Fritz Hutchison is a multi-instrumentalist whose talent is well known in the Kansas City music scene. After playing in a variety of local bands for the last ten years, he released his first solo album Wide Wild Acres in March of last year.
A comforting mix of Americana, indie, pop, and jazz; the eight-track album has been described as feeling like Spring and freedom – things we’re all craving right now.
I hopped on zoom to talk with Fritz about his experience writing the album and putting it out during the pandemic. We talked about his inspirations, and what he was working on and listening to in 2020.
Madison: Hi Fritz, how’s your new year been so far?
Fritz: Fine haha. It’s good. Not ideal in a lot of ways, but definitely optimistic so far. I think things in general are taking a turn for the better in the world. I mean maybe we’re all just used to it being…
M: Really bad?
F: Haha yeah exactly.
M: I’m glad you’re feeling optimistic though. So, in March of 2020 you released your first album Wide Wild Acres. Can you tell me more about the backstory and how you decided to make the album?
F: Sure. All of the songs on that album are really old. I started recording it five years ago actually. I was in a band called She’s a Keeper for about six years and I was writing more songs than there was room for; so I just started stockpiling ones that I didn’t think were appropriate for that band or ones that I wanted to have more control over… Sort of ironically, being a full-time musician kept me from putting out my own record. When I met [my manager] Patrick, he heard the album and was enthusiastic about it, so we started working together.
M: To me the album felt sort of nostalgic because I grew up listening to some of the influences you cited on your website like Bruce Springsteen and 70’s singer-songwriters. That’s what my parents played in our house, so listening to it I was like “Oh this sounds like my childhood.”
What’s your creative process like? What do you do to write a song?
F: It’s very slow. I try to write a lot and most of the ideas are bad, but a lot of times there’s a little nugget of something good. “Schnatterling Dream” is a perfect example. That whole second verse was a different song… When I came up with that riff that kind of sounds like “Stacey’s Mom” I was like “This is more fun. This is a cooler riff.” So, I put the lyrics onto that.
That happens to me a lot. I save up all these scraps and it can take a while for them to come together… I also like to play different instruments. I’ll come up with a chord progression on a guitar and get kind of stuck and don’t know where to go with it. Then I’ll try it on piano instead and my hands will just do something different… So, I try to jump around on different instruments.
M: What was it like putting out an album right when the pandemic got really serious in Kansas?
F: It was incredibly frustrating. It was gonna be great… and I was supposed to go out on tour this summer. At the time it was just really, really frustrating but it turned out to be kind of okay. You know, ironically the thing I’ve always been the worst at with being a musician is the social media and self-promotion stuff and there’s nothing else to do now except be on Instagram. I’ve been making a lot of videos. It’s helped me be project focused.
M: I’m glad some good came out of it for you.
So, you’ve lived in Kansas City your whole life, and played a lot of different instruments in a lot of different bands. What is it about the KC music scene that’s keeping you there? What do you love about it?
F: I’ve never experienced really any gatekeeping. There are enough musicians that there’s a really wide variety of people who are very skilled at a lot of different kinds of music. You can go see an amazing salsa band or swing band or there’s really killer DJs here and noise artists. You can find anything on the traditional to freaky spectrum. The cool part about that though is there’s also not enough musicians that those genres are closed off from each other. So, everyone’s very open. There’s a necessity of collaboration that makes things really interesting.
M: Yeah definitely. I read in an interview with V13 that you’re feeling yourself being pulled toward more character studies with songwriting. I was wondering what led you there. Why is that something you’re interested in?
F: I think maybe I’m doing better personally. I’m not as bummed-out as I was haha. I have an easier time writing about sad things than joyful things, but you can only write about the same things so many times. Unless you’re Paul McCartney writing about love; then you have infinite bangers. But I don’t know, I just kind of got bored writing about being bummed out so I turned my gaze outward. In the new batch of songs I’ve been working on… there are a lot of songs inspired by certain friends and their families. I think missing people has a lot to do with it.
M: Can you tell me more about what’s coming next? Are you working on another full album right now?
F: I am working on another album. I’d like to put it out in the summer. That’s kind of my personal goal. I just spent the last week tracking it… My goal is to not finish it and sit on it for five years this time haha.
M: Now people are waiting! We heard your first album, and we want another.
F: Exactly. That whole time that I wasn’t putting out the first album I was still writing songs. So maybe I’ll trick some people into thinking I’m a prolific songwriter. So yeah, I’ve been working on that and I’ve just kind of been keeping a band together. Everybody in that band is incredible. Just such good musicianship all around so I feel very lucky.
Hutchison said the band is currently unnamed.
M: That’s great. For your more well-acquainted fans, what were you listening to in 2020 that we should also be listening to?
F: “Two Hands” by Big Thief. It’s a masterpiece. It’s been my favorite record of the last few years… Man, the vibe is so good, and you can tell they love each other a lot. You can just feel how tight knit they are. It’s a very patient record. There’s no ego on it. The jams are so quiet, and there’s a lot of trust and space in the air. It’s a really amazing album. Can’t recommend it enough.
M: Yes! I love Big Thief. Then for your new fans: what do you hope people feel when listening to your music?
F: Hmm. I was really happy that you said nostalgia. A lot of those songs are written from a nostalgic place. So that, and I think… I’m literally just trying to think of how Bruce Springsteen makes me feel. There’s always an element of struggle in his music, and as a singer who’s like not that great, listening to Bruce Springsteen be not that great but very powerful of a singer is something I relate to. I wrote some of the songs on Wide Wild Acres to be intentionally difficult for me to sing because I like hearing someone else struggle through the same things that I need to struggle through. And then lyrically, there’s some sadness, some missing people, some gratitude. I want people to feel comforted. If people can latch on to a sense of “that guy’s doing his best and so am I,” it’s sort of like a high-five. It’s a feeling of community and that we’re all just trying things out, combined with like “I remember my summers on the farm.”
You can read more about Fritz and buy Wide Wild Acres on his website.