Dammit. Scott Hutchison, singer and guitarist for the Scottish indie-rockers Frightened Rabbit, was found dead Thursday night in Scotland, apparently after taking his own life. He was 36. Hutchison had gone missing from a hotel in South Queensferry, a town near Edinburgh, early Wednesday morning following a pair of tweets that raised concerns about his mental health.
Hutchison was a gifted musician and songwriter who never tried to hide his depressive streak. His songs were powerful evocations of longing, heartache and anguish, often with streaks of mordant humor, and it was clear that his lyrics tended toward autobiographical. "It was just the way that I was feeling at that point in time," Hutchison told me in 2010, describing how he wrote lyrics for the band's album "The Winter of Mixed Drinks." "There's a little bit more of a positive edge to the album this time, but then, saying that, I can't ever feel like everything's fantastic all the time."
With songs about romantic disaster, the difficulty of letting go, the sometimes excruciating task of picking yourself back up after a nasty emotional fall, and the flashes of pure elation that life occasionally delivers, Hutchison's songs had the effect of speaking for those of us who felt the same way and didn't have his eloquence for expressing it. That was especially true in concert. The band's live shows were something like group catharses, with Hutchison and the audience finding communion in shaking off bruised emotions with soaring, sing-along choruses.
The first time I saw them, at SXSW in 2010, was transformative: in a room full of beery Scots, Frightened Rabbit gave voice to what Hutchison later described as a certain Scottish temperament. "There’s definitely a Scottish habit of pairing misery and slight depression with humor," he told me in 2013 for Diffuser.fm. "At the core of what we do is folk music. Of course, we extrapolate and expand it out to different forms, but if you take it back down to its roots and its core, it’s folk music, and that’s very Scottish. So I think the Scottish-ness of our band is important but also unshakable. It’s not something we have a choice in: We’re all Scottish, and we are all a mixture of misery or humor. It’s a classic combination in this country."
I've sometimes been surprised by the deaths of musicians (Bowie, Prince), and I've sometimes been moved (Amy Winehouse, Johnny Cash, Sharon Jones). But this one, well, this one hurts. It's worth a reminder that help is available: the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.