It was late December 2007 and I was driving home from work listening to the radio. There is an indie station that plays Christmas music by alternative bands with alternative takes on the holiday and that is the only type of Christmas music I listen to because yeah, I’m that guy.
And then a song came on. A song I had never heard before. By a band I had never heard of before. It started out slow sung in a mournful voice that sounded like a desperate plea. Or maybe a prayer. The song built and built as the singer became more and more desperate till finally it collapsed into a devastating refrain: the next day life went back to its bad self.
And I was crying. Tears streaming down my face this song moved me in a way that I could not quite identify. It touched a hurt place deep inside that I didn’t know existed, or maybe pretended not to know about. But it was there. Music had not done that to me in a long, long time.
I spent the next few days trying to figure out who that band was and what the song was called. Oh, the radio DJ has said what it was but I was in the car driving – and crying – so I only half heard, half remembered what it was. ‘Scared Bunny’ was what I thought I heard but I knew that was wrong. Finally I asked a friend who was pretty knowledgeable on obscure bands if he knew about Scared Bunny and that sad Christmas song. He laughed at me in that way that pretentious music snobs do – the way I that I laughed from time to time – and told me it was a Scottish band called Frightened Rabbit and the song was called It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop. And he had an MP3. I listened to it again on my way home. And again when I got home. And again. And again.
That’s how I became a fan of Frightened Rabbit.
A few months later right around my birthday they released their second album: The Midnight Organ Fight. This is an album that impacted me (and continues to impact me) just as hard as that Christmas song did. There is sorrow in these songs. A sadness that is harrowing and often bleak – but tempered by music that is often triumphant and rousing and seems to impart a sense of hope into the otherwise devastating darkness. This is not an album that I play casually. It does not simply play in the background. It is something that I listen to with intent. The music, the lyrics, the presentation, and themes are profoundly moving to me and despite its darkness it brings me – not exactly sure of the word to use – melancholy? No that’s not right. Empathy perhaps? I wish I could think of a word that means both joy and sadness at the same time. Love maybe.
I love the music of Frightened Rabbit.
Yesterday, as I was taking a break at work I read in my news feed Scott Hutchison the singer and songwriter for Frightened Rabbit was found dead.
It was no secret the Scott Hutchison suffered from depression. That’s what his songs were about. He was always honest – brutally so – when discussing his depression, anxiety and self-doubt. There was no pulling any punches; there was never a time when he attempted to make it easy for the listener. He simply told you the dark details of an illness and a pain that was at times unbearable in stark and direct language. It was a way I suppose to address that pain, to confront that darkness head on with no fear and no apologies.
But at 8:30 pm in Port Edgar near South Queensberry, Scotland the darkness won. There was no happy ending.
I did not know Scott Hutchison; I only knew his music and his voice. And his music moved me in a deep and profound way. His voice, filled with honesty and courage, touched something within me that was hidden and brought to the surface feelings of empathy, sadness, loss and love.
Scott Hutchison I am truly sorry that you suffered. I wish I could tell you how important it was that you shared what you did. Thank you for your music, thank you for your voice.