|3 online articles from this issue.|
By Ian Kirby
Listening to Eric Hutchinson just...makes you feel all right. His current single "Watching You Watch Him" has amassed nearly 400,000 hits on YouTube, is Top 10 at Triple A and Top 20 at Hot AC radio. The video is in rotation on VH1 and he has already performed the single on Leno, Letterman and Conan. The song was iTunes "Single of The Week" for April 17, 2012, and was used to open the premiere of this season of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy." bitly.com/watchingyouwatchhim
Billboard says "It's pretty much impossible to get through singer/songwriter Eric Hutchinson's new single, 'Watching You Watch Him,' without some sort of toe-tapping or head-bobbing action. Hutchinson's ear-worm melodies and intricate instrumentation set 'Watching You Watch Him' apart."
The most popular comment on the YouTube page for "Watching You Watch Him" - "I love this...he's a male version of Colbie Caillat," and perhaps that's not a description far off the mark, especially when one compares the similarity in emotional atmosphere absorbed by both artists' music.
He's definitely mellow, mainstream and the type of artist that, like a Jason Mraz or James Morrison (interestingly enough Martin Terefe, a producer on Eric's album has also worked with both of these artists), has a unique ability to cross over more demographic lines that just about any other type of artist, perhaps even those in mainstream country. Another comment on the YouTube page personifies this. One user, upon seeing the like/dislike ratings for the song responded "16 people hate good music." 2,209 people have liked the video.
It's no surprise then that Eric has been a college market veteran for a while, finding a great home here, due to the combination of his wide appeal and the campus audiences' open-minded and voracious appetite for fresh and quality new music. "I stumbled on to it kind of early," he says. "I was lucky and got set up with Scott Talarico at Neon Entertainment as a college booking agent and found out about the NACA world. It was a huge blessing, the campus market was what allowed me to quit my day job really early on, before I was scraping by on only clubs. With colleges, I was able to book my own tours, which gave me a great way to get started out and get a fan base going."
First attending a NACA regional conference, Eric was immediately taken with the intimacy of the experience and the market in general. "It has been a few years now, but I remember my first NACA showcase was at Mid-Atlantic and it was so much fun. The kids are all excited and in a great mood and it is a blast. It's like one huge summer vacation or sleep away camp or something. As a musician it's fun to walk in there for a day and tap into that energy and meet so many people. I got to meet students and some other great artists. I even met Mr. Belding from "Saved By The Bell" one year, so that was pretty great (laughs). There have been several regional and a couple of national conferences and I have really enjoyed them. I especially enjoyed that moment just after the performance going to the marketplace, getting to meet all the enthusiastic students, signing their stuff and taking pictures. They really make you feel like a rock star (laughs)." http://bit.ly/ericatNACA2009
Even outside the bubble of the "campus market," Eric's performances in clubs and theaters still trend toward audiences on the younger end of the live show attending demographic. "It is definitely a little bit of a wider base, but it's still a young audience. I always say I make music for anyone, I don't really think of a certain type of person when I am writing. It is coming from the heart and something I can really feel deep down inside when I am playing it. It is a very youthful, energetic show, so I think that tends to get younger people excited, who want to dance and sing and take part in a very interactive show." http://bit.ly/ericlive
He even crafted his album in that spirit. "I traveled so long and got to see so many people and places," he says. "And sharing music with the fans every night got me thinking: The best concerts are when people sing along with me. So for the next one, what kind of songs do I want people singing with me? What kind of songs do I want people dancing to?"
Eric is not a behind-the-piano deadpan. "Oh man," he chuckles, "hardly. I smile and laugh, dance around, talk to the audience, jump up and down, bring people on stage, go into the crowd...it is just about having a really great time for everyone and college students are really great at lighting that spark."
Why does the editorial spotlight seem to keep wandering back to mainstream appeal? Because in this Internet fractured music scape, where every genre and sub genre has a sub-sub genre, it can be incredibly difficult for a school to put on a major concert that more than any 7% of the student population cares about. The automatic go-to seems to be country, but there are a whole lot of folks out there who just aren't that fond of the genre, and realizing an artist like Eric can straddle the fence between country and rock enthusiasts and bring in both sides of the coin (not to mention those along the edge) can be an epiphany. Any school who has spent five figures on a show that plays to half a house knows what I mean.
Listening through his album, "Moving Up Living Down," one can hear a multitude of styles, genres and periods in Eric's influences. When I listen to it at least, I am again struck by the cyclical nature of our cultural tastes and creative arts. I hear traces from much of our global musical history, with flavors of rock, country, bluegrass, Latin, reggae and more blended into an incredibly smooth and listenable package. I again highlight to Eric how much this must widen his base. "Definitely. You know, I love all kinds of music and I think all of those different elements come out in both the studio and on stage. There is a really great variety of people that come out and see the shows and we have a blast. There is definitely something satisfying about not having a homogenous fan base (laughs)."
Moving Up Living Down debuted at #29 on Billboard's Top 200 Album chart and #13 on the Digital album chart and Eric's tour has sold out in NY (2x), LA (2x), San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philly, DC, Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit, Madison, Columbus, Austin, Des Moines, Omaha, Nashville Charleston, Phoenix, San Juan Capistrano and Seattle.
Originally from the D.C. area, Eric can truly claim a national following. "I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and then went to college at Emerson in Boston. After college I moved back home for a bit and then did a little stint in L.A., but I was mainly working out of D.C. and playing the East coast a lot. I think I have probably played every college there is in Pennsylvania (laughs)." No small feat.
After the success of Eric's first record, which yielded three hit singles, he moved to New York, where he has lived for the past five years. "Working on this album was great. It is very much about transition...those years once you're out of school and you're trying to figure out what to do, find some direction and your place as a young adult. While I was writing it, we got to play a bunch of college shows, so it was great to be able to be connected to that world and not only be inspired by it, but test many of the new songs out along the way. That was a great sounding board to see what songs were working." http://bit.ly/ericsfavoritevids
Many artists use the campus market as a barometer for their material; it's an audience that, while enthusiastic, can also be brutally honest and are always on the vanguard. "Definitely. They have their finger on the pulse a little bit more than maybe most other audiences. They know what is cool and they know what's hip. And, they will be honest, man. If you play a song they don't like or lose their attention, they will walk out... it doesn't matter who you are, and just come back later. It's a very strong tool that I really value when I am testing songs out."
Every artist has to pay their dues, go through their struggles, fight off discouragement and starvation and very few of them get one big break, a golden ticket, a Bieber on Youtube sort of rifle shot into the public consciousness, if you will. No, for most artists, the journey is much slower and ever so much more grueling than an overnight success (no matter how much they may appear to be). "For me, I can't really point to a single, specific moment that really sticks out. There have been many ups and downs. I'd made the first album and was already touring a bunch, but there was a point where Perez Hilton put my music on his website and that really gave me a huge platform and folks really started getting excited about it. The album kind of blew up overnight and jumped up on the iTunes charts really fast from that exposure. That was a huge moment that shined the light on my music and helped find an audience for it."
Sometimes our world is full of unlikely heroes. "He [Perez] is a huge music lover and now a pop culture figure, and for whatever reason at that moment it just kind of happened. There has been a lot of work since then, but the good news is I love playing and I love writing, so it never really feels like work to me. It has been a wild ride but I am having a great time doing it." http://bit.ly/okitsalright
Eric has been on his own multi-city sold out tour this summer, has made numerous late night appearances, played colleges, private and special events and has even had time to share the stage with proven hit makers. "We have done a lot of opening act gigs for folks like Kelly Clarkson, OneRepublic, Jason Mraz, O.A.R. and more. It has been a really good mix and you know I want to do whatever it takes to get the music out there and keep reaching new listeners."
When it comes to being flexible and accommodating nontraditional settings or circumstances with dates, you can be sure Eric will be a pain-free option. He's no stranger to playing just about every type of date under the sun. "We do it all. I will go wherever there is an audience excited about the music. I bring the same energy to every show, whether it is for 50 people or 50,000. It's all just a fun time and I don't take it for granted, ever. It is a privilege to be able to do what I do every night and make a great living at it."
While "Watching You Watch Him" has been a breakout success for Eric so far, he describes a particular moment during the time the single "Rock & Roll" from his last album was being picked up by VH1. http://bit.ly/rockandrollvideo "One other significant 'break' moment I remember is, sitting in the San Diego airport and I got the call that VH1 had chosen me for an artist "You Oughta Know" and I was jumping up and down in the airport. It was like there was a stamp of approval from someone or something important, and they have continued to be very supportive since then."
Moving Up Living Down just landed April 17, so speaking with Eric just a few short weeks later and in the midst of a national tour, he is still gaining perspective on the album's impact. "We kicked off this tour the same night the album came out, which was a lot of fun. The crowds have been fantastic and have learned the songs right away, singing along at every show. I write all of my own music and I take much pride in that. In fact, it's the number one thing I love doing; it's why I got into this. Songwriting is something I started when I was eight years old and my grade school music teacher showed me how to write a song out on a chart. I was hooked. By the time I was in college I was making my own CDs and selling them out of my dorm room. It grew from there, but the writing is really what drives it all...and to hear fans at a sold out show singing songs from my new album back to me less than 24 hours after it's release is the ultimate validation of the craft I love."
Contact Jaime Kelsall at APA at 310.888.4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on bringing Eric to your campus. For a headline major event, you might be surprised how affordably you can make him your next big draw. Check out CAM's track record, and believe this is an artist you should snatch up while he's on the rise. Take that to the bank.