, old folk songs, and trying to figure out how to write new ones. That was kind of what that whole band – the premise of it was.

Listening to some of your material there’s a lot of poetry, storytelling in there and I believe Hank Williams is one of your biggest influences?

Yeah, for sure. I mean one of the greatest storytellers of all time. It’s my dream to learn how to write a simple song and story like that, those are some of the greatest songs of all time.

That’s quite a bit of a transition from listening to Blink 182 then wind back a few decades to Hank Williams, isn’t it?

Yeah, my dad got me into that. He grew up in the Midwest, there in the backwoods, he would say, “they’re like country music people”. We do road trips when I was a little kid, and he had a Hank Williams tape in the car that he would put on and be like “this is the real country music”.

I don’t think that Hank Williams is that dissimilar from Blink 182, just like beautiful melodies, and maybe energetically, for sure, but beautiful stories.

What inspired you to go out as a solo artist?

When I started as a solo artist, I really wanted to figure myself out. I spent five years just touring by myself all year. I really wanted to psychologically figure out what was wrong with me and how to get better and how to fix.

I was just interested in exploring that through writing about my parents, writing about my relationships, how I behave in relationships, how other people behave in relationships, how I react to things. Those were the interesting things for me and spending a lot of time just alone on tours, I think useful to that mission.

Your first album, Beginners was a bit more about your adolescence years, and your more recent album Quitters is more in the world of adulthood.

I think that that’s true. I mean there’s some stuff about your adulthood is also about your childhood too. There are some connections on Quitters which are about then and now. Quitters is about learning to let go of things that aren’t working. and that being okay and been anew starting point. it moves, the finish line becomes the starting point.

Christian Lee Hutson plays Green Man Festival on August 20, 2023. Photo Michael Delaney.

One track, OCDemon was about been diagnosed with OCD. Was that helpful for you to get that out?

You know just that song really, specifically was helpful to me. I had a therapist that recommended. I like to think about OCD as something separate from myself and write about my thoughts. The compulsion is obsessive thinking. So, he recommended that I create a character where the OCD and the thought was separate from Christian.

It was fun and therapeutic to get to write and be like, “Oh, this outside thing is so funny and ridiculous!” The thoughts that are on a loop in your brain, it helps me feel like that wasn’t me. I write a lot of character songs. It’s fun finding the places that I connect with like this kind of weird, unlikable in some ways, characters or characters that don’t really know what’s wrong with them, but they’re telling you.

In the last album Quitters, you wrote a lot of that in lockdown, didn’t you? How difficult was that for you, or was it, or was it quite easy just to have that time to sit down and write?

It was incredibly difficult, because it felt like in that time, everyone had a lot more time to work. There’s pressure in that you feel like you should be doing something with your COVID time or something. Like trying to pick up new skills and learn things. So, it made it feel it was a lot harder to get things out than in the past where I would write on tour a lot before. A lot of Beginners was written in in like cars and planes and stuff like that. So more difficult to be feel like you have to, drag, pull out of this awful time.

I’ve got to mention your version of Silent Night. What drew you to record it, because your version is more than a Christmas song, isn’t it?

Well, I wanted to rewrite that song. I love Christmas music.  A lot of Christmas music, I get creeped out at.

I wanted to rewrite the words, to reflect a Christmas that felt familiar to me of like Christmas is kind of a lonely time for most people, and a time we realise, “Oh, no! But like there are people that I’ve lost in this life.”

This is a time where everyone is warm inside their house and when you don’t have someone to spend that time with that is also a feeling unique to Christmas.

Christian Lee Hutson’s UK dates include:

  • Aug 19: Brecon Beacons, UK – Green Man
  • Aug 20: Leeds, UK – Mill Hill Chapel
  • Aug 21: Birmingham, UK – Hare and Hounds 2
  • Aug 23: London, UK – Omeara
  • Aug 24: Bristol, UK – Strange Brew
  • Aug 25: Birkenhead, UK – Future Now
  • Aug 26: Manchester, UK – Deaf Institute
  • Aug 27: Edinburgh UK – Connect

Tickets are available via Christian Lee Hutson’s website.

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