Get To Know: Jonathan Hutcherson [Exclusive Interview]

This promising newcomer just might have a breakout year in 2022... 

Written by Jeremy Chua
Get To Know: Jonathan Hutcherson [Exclusive Interview]
Jonathan Hutcherson; Photo credit: Matthew Berinato

Music has coursed through Jonathan Hutcherson’s veins since he was a kid. The oldest of four boys in his family, Hutcherson was raised in Wilmore, KY, a city with a humble population of 5,000. Picking up the singing bug in church, “Victory In Jesus” served as the first song he sang—in front of a congregation while directing the choir, no less. 

Unbeknownst to many, unlike most people in music, Hutcherson has lived with “moderate to severe hearing loss” since he was two. “I’ve learned how to deal with my hearing. It’s not what defines me, but it’s part of the unique story I get to tell,” reflects the now 22-year-old, who has been wearing hearing aids since. Instead of bemoaning the fact, the singer chose to embrace it in the steadfast pursuit of his life’s calling: music.

At the age of fifteen, fueled by his teeming passion for music, Hutcherson auditioned and eventually became a contestant on Season 10 of NBC’s The Voice. While the show rocketed him to national fame, he recalls being someone he wasn’t—a pop singer.

“When I got off the show, I realized, ‘That isn’t me.’ I think pop music, songwriting and melodies are an element of me and what I gravitate to, but it’s not [exactly] me,” shares Hutcherson. “I feel like I get to be more of myself and honest in the space of country music. I learned a lot from that show,” he adds, “I think I’m a little more country than I thought I was!”

Fast-forward to 2018, just a day after his final test in high school, Hutcherson drove and moved to Nashville and cemented his singer/songwriter aspirations. Just a year later, he signed with famed publishing company, Creative Nation. Since then, he’s shared writing rooms with hit songsmiths Heather Morgan, Josh Kerr, Mark Trussell, Josh Jenkins, and more.

Earlier in August of this year, after two years of honing in on his songwriting craft, Hutcherson released his debut EP. With this self-titled project, the up-and-comer is ready to share his heart after more than two years of working on original music. Chronicling his life over vibrant pop-country melodies and authentic country writing, the five-track set features the hit-ready autobiographical lead single, “Young,” the heart-wrenching ballad “Sky Without Stars,” and “Kentucky Blues,” an anthemic ode to his beloved home state.

Sounds Like Nashville takes pride in introducing fans to rising stars in the genre, and Hutcherson is undeniably one in the making.

Introducing the next promising country newcomer you have to “get to know”: Jonathan Hutcherson.

What was your life like growing up in Kentucky? 

I grew up in a small town called Wilmore in Jessamine County, KY. It’s a population of 5,000. Like I always say, it’s got two stoplights, a railroad track and a Dollar Tree. It’s small but it was super awesome. My parents met in a college where we grew up. It was an “everybody knew everybody” kind of place. My mom was a teacher until she had a bunch of us  [laughs] and my dad was a banker and remodeled houses [as well]. He would remodel our house growing up, so I was always living in a construction zone and we kids would be helping him. We had a fun time.

How did you get into music? 

My parents didn’t do music at all. My mom loved music, but she never sang or played any instruments. I guess I got into it just from church. From a young age, I always wanted to learn hymns and all that stuff. I was in a choir. The first hymn I learned to sing was when I was two and a half years old. I sang “Victory in Jesus” at church. My mom got us piano lessons when we were six or seven, so my parents always helped and pushed me. I did sports too, but I always loved music and gravitated toward it. 

Who would you cite as your biggest musical influence?

What got me into music was Rascal Flatts. The first song I ever sang was “God Bless the Broken Road,” and I fell in love with country music. I’m also obsessed with Michael Bublé, One Republic, Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake, and Dolly Parton. I listened to a lot of the older stuff like what my mom was listening to. I loved pop, but I also love country. For my music, I pull from a lot of R&B, gospel, and singer-songwriter stuff like Ed Sheeran. The older Keith Urban music and what he did is also what I draw from, especially with my sound. 

I know you did The Voice back in 2016 and you’ve grown a lot since both as a person and artist as well?

I was 15 when I auditioned and 16 on the show! I’m 22 now, so that was what, 6 or 7 years ago? I’ve definitely grown up. On the show, I was a kid and did pop songs. I auditioned with a One Direction song and an Ed Sheeran song. They were pushing me as a pop artist, which I thought [was me]. And when I got off the show, I realized, “That isn’t me.” I think pop music, songwriting and melodies are an element of me and what I gravitate to, but it’s not [exactly] me. I feel like I get to be more of myself and honest in the space of country music. I learned a lot from that show. I think I’m a little more country than I thought I was! [laughs]

The bio on your website reads that you “bolted straight to Nashville on February 1, 2018” after high school. Did you always have your sights set on Music City? 

Oh yeah! Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to move to Nashville. I got a tattoo of that day, February 1st, 2018, so I won’t forget it. [chuckles] But yeah, I’ve always had my sights on Nashville. It’s a music town and the dream place to go. It doesn’t get bigger than that for me. I was either going to college at Belmont (University) or I was going straight [to Nashville] and [hit the ground running]. 2018 was the year I graduated high school. I graduated early and as quickly as possible. I don’t know how my teachers let me do it because I was on The Voice for a year. I don’t know how I passed but they let me. I finished my last test online and moved to Nashville literally the next day, and walked on later that year with my class. I’ve always wanted to move here. I thought, “I’m going to move here, I’m going to give it my best shot. If it doesn’t work, we’ll figure something out.” I wanted to at least say I did it, you know? 

You inked your publishing and artist development deal with Creative Nation a year later in 2019, which is pretty amazing because that is something that hardly happens in this 10-year town. How did you first make your rounds in Nashville?

Getting a publishing deal was my goal when I moved here. I didn’t know how long it would take, but it ended up really quick. There’s a lot of things that I’d like to take credit for but I can’t because they were out of the blue cool things [that happened]. One time, I was singing at a little fundraiser in town and someone heard me there. He was a writer in town and invited me to write a song with him. And then he told my now-publisher, Beth Laird, about me. He said, “I just met this kid and you should know about him. Maybe he could call you and ask some questions?” So I called Beth months before I signed and asked a bunch of questions and told her what I’m doing. That was a cool avenue to meet them. 

You were offered a few other publishing deals before signing with Creative Nation, right? How did all of that happen?

One of my buddies, Josh Kerr, who I had wanted to write with for a long time, followed me back on Instagram and said he wanted to write with me. So I wrote a couple of songs with him, and he brought me up on stage one time at The Listening Room to sing with him. It did a lot for me and I started having songs of mine being passed around in town. That’s when I got several publishing offers which was crazy because it happened really, really quickly. I’ve always wanted to sign with Creative Nation but I never thought they’d offer me a deal. I thought they were too good for me! I love all of them- Barry Dean, Lori McKenna, and Luke Laird. I messaged [Creative Nation] one time and told them I have some other offers in case they thought of giving me a deal. Immediately, they set me up with [meetings] and said, “Well, let’s pursue this. We didn’t know it’d happen this quickly.” I talked to Beth just months ago, so she was thinking it would take much longer. It was just a quick turnaround and I wanted to be there at Creative Nation. After a little figuring that out and talking, I signed there. A lot of random things happen that you can’t control, but sometimes you gotta take them when they happen. It’s a blessing.

Let’s talk about your self-titled debut EP. What went into dreaming up this five-song set? Was there a vision or theme you had in mind?

I didn’t know at first what this EP was going to be about because I was just writing songs that were true and that I liked. But at the very end, when we put it all together, I guess it [did] have its own thing. It’s about heartbreak, your hometown, falling in love and being young. It’s everything I am right now. “Sky Without Stars” is about losing somebody, “Love Takes Time” is about what I think love is, and “Kentucky Blues” is about my hometown. There are elements of everything. I feel like it represents me as a person right now. There are different elements of me. Some songs are a little bluesy, some are ‘bluegrassy’ because I’m from Kentucky, and some are a little more poppy. It’s all very representative of who I am as an artist and different aspects of me.

Your debut single,“Young,” instantly sold me to your music. What made you go with that as your introductory song?

I just thought it was a good introduction to myself. I wrote it with Parker Welling and Jamie Moore. It felt like me- always going to be young at heart. I feel like I’m in that time of my life of being young and falling in love. “Cherry Coke and Sonic ice / Church parking lot, getting lost in your eyes”-  I could literally take you to my church and that Sonic parking lot where we all went. That song is an anthem for me. I think “young” is a perspective sometimes. You have to get older and it might be a challenge to stay young and be like a kid. But there’s a part of me that always wants to go back to that feeling of when I was growing up, staying young, staying out late, driving in our trucks and chasing girls. It was just fun young stuff and part of me always wants to have that in my heart.

You co-wrote your EP opener, “Love Takes Time” with Josh Jenkins. What’s the inspiration behind this one?

“Love Takes Time” is one of my favorite songs on the EP, if not my favorite. Josh Jenkins just wrote “Fancy Like” and “Buy Dirt”. He’s one of the best humans I know. I love him so much. He’s like a ‘song father’ to me, like a big brother. We share a similar belief and always have good conversations. We both love Jesus and talk about our faith in Him a lot when we write. I think we had talked about that that day. Sometimes we’d pray before our writes and thank God for where we’re at and what we get to do. I think that day, we prayed before our write and started writing our song after. One of us said “love takes time” and I said “time takes working it out all night.” We talked it out and I said, “I think we’re writing a song here!” So we stopped everything and wrote that in probably 30 minutes. It just fell from the sky and landed right there in the room that day. What “Love Takes Time” means to me is what I think love is. Anything good in life takes time. We think love is butterflies and rainbows and that feel-good feeling, which some of it is. But love is also about fighting too. When you choose someone, you stick it out to the end. Love is boring sometimes, it’s not always shiny, but love is trustworthy and kind. I see that example a lot in my family, my parents and my grandparents. Their love has always taken time. It’s not always pretty, they’re not the fanciest people in the world and it’s not all butterflies for them. But it was a choice. Love is more than a feel-good butterfly thing, and that’s what this song was for me.

“Sky Without Stars” is the emotional ballad on this EP. You co-wrote it with Heather Morgan and Gordie Sampson. What’s the story behind that one?

When I wrote it with them, I don’t think I had truly been through what the song talks about. I think it was more just putting myself in their shoes. I had been through heartbreak but not anything like what the song is about. I wrote this about three years ago and since then, I have been through what the song talks about. I remember getting mixes back of the song and just losing it because I was going through a breakup. I knew what the song meant to me. I knew what it’s about. A sky without stars just never makes sense. It’s a song about loving someone so much, losing them, and things not making sense anymore. You have to make all that doesn’t make sense, make sense. It’s like, “I don’t think I can live again,” but you have to and don’t have a choice. That’s what that song is to me. It’s about true heartbreak, losing someone in a relationship or even just losing someone who had passed. “Sky Without Stars” is special to me now because I feel like I almost didn’t write it. It was written for me because I’ve lived that song now.

You recently played an EP release show in Nashville and brought Heather up on stage to sing “Sky Without Stars” with you too, right?

Yeah! I had my debut Nashville showcase at The Back Corner a couple of weeks ago. I sang my whole EP setlist and invited friends, family and anyone who wanted to come to watch. “Speak of the Angel” is one of my favorite songs to sing because it’s a call and response thing. After that song, Heather got to come on stage and sing “Sky Without Stars” with me. She came up and murdered it, obviously. Heather’s one of my favorite co-writers, period. She’s so good! I’m obsessed with her. I wrote “Sky Without Stars” and “Kentucky Blues” with her and a lot more songs that you’re hopefully going to hear in the future. 

I know your faith is very important to you. Would you talk about the role it plays in your life?

My faith in God and Jesus and what Jesus did affects everything. Jesus changed my life when I was young. I grew up going to church and I quickly found a real relationship with God. He changed me in a lot of ways and molded me. It’s the grace that He gives me. I know I just can’t do it without Him. It says (in Jeremiah 29:11), “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I just know that God has plans for each and every one of us and for me. I’ve always trusted His plans. […] He changed my life and everything revolves around Him. I know I’m not perfect and don’t get it right all the time, but He really changed me and showed me a lot. Why I do music is to tell a story that’s true. “Love Takes Time,” is also a grace message of Jesus. I believe the greatest act of love ever shown was the lowest that you could get, which is Jesus on the cross. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). He didn’t come to the world to condemn the world. He came to save it. The most love ever shown was the lowest and worst. Jesus was beaten and crucified. And that’s my version of what love is—it’s not pretty, it’s a choice. My faith in Him is the most important thing to me and I’ll always stand by that and not apologize for it.

Looking ahead into the new year, do you have any career goals you hope to achieve?

Next year, my goal is to start playing shows and going out on the road to [do that]. That’s the goal. We don’t have anything lined up specifically but we’re working on it. I’m also figuring out whether I want to sign a record deal and if that’s something I want to do. We’ve started that conversation with places. So next year, my goal is to be on the road, have a record deal and have the back half of the album come out soon, hopefully. 2022 is more music and playing in front of people.

Lastly, what do you want new fans to know about Jonathan Hutcherson, both as a person and artist?

Wow, that’s a great question. I want my fans to feel like they can relate to me and really get who I am. I want to write songs that you listen to and go, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve lived that. I get what you’re saying.” I want my fans to feel like they can do life with me and understand me in a way that feels like them. I like to write music that feels authentic and relatable. I want people who listen to my music to feel like they’ve lived it, too.

Stream Jonathan Hutcherson’s self-titled debut EP below.