Cheerful songs

She took her time with tuning between songs, and she praised our patience. See, she had brand new strings, and they’re always worth it. A moderate crowd had gathered in that acoustically ideal room; I sat in the front, to the left side of the stage. This is where I feel a little frustrated, because I’m just getting to know Meg Hutchinson’s music, and I am unfamiliar with the songs. I wish she had given us her set list. I know I’m going to miss something. She has a cutting, exposed voice that doesn’t rollercoaster or loop-dee-loop. It’s comforting. She took the most time tuning before singing “Seeing Stars” and she introduced her new album from which that song comes. I understand why it’s definitely a radio release. 

She told a story of an interview and performance at a Boston radio station she frequents. Before she went on the air, they gave her a “language agreement” to inform her of words she couldn’t say. The name of her new album is Come Up Full. And she gave the production assistant a blushingly hard time when she asked him if she could send the name of her album through the airwaves, because the first word? Is not allowed. I don’t need to explain why. She said people on the internet might want to look up her album and find something unexpected, or those looking up other things might come across her album, which she acknowledged wouldn’t be such a bad thing. 

She connected well with the audience. Someone yelled out “Go Simon’s Rock!” It’s a small college of about 350 students in western Massachusetts where her dad taught – she basically grew up there. She did sing “Come Up Full” which is a song about a lobster boat.  (Of course, not “just” a lobster boat.) The reason I say she has a cutting voice has a lot to do with her songwriting. Her lyrics demand her voice to sing them. I think she would be a challenge to cover. If you’re wondering, she sounds terrific live, and I tend to expect that especially from acoustic artists. 

She sang “Ready” and that line about the trolley lurching brought to my mind the everyday subway experience, and all these feelings and questions about my own readiness settled upon my consciousness. I know she sang “Climbing Mountains.” She probably also sang “I’d Like To Know” and “Whole Bird.” When I listen to music for the first time, I pay more attention to the music than the words. The quality of her voice and its undulations were purely transfixing. I loved it, but it didn’t help me to listen better to the words. I caught a few lines here and there, but I knew I’d eventually have to study her songs. I was lucky she told us what some of the songs were about.

She refers to her songs as “cheerful” in a perfect deadpan. She sang a single, “True North” which she admitted she tries to sing as far away from her parents as possible, so they won’t be mortified. The song is about her parents’ divorce. This was the penultimate song; it’s a must-have. Then she introduced the last song, just as cheerful, and since we covered divorce, we’d move onto manic depression. She described “Home” as the singalong song of the album, which may or may not imply something about her listeners. I really liked this last song, and I wished it wasn’t the last song.

Hey, Meg.
(looks up from packing up her guitar)
How much are your CDs?
Fifteen dollars.

A few minutes later, Meg’s in the back, setting up her CDs and mailing list.
Do you have change?
Yes.
I’ll take the newer one.
Oh. You also get a sample CD. It’s quite good.
Thanks. … A friend of mine found you through satellite radio. She suggested you and … (getting flustered) I’m really glad you made it down here.
I’m glad you came. 
Thanks. Take care.
Thanks. Nice t-shirt. 
I got it in Austin (knowing full well she was at SXSW the month before; it’s the light blue tee with the smiling goldfish on the front).
I was just there, for South by Southwest. That was crazy.
I missed it by a few weeks.
1700 shows in four days.
Whoa. That is quite crazy. … Thanks again. Keep it up!
Thanks.

We totally hung out. Had a conversation. Man, I felt a little dorky and cool at the same time. Thanks for the heads up, Sarah.

2 thoughts on “Cheerful songs

  1. Awesome, awesome, awesome! I was hoping you’d get to chat with her, the Living Room is so intimate. I’m glad you enjoyed it and picked up the cd. Her songs have an honesty to them, and a lot of hope. I wish she had been there a few weeks sooner, or that I had been there a few weeks later!

  2. It’s unbelievable, someone who’s only 29 conveying that much power in her songs.

    You nailed it with the honesty and the hope.

    We’ll have to get the timing right next time. 😉

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