As if taking a cue from George and Weezie Jefferson, Eric Hutchinson's new album, Moving Up Living Down, is an ode to bettering your station in life while remaining true to your character — a grueling task at any age.
Although his 2007 release Sounds Like This turned Hutchinson's brand of blue-eyed soul and folk pop into a worldwide triumph, the skilled pianist and guitarist still views his career with an unpretentious eye. He holds each performance in the same regard, whether televised for millions on The Tonight Show, or tailored to a 400-capacity crowd like the one that awaits him at The Club at Stage AE come Mon., April 30.
"I like to think that I approach the shows the same, always," he says. "Regardless of whether I perform for 50 people or thousands, I put all of my energy into each one."
In fact, the new album is the culmination of more than four years of the Maryland native's relentless touring, and the people and places that stimulated his creativity along the way. Comprising 11 tracks that showcase a wide array of relatable themes like unrequited love, self-awareness and the bonds that tie among family and friends, Hutchinson says that each song is simply another opportunity to connect with the audience.
"The songs take on a new personality when people learn them and get to sing along with me at shows. I feel like when I perform, I'm just leading the crowd in one big sing-along," explains Hutchinson.
Glorified conductor or not, Hutchinson repeatedly manages to compose infectious pop melodies that resonate. The 2007 track "Rock & Roll" was enough to jolt him from record-label limbo into the limelight practically overnight, thanks to a chorus festooned with handclaps, Hutchinson's jaunty falsetto, and a lively acoustic guitar melody. It's a guaranteed recipe for success that the Stevie Wonder- and Billy Joel-inspired vocalist mimicked in the lead single "Watching You Watch Him" from his latest release.
Even though Hutchinson reached rare heights of success as an unsigned artist — orphaned after Madonna's label, Maverick Records, dissolved — he says that signing with Warner Bros. Records for the new record actually fostered his artistic faculties.
"In a lot of ways, I had more freedom with this record," says Hutchison. "I was worried about the budget and getting people paid last time, but with this album, I was able to concentrate solely on the writing and singing. The number-one priority for me is songwriting."
As his national tour begins in support of Moving Up Living Down, Hutchinson will bring his carefully cultivated songwriting and mingling of soul, pop, folk rock and reggae funk to The Club at Stage AE, with support from British alt-rockers Graffiti6.
"To me, the show is a celebration of music," says Hutchinson. "I leave everything out there on the stage. I see it as my goal to help everyone have a good time."