Scott Hutchison, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Scottish rock band Frightened Rabbit, is dead. Hutchison disappeared after leaving the Dakota Hotel in South Queensferry, Scotland early Wednesday morning. Earlier this morning, police discovered a body, and they have since confirmed that it was Hutchison, as Variety reports. He was 36 years old.
Hutchison was born in the historic Royal Burgh of Selkirk, where Braveheart protagonist William Wallace was declared guardian of Scotland. He grew up a creative introvert, eventually enrolling at the Glasgow School Of Art to study illustration. Around the same time, he took up writing songs on guitar influenced by Scottish folk and modern American alt-country acts. In 2003 he began performing as Frightened Rabbit, an old nickname his mother had given him commenting on his shy disposition. It soon became a band with his brother Grant, and by 2006 they had released a debut album called Sing The Greys on local independent label Hits The Fan.
Their true breakout, though, would be 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight, their first release for FatCat Records. The album presented Hutchison as a powerful songwriter capable of channeling his inner turmoil into hearty, emotive folk-rock songs that often bloomed into anthems. Songs like “The Modern Leper,” “Head Rolls Off,” and “Keep Yourself Warm” were ideal for howling along at concerts or behind the wheel late at night. These songs were frank about the depths of depression, substance abuse, and romantic disintegration that colored them, but they also functioned as battle cries. They exuded a feeling of railing against that weighty burden and eventually achieving liftoff, if only for four or five minutes at a time. Revisiting The Midnight Organ Fight upon its 10th anniversary last month, Ryan Leas wrote:
Naturally, as with many great albums worth revisiting years down the line, it comes down to the songwriting. The Midnight Organ Fight is where Scott proved himself to be a special talent, able to dance from gut-punch melancholia to self-laceration alternatively wry and depressed, to working his way into lyrics that unfolded unexpectedly with as much dry wit as wasted 20-something almost-wisdom.
The album won Frightened Rabbit an audience that mirrored the band’s own passion, particularly in their native Scotland and the United States, where Hutchison would eventually relocate. That audience continued to grow as the band went on to release favorably received albums in the ensuing decade, including 2010’s The Winter Of Mixed Drinks and 2013’s Pedestrian Verse, the latter for Atlantic Records. After moving to LA and releasing a 2014 solo album under the name Owl John, Hutchison reconvened Frightened Rabbit for 2016’s Painting Of A Panic Attack.
That album’s creation was documented in an extensive Stereogum feature, which revealed Hutchison’s ambivalence about continuing to pursue Frightened Rabbit. That sense of self-doubt spilled over into public that year when Hutchison posted a series of tweets beginning with, “Goodbye to Frightened Rabbit. All it has ever been is me boring people with lies and making creative currency out of other people’s hurt.” He later apologized for the self-described “meltdown,” calling it a consequence of “mixing alcohol, depression and social media.”
Along the way, Hutchison recorded with the Fruit Tree Foundation, a Scottish supergroup of sorts founded by Idlewild’s Rod Jones and the Delgados’ Emma Pollock to “raise awareness of mental health and challenge perceptions of mental health problems by creating great art.” The project released an album called First Edition in 2011. In recent years, upon moving back to Glasgow, Hutchison formed the band Mastersystem with his brother Grant plus Editors bassist Justin Lockey and his brother James. They released their debut album Dance Music earlier this year.
UPDATE: Hutchison’s Frightened Rabbit bandmates have shared a statement on his death.