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Jack J Hutchinson talks about his wholly outstanding new album Battles - Spring 2024

Perfection is a state of mind...

Constellations is the brand new album from blues rocker Jack J Hutchinson. Recorded at Momentum Studios in Plymouth, this is one of the strongest and most important albums you’re likely to hear this year. Quite simply, this isn’t just another great guitar-driven album. This is a full-throttle blues rock record which has the incredible ability to motivate and inspire, build strength, challenge and overall transform the listener. It’s a record that will press the reset button against life’s adversities and will leave you standing taller. As the album hits number 16 in the UK Independent Album charts, we catch up with Mr Hutchinson himself with the single-minded intention of going deep into the music. With our guitars placed on their stands, our conversation begins…

You’ve just released your new incredible new album Battles and it entered the Independent Album Charts At Number 16 in the UK. That’s absolutely incredible! How did you feel when you got the news?

Well, I didn’t expect it to go into the charts so I didn’t even check the charts on the Friday evening, and then I got a message about four in the morning from somebody and they said “You do realise you’ve got in the charts?!” I was really shocked! So then of course I checked and at 4 am I was over the moon. I woke my wife up and said “I’ve got in the actual charts!” which is really cool. I think to go on that journey as an independent artist, it felt like an achievement to me. I’ve done this without label backing or anything like that so that in itself felt quite momentous in terms of my career. I was really chuffed. Another element is I’m so pleased for my band of my PR team who have worked so hard on the album campaign. So yes, it was a good night!

That’s fantastic! And let’s be honest, not many messages received at 4 am are particularly welcome, and not many people like being woken up at 4 am but I can just imagine that there were big smiles all round!

As you can imagine, we’d had quite a chaotic week of travelling around and I think that was the first night I’d really had off in about a week so I’d been asleep for about 6 hours at that point. I was pretty shattered from the tour. Needless to say, my wife wasn’t completely enamoured with the message at 4 am! (Laughs!) But she was over the moon as well because she knows how it’s been a lot of work for me but also she’s been there supporting me through it, so it felt like an achievement for her as well!

Well, Battles is an entirely appropriate title for this record because throughout its 10 tracks we are presented with the fights that we have in life, whether these be social, professional or relationships, and in that sense it feels like a bit of a concept album. To what extent was it your intention to create a concept album?

I think that what I wanted to create was an album that had a clear direction and I think a lot of my previous efforts had been a little bit of a hodgepodge of different types of music where it was all written on the road and we kind of found little spots in the studio and different studios, and then you’d end up with ‘we’ve recorded 10 tracks, let’s bung them out as an album’, whereas I wanted to make something that flowed from start to finish that felt like a story and felt like there was a strong narrative across all the tracks. We definitely started out with a clear idea and it was the first time where we’ve ever done preproduction. I had meetings with Josiah Manning about the sort of songs we were going to try and write. We wrote Constellations really on in the process that kind of gave us a structure for how we wanted some of the songs to be. I think a lot of the time, in the past I’ve perhaps written the lyrics quite quickly whereas with this one I spent a lot of time on the lyrics and tried to make sure that there was an overall narrative that went from track to track without being repetItious. So there was definitely a lot of thought that went into it where is in the past I haven’t necessarily put that work in and it seemed to pay off.

As an artist you’ve been quite open about the twists and turns that you’ve experienced personally and professionally over the years and you said that you can “Kinda take the punches and keep going”. Battles appears to have been written from a very autobiographical perspective. To what extent is that a fair thing to say?

I think really throughout my career, because this is the 10th anniversary of me really doing this, I’ve got this odd personality whereby if something goes wrong or I feel like someone’s trying to get one over on me or push me down or whatever it may be, I just use that as energy to try and work even harder. Really what kicked off my career 10 years ago was when I’d been quite ill and I had this thing called reactive arthritis and I couldn’t play guitar for about a year and then I slowly got back into it. People say to me a lot ‘What do you see success as?’ and actually the biggest thing that was a success for me was playing some shitty open mic night in Loughborough about 12 or 13 years ago when I’d not played a gig in about 3 years and it was just being able to get back on stage again. So actually anything beyond that has felt like a bonus and I just kept going and going and I think that’s probably a good mentality to have, that sometimes you get knocked down but you’ve just got to keep going and use it as fuel to push you onto the next thing. I’ve been through things but everybody’s been through things and that’s what I wanted to communicate with this album. It wasn’t about ‘Oh, woah me, I’ve been through a load of shit’. It’s that with all been through a load of shit and actually this is how we can make our lives better and be more positive about things.

What is really interesting that you said that because I want to talk about some of the songs and the first one I’d would like to talk about is the album opener and the lead single Constellation. You mention that you’ve spent a lot of time on the lyrics for this album, and I just want to talk about the power of the lyrics in the chorus: ‘stand tall, I found my better days, dig deep, I’ve learned to walk away, broken bruised but no battle left to wage, don’t try to tear me down, I’ve found a better day’. I think the point I want to make is that there will be many people who will strongly connect with this song because they too will have experienced significant adversity, but what this song does in a very profound way is build strength. What I mean by that is looking at the phrase ‘stand tall’ – I genuinely actually felt taller listening to this song and I felt stronger. It’s actually a very profound experience. How important is it for you is that this record, and your music more generally, is able to have that empowering impact on the listener?

I think that there is a real magic about that and I’ve always been drawn to bands that have been able to be kind of a safety blanket for me when I felt perhaps life is getting too much. You can stick on John Lennon or The Stones or The Stone Roses or whoever it may be, and it’s got that positivity about the music. They deal with tough subjects and melancholic themes but actually I think a lot of the best bands kind of twist those elements and turn them into a statement of positive intent and I definitely tried to do that with Constellations. I wrote that song after I’d felt kind of burned out over what happened with my last record. I’d recorded that in lockdown which in itself was kind of strange, and I’d been going to a studio and kind of having to do all the Covid test before going in and the whole thing just felt a bit bizarre. At the end of that tour, and we only toured it for about 10 days and then the band members that were playing with me previously they decided to leave which is fair enough, they wanted to do other things, so I was suddenly left in a position where after 4 or 5 years I had no band and I was really questioning whether I had the energy to kinda restart it all again. But it’s funny how songwriting can just reignite that fire in you. I write a lot of stuff just basically on my acoustic guitar. I went to Los Angeles to do some acoustic gigs and whilst I was in Los Angeles there was film footage of me writing Constellations. It was at NAMM in the backstage area and I’m faffing around on my guitar and I came up with the riff. I just thought ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool!’ and then very quickly I had the lyrics and then the main thing was the chorus. I had the lyrics for the chorus pretty quickly. I think part of me was thinking ‘What am I moaning about? I’m in Los Angeles playing this amazing event and meeting amazing people – life isn’t too bad’, and I’ve never written a song that encapsulates that feeling and makes people want to punch the air and go ‘You know what? We’re going to be okay!’. I feel like the Constellations for the first time I achieved that.

Talking about ‘strength’, when we look at the words within the track Days Are Gone where you are singing ‘lessons learned, keep your enemies closer, turn the page, the path up ahead is clearer’, There really seems to be a life lesson here. As an artist you’ve been very open about the adversity you’ve had to deal with and it’s wonderful that you’ve been so incredibly resilient. Professionally we see an absolute tower of strength and And I just wonder to what extent that’s the reality? It’s wonderful that example you have from the NAMM side of things because that experience seems to suggest that you have an affinity for always looking on the positive side of things.

I think creatives inherently question themselves all the time and even though the last couple of weeks have been fantastic and really beyond my expectations for how the album would be received, I’m constantly looking at what’s coming next and I’m constantly questioning whether I’ve done the right thing with certain aspects of my career. It is quite mentally draining being a musician and I think there’s a certain crazy type of person who wants to keep going and doing this. I’ve been in bands with guys who really struggled touring and part of the reason I’m having so much fun with my current band, Phil (Wilson – drums) and Charlie (Rachael Kay – Bass) is that they basically just live on the road. As soon as they finish with me, they head off with other musicians. Phil is part of Keifer Sutherland’s band and he’s doing a lot of work with Kiefer later this year, and I find it really interesting that when we hook up that we’ve got all these kind of road stories. You do almost have this siege mentality about it all because it is hard and it can send you a bit loopy. When I watch films like Almost Famous, I’m like ‘Oh, my God, that’s reality!’ although I’m not in the 70s and I’m not super skinny! (Laughs!) I think you’ve got to be quite tough to get through it really, but it’s a lot of fun as well!

I love that phrase you used and it’s one that’s used in a track Bullets that really helps coping with adversity: ‘their words can be fuel’.

Even over the last couple of weeks, honestly, the internet is such a bonkers place. I get strange messages from people sporadically anyway but around an album release time it’s obviously around people’s social media feeds so people feel obligated to send you messages. I had one guy message me saying I’d let him down because I chased commercialism by aiming to get in the charts. I mean, what a bonkers thing to actually feel the need to actually message somebody that. And another guy was having a go at me for apparently sacking band members, one of which hasn’t played with me for almost 7 years! Honestly, you just have to use this stuff and think ‘Right, there’s no point this dragging me down and making me feel sad, how can I use this as a positive?’. I would never claim that my album is some sort of life lesson for people but hopefully in those lyrics they can see there’s ways of using this stuff, which is pretty horrific, and letting it add another layer of skin to you. Hopefully it will mean the next time somebody is ridiculous, you will just use it and they bounce off you.

And sticking with Bullets, I love that line ‘say what you will and be who you are, perfection is a state of mind’. It’s such an incredible line because it kind of says to me ‘you’re never gonna be able to please everyone so just be yourself and simply be the best you can’. Would you agree with that and also when you’re writing new music, is it always about writing for yourself and never about other people’s expectations?

I think that line about ‘perfection being a state’ of mind is probably my favourite line on the album and I think it’s just through experiencing a lot of my friends and loved ones problems over many years and I think a lot of it stems from people having this idea of who they should be as a person and never been happy with what they’ve got, And actually that just leads to being miserable. So I thought about that quite a lot actually when I was writing that song and the album as a whole and it was about having to not just settle with what you’ve got – I don’t think that’s the right way of putting it – but being thankful for what you’ve got I guess. I think we live in a strange world now where we are bombarded with content and imagery on social media that in some ways it’s really bad for us because I think a lot of people spend a lot of their time going on social media and making comparisons between their lot in life and what everyone else has got. It’s interesting what you said earlier that there may be this sheen and this front that I put out on social media regarding everything being really great but there’s other stuff that happens that you don’t put out there. So it’s all about trying to be positive about what you’ve got and making sure that you don’t fall foul of feeling like everyone else is better than you because we’re all different and we’re all achieving in our own way. In terms of writing, I think I’ve always felt like I’ve had to write about my life experience in my lyrics. I always make a joke about the fact that when you write an album you then tour it for 10 or 12 months afterwards. So if you don’t believe in your lyrics, it must be really hard to go out and deliver that night after night with integrity. So I think I’m always quite truthful in the way that I write. I think in terms the compositions and the music, there’s obviously certain influences you can hear in certain tracks. You can write a song that sounds like it’s an off cut of Excile On Main Street or something but there’s no point trying to be The Rolling Stones because you’ll never be as good as The Rolling Stones. I’ve been doing this quite awhile and I’ve sucked up a lot of influences, so that all feeds in but with the lyrics I always think that that’s got to be the strong point really. That’s what makes you an artist with integrity – being honest in what you write about.

Forgiveness sets you free...

The next track I’d like to talk about is Road To Hell. This offers a change of pace and presents a gorgeous, pensive mood. And it’s very much a storytelling song, and like you said earlier, you wanted this album to have a strong story and a strong narrative – this is a really strong story telling song about someone who’s made mistakes, but perhaps doesn’t take responsibility and simply lives in selfish ignorance. Again, I think many people will be able to identify with this song because when we hear the lyrics an image of a particular person may enter our minds. Who or what was the inspiration for this song?

I wanted to write a song on the album that addressed issues that I’d perhaps had with alcohol. When I tried to write it from the first person perspective I found that really hard. So I kind of approach this track in a very different way to the other songs to create a character in my mind that was really similar to me but it was easier to write about it from that perspective. I think ‘visually’ a lot when I’m writing. Co-writing with Josiah Manning, he thinks in the same way in terms of colours and landscapes or whatever it may be and so I was thinking a lot about westerns and that kind of thing where people have lived a hard life – much tougher than my life – and they’re perhaps ageing and reflecting back on things that they could’ve done differently. As I said earlier on, I’ve been doing this 10 years. 10 years isn’t that a long a time but it gives you enough scope to start reflecting on things and thinking ‘Should I have done things differently?’. That song is definitely about that - it’s about pausing and thinking ‘Okay, what can I learn from these experiences?’. I think for a long time I was running at 100 miles an hour, gigging all the time and releasing lots of music but then I had a 6 month break after The Hammer Falls (Jack’s 3rd solo album from 2022 – Ed) came out which kind of changed my mentality towards a lot of stuff. One of the biggest things was that I felt like I’d neglected a lot of my friends and family, primarily because I was a touring musician. I then find out when I’d see people and they’d say “Yeah, we’ve not seen you in 6 years and we’ve been doing all this stuff”, like buying houses, having families and all that kind of stuff, and I was thinking ‘Shit, maybe I have been neglecting people a little bit!’. So that song was a little bit about that – trying to be a better person and being there for people who I care about.

And I mentioned, Road To Hell is a storytelling song and it sits beautifully across a record of otherwise straight-head inspirational messages. Do you enjoy the storytelling aspect of songwriting.

Yeah, I think it’s a different way of approaching stuff sometimes. I think songwriting in terms of the whole album is quite a difficult thing. You don’t tend to start out thinking ‘I’m going to write 10 or 12 tracks and they’re all going to be killer’. You just really start out, or at least I do, with 1 track and you build it from there. So actually trying to think aboutsongwriting as a whole artistic statement across the record is quite tricky and I felt like I’d never nailed it before prior to this record and I feel like I did with this album.

On the track Love Is The Law, I think there’s that simple message that if we have love, everything else can be worked out. That’s an important message to the world at the moment. Is this song your way of trying to get people to just pay a bit more attention to this and the simple things in life?

I think that track is a bit of an outlier actually in relation to the other ones. It’s quite poppy. I’ve always been a massive Paul Weller fan and I was trying to write a song that was a bridge between the 2 halves of the album that had a kind of Motown vibe to it. It doesn’t sound like Motown because I’ve put loads of heavy guitars to it! But again I think it’s just a really positive message. It’s funny because I don’t think I’ve ever really written songs in quite that way and I’ve probably always taking the piss out of bands like U2 or Coldplay or something like that, and I’ve always thought ‘Fuck that shit! I’m gonna stick on my Neil Young records that are really melancholic’! But I think there was a realisation with this record of who I am as an artist and maybe that’s where I feel most comfortable: that positivity. When I play 5- aside football with my team and we are 7 nil down at half-time, I’m the annoying guy that’s going “It will all be alright guys! We just need to get that long goal in the second half” and they’re all looking like me at me like I’m an idiot! (Laughs!) but maybe that’s what my record about is about actually: love and positivity and trying to look after one another. I think over the last couple of years the world has actually been a relatively dark place. We see a lot of things on the news that are truly horrific, and when you listen to an album or go to a gig you need an escape from it don’t you? Something to put a smile on your face!

The album closes in the most incredible way with the track Stay With Me. There is something very liberating when we hear the phrase ‘forgiveness sets you free’. It really allows us to shake off that emotional baggage, and what this song more broadly does is create a huge sense of contentment and that after all the battles we’ve had we now feel that we’ve won the war. It makes the whole album an incredibly cathartic experience. To what extent is this something you were trying to achieve with Stay With Me?

I think I started out writing that track and it was about a specific person that I knew a long time ago that really did struggle with their mental health issues and my role within that relationship was, I felt, to try and make that person better and that was just never going to happen. I felt like I’d failed actually at that and hadn’t succeeded in solving the problem, but of course it wasn’t a problem that I could ever solve. So for quite a few years I lived with that and that was something that affected me in the long term in terms of the dynamics of my own relationships with other people. So that ‘forgiveness sets you free’ element is about something that I learned actually over time – that they learned to forgive themselves for stuff that had happened. And I’ve learnt to forgive myself for the way that I felt like I’d failed this person. I hope that rings familiar with a lot of people, that we put so much weight and ourselves to try and fix other people and fix ourselves and make life perfect and actually I don’t think that’s ever truly possible. All we can ever do is try our best and if there’s a positive outcome from that, that’s great. If there is a negative outcome at least you can look back and go ‘Well, I’ve tried to find a solution to the negativity’, but I think that song is probably the best track on the album. It was the song that I felt me and Josiah really connected with in the studio. We were holed up in the studio for a couple of weeks and that was the last song that we worked on, and it was really strangely emotional recording it. It was the only track on the album that I sang in the control room and I sang it differently to the other songs. I was sat down on this leather sofa in the control room holding the microphone really close to me and trying to create that intimate feeling in the vocals. To then be able to explode with the vocals on the final chorus, and again have that kind of ‘punch the air’ moment, I felt like we had created something that was quite special when we played it back. I’d not listened to it for 6 months so when the album came out I listened to those songs on vinyl and I just felt this song was really emotional. I wondered to myself ‘How the hell did I write this track?!’ (Laughs!) You just don’t think about this stuff when you’re in the moment, but yes, I think it’s a good one!

As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what an incredibly strong but also important album Battles actually is. This record is a full-album experience. Jack is quite simply an incendiary guitarist but make no mistake, this is not an album targeted at or created for guitarists. The power of the songwriting and the emotion this album conveys means that Battles is quite simply an album for everyone. For more informative head over to and in the meantime check out the video to Constellations below.

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