Christian Lee Hutson spends at least half of each year on the road performing concerts all around the United States. That doesn’t leave him a lot of time to write songs. So, a few years ago, he began using the idle hours of travel by himself as a kind of workshop. The results—many of them, at least—can be heard on his new album, Yeah Okay, I Know.
“I wrote almost everything in the car while I was driving to whatever the next show was," Huston says. "Typically, I’ll write while I’m driving—lyrics and stuff—and then whenever I get to where I’m staying, I’ll work on the music.”
He also used the road as a place to workshop the songs as they came into being.
“I have, like, zero patience," Huston says. "I can’t hold onto something. In fact, I would play something that was not even finished and play half a song but ended up being a full song later because I get really excited when there’s new material. And I think that that’s the best time to hear that material—right when it’s fresh—because you can still feel everything that it’s dealing with emotionally.”
Most of the album is reflective and meditative, dark. But the song that it opens with, “One, Two, Three,” is bright and hopeful.
“There was a lack of romance in my life—or, I was realizing at the time—because I spend so much time gone and away from people that there’s no time for anything to grow," Huston says. "So it’s sort of like this wishful thinking.
“In fact, I wrote a response to that song on the same record that negates everything that I said in that song, which is ‘I Do Mean Well.’
“I felt like ‘One, Two, Three’ was making promises that I knew I probably couldn’t keep. And, so I felt like I had to write another one that was, like, ‘Well, I’m not going to keep that promise. Not because I don’t want to.’”
Hutson’s mastery as a songwriter comes to the fore on the song “No Apologies, Please.”
With ‘No Apologies, Please,’ there’s the great line, ‘I know no one’s a catch at 22,’ it’s such a wonderful take on an existing phrase and then spinning it. Was that a hard line to fine or did that come to you pretty easily?
“I didn’t realize even how clever it was until much later because it came real easily,” Huston says.
“That whole song came in a half hour. I was in Nashville—where I lived at the time—and it was freezing cold. I was sitting on the porch of my house, watching this storm slowly come over the house and the house and this tin roof and I couldn’t wait for the rain to start on it cause I love the sound of that.
“I was just chain smoking cigarettes, waiting for it to happen, and that song came in the half hour while I waited for the storm to come. I didn’t even think about any of it until after the fact.”
Christian Lee Hutson’s latest release, Yeah Okay, I Know is out now. He performs on Thursday evening at Lucky’s Everyday.