Caleb Lee Hutchinson
There’s a special song on Caleb Lee Hutchinson’s new EP – a swampy blast of stone-cold country titled “Who I Am” – and it sums up a simple truth that didn’t come easy for the rising star.
“All I can be is something real,” the young Georgia-native sings, in his acclaimed baritone booming larger than life and wise beyond its years. And to him, that realization changes everything.
Produced by Grammy-nominated Americana talent Brent Cobb, that first instinct comes through loud and clear on Hutchinson’s new EP – but if you’ve been listening closely, it was always there. In 2019, his self-titled debut featured flashes of a connection to the timeless of country music. But at 19 years old, he was in more of an experimental place, still searching for the identity hidden inside … and toying with everything from Tom Petty-style rock to covers of hip hop hitmaker Post Malone.
Now 22 and recording only songs he wrote or co-wrote, Hutchinson knows better.
“I think country is cool when you embrace the fact that it’s country. All these songs came from two years of writing, and with time and experience, Im beginning to learn more about who I want it to be – and especially who I don’t want it to be. This feels like the most personal batch of music I’ve ever released.”
“I’m a noise maker by trade, and that’s the thing,” he says of the set’s rough hewn, roadhouse-roots feel. “I love older records and their imperfections. I wanted the music to be groovy, country, and a little swampy…All the stuff I love and find exciting.”
“Love You Tonight” stands tall, moving proudly against the grain and wearing it’s out-of-touch nature like a badge of honor. “I’m the kind of man, most don’t understand / But darlin’ I could love you tonight,” Hutchinson sings, delivering the line with a hint of his signature mischief.
Written with Grammy-nominated, bluegrass phenom Trey Hensley, “I Must Be Right,” features flashes of Jerry Reed for a honky tonk breakup jam with a good-riddance kiss off. “Whatcha Got” name checks George Jones and taps into The Possum’s penchant for emotional devastation. The title track, “Slot Machine Syndrome,” finds Hutchinson delivering a woozy, grief-stricken ballad – a cautionary-tale of demons battled by country stars and regular Joes alike.
But its opening track “Who I Am” that sets the tone for the new batch of tunes with a heart-on-his-sleeve anthem that traces Hutchinson’s evolution as a public figure. Over the last few years, many have made assumptions about his talent – or even his intention, he says.
“I was at a point in my life where I felt overwhelmed,” Hutchinson explains. “I felt like everybody had these different versions of me and what I should be – or that I was too young to be in the position I was in. But I always felt like I had a clear vision of who I was.
The first verse ends with ‘They doubt my authenticity / Just because they seen me on TV,’ and it was very cathartic to write down,” he continues. “It’s become a very important song to me. … Haters are my motivators.”
The track now helps mark the beginning of a bold new chapter for Caleb Lee Hutchinson – one where he is finally the author of his own story. And while listeners can either take it or leave it. The rising star knows where he stands. And that’s all that matters.
“My hope is that people gain a better understanding of who I am as a person and an artist – and they have full permission to love it or hate it,” he says. “I want to be known for exactly who I am.”
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