“And fully clothed, I float away / Down the Forth, into the sea / I think I’ll save suicide for another day.”
Those lyrics from “Floating in the Forth” have haunted Frightened Rabbit fans like me since it was reported earlier this week that lead singer Scott Hutchison was missing and that “particular focus [was] being given to the South Queensferry area, Forth Road Bridge and Fife.” Hutchison’s body was found by police late Thursday night at the Port Edgar marina, between the Forth Road Bridge and Queensferry Crossing near South Queensferry, in his native Scotland.
The song from, 2008’s The Midnight Organ Fight, continues:
And I picture this corpse
On the M8 hearse
And I half run away to sleep
On a rolled up coat
Against the window
With the strobe of the sun
And the life I’ve led
Am I ready to leap
Is there a peace beneath
The roar of the Forth road bridge?
On the Northern side
There’s a Fife of mine
And a boat in the port for me.
Like Elliott Smith, the Scottish singer/songwriter had long struggled with depression and was transparent with those struggles in his songs. In 2013, upon the release of the band’s fourth album, Pedestrian Verse, I talked to Hutchison for Paste’s Frightened Rabbit cover story. I wrote: “Listening to devastating songs like ‘Nitrous Gas’ and ‘December’s Traditions’ might have some listeners worried about Hutchison’s well-being, but it’s almost as though putting the sadness into his songs serves as a release valve. And sharing them with others turns those emotions completely on their heads.”
“‘Nitrous Gas’ in itself is bit of a joke,” he said. “It’s almost like getting so miserable that it’s fucking funny. I’ve never found it difficult to play a song live. I’ve never found it hard to retread that. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s kind of a wonderful thing that I’m able to continue processing. And then it’s also achieved something very positive about something quite negative. One of the things I really love about being in this band and playing live is that the live experience never feels depressing or morose. It can be quite a celebration, and there’s a lovely feeling amongst the audience that everyone’s letting go and releasing something in the same way that I release something within the lyrics and writing the songs in the first place.”
I first met Hutchison when the band played Paste’s party at SXSW in 2010. In person, he was warm, funny and self-deprecating—a trait that also came through in his songs, where his faults were routinely laid bare, and on social media, where he once tweeted that he was “not a particularly good person.” I was so taken with the band live and so charmed by Hutchison that they were the only band I caught multiple times in Austin. They stopped by the Paste offices the next year for another performance:
His openness about his own depression was a help for countless fans to process their own struggles. If his lyrics would sometimes romanticize the peace beneath the roar of the Forth Road Bridge or swimming until you can’t see land, his honesty could also show listeners they weren’t alone. His sad songs weren’t just a release valve for him but for others fighting that same demon. Sometimes he would even send encouraging notes to fans dealing with depression.
Hutchison’s catalog included a big share of love songs, but they never sugarcoated how difficult relationships could be or how hard it could be to keep the loneliness at bay. The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit’s breakout album, was also something of a break-up album, with Hutchison displaying all his freshest wounds. “It takes more than fucking someone you don’t know to keep warm,” he sang in “Keep Yourself Warm.” “Do you really think now for a house beat / You’ll find your love in a hole?”
Hutchison found joy in performing, and the stage became a place to let go of the fears and anxiety that gripped so much of the rest of his life. It’s been 10 years since the release of Midnight Organ Fight and “Floating in the Forth”—at least a decade of keeping his demons at bay. His final tweets urged us all to hug our loved ones. Hug them. Encourage them to find the assistance they need. Depression takes too many good people. And Scott Hutchison was one of the best.