TW: References to suicide.
After years of openly battling mental illness, Scott Hutchison, lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Owl John, and Mastersystem, died by suicide last week. He was 36 years old.
Scott’s instantly recognizable voice, candid and witty lyricism, and expertly crafted songs were often bleak, chronicling his own struggles with mental illness, self-doubt, and romantic mishaps. But they were also triumphant, soaring works of strength that built to crescendos of hope, persistence, and a light at the end of every dark tunnel. If you believe music can save lives, you’d be hard pressed to find another songwriter in this world who’s saved more than Scott Hutchison.
If you were lucky enough to see Scott perform, you know firsthand the power of his work. His good nature and humor were abundantly clear on stage, as laughing and crying at a Frightened Rabbit show, often at the same time, was a pretty typical experience. Going to a Frightened Rabbit concert meant screaming along with hundreds, maybe thousands of people to the music you usually listened to by yourself in your lowest moments. It meant looking around at the sweaty, gleaming faces of the people beside you, peering up at Scott as he screamed those magnificent lyrics, and realizing that you weren’t alone. Other people felt exactly how you felt. During the encore of a Frightened Rabbit show, it was easy to believe you’d never feel alone again.
Scott’s music, whether it was Frightened Rabbit, Owl John, or Mastersystem, always did that. It made you feel better because someone out there just totally 100 percent got it. Again and again Scott found words to describe the kind of darkness that felt vast and untouchable. He turned his pain into something tangible, something real, and in doing so, he made his listeners’ pain feel manageable, too. Scott’s music was heartbreaking, desperate, and way too close to home at times, but it was also absolute catharsis. It was healing.
Prior to Scott’s death, Frightened Rabbit wrapped up a 10th anniversary tour of their transcendent album Midnight Organ Fight. Earlier this year, Scott released Dance Music with Mastersystem. In June, Frightened Rabbit is scheduled to headline their first festival, The First Incident. All of this is to say that Scott was busy. His music continued to reach audiences. He was actively creating and working and touring, and still, depression affected him so profoundly that he took his own life. Mental illness can take hold at any time. It doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care where you live or how successful you are or what you’re doing with your time.
Scott made a career of turning wretched, unbearable pain into beautiful art that brought people together, that healed them, and yes, that saved lives. He also killed himself. His death doesn’t invalidate the music that he made. It doesn’t tarnish the message of his most beloved songs. Instead, it reminds us just how much we need art like this, art that tackles the darkness head on, looks it right in its rearing ugly face, and inspires us to push through.
Listen to a Frightened Rabbit song today. Hug someone you love. Please, please seek help if you need it. Pay attention when those close to you are struggling. Ask them what you can do. Put as much good into this hard world as you possibly can.
I’m thinking about Scott’s family today. I’m thinking about the way Scott turned his pain into art that made people feel better, and the way that his music will continue to heal people, even though he’s gone. I’m thinking about that light at the end of the tunnel.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the US is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123.
Words: Schyler Martin