Guest article by Lauren Lyman
One of the most engaging qualities of Austin’s live music is its authenticity. It is real, captivating and sends a message that this is a town with heart.
Cari Hutson and Good Company delivers that sincerity through hard, blues rock with a contemporary flair. This unabashedly raucous group performs every Monday at Strange Brew Lounge Side, and once a month at Saxon Pub–both award-winning listening rooms.
Hutson’s self-titled album was released in 2011, and the band is going to be working on their next album in the near future. She admits being a musician in Austin has been a great experience for her and her bands, and is grateful for the opportunities. “[Austin has] always been very good to me,” Hutson shared. “I have always been fortunate enough to play in reputable clubs. While it’s definitely a business, it feels like family.”
Cari Hutson’s Background
Hutson grew up in southern California as the daughter of a Marine Corps colonel. During her sophomore year in high school, she and her family moved to Slidell, Louisiana. Since junior high school, she was originally into dance and theatre, once casted as the good witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” When she moved to Slidell, her perspective on music changed.
“That was when I first saw live music,” Hutson recalled. “I say ‘saw’ instead of ‘heard’ because as a young kid, I heard the radio. That’s all I heard in California. These were little, small jazz and rock clubs. You could almost feel their sweat coming off the stage, and I thought ‘oh, this is live music.'”
It was not until she attended Texas State University (at that time, Southwest Texas State) that she began to sing in public more often, starting with parties. She joined her first band, Remedy, and they played for a couple years. Soon after that, Hutson joined an eight- to nine-piece ensemble called Blu Funk Junction.
“That’s kind of when I first started listening to Janis Joplin and heard her scream and wail, and decided I need to try that, and we did her song ‘Try,'” Hutson said. “The minute I got a taste of being on stage in that capacity and realizing that I could affect people in a way–it was so positive and energized.”
From Austin Gigs to “One Night With Janis Joplin”
Hutson’s band was gigging at former Austin staples such as Steamboat, Black Cat Lounge, Momos and Jovitas. In these formative years, she had her first experience at Saxon Pub, and a forthright awakening from the sound engineer:
“He had these guards on the microphones, and I’m just young and full of all kinds of ego and stupidity,” Hutson explained. “I just ripped that thing off and threw it on the ground because it was annoying my face. He came up and put it right back on my microphone in the middle of my song. At the same time, I felt so thrilled to be on that stage because I knew that meant I was going somewhere, and I was doing something right.”
Saxon Pub is home to many inspirational songwriters and quality music; the regulars have the most hilarious stories; and the owner, Joe Ables, has definitely taken care of them all. “He really does support musicians in this town and his employees at his bar,” Huston said of Ables. “It’s just a joy to be there.”
For a period of time, Hutson was performing under her name alone. In 2012, she added “and Good Company” to the band title. Suddenly, one year later, she and husband/guitarist Hunter St. Marie, were offered positions in the Broadway musical “One Night With Janis Joplin.” Hutson was a Joplinaire and the understudy to Joplin lead Kacee Clanton. She and St. Marie went on tour with this San Jose Rep/Zach Theatre co-production, an opportunity she holds dear to her heart. Indeed, Hutson has been profoundly influenced by Janis Joplin’s force and spirit. “She sang to people’s souls, not just their ears, ” Hutson said.
Upon her return from tour, Hutson got back into the Austin grind. While the Lounge Side of Strange Brew was in its infancy (now holder of eight Austin Music Awards, including Best Sounding Music Venue), Hutson got invited to play an acoustic set. The owner, Scott Ward, happened to be listening. As she was looking for work, Ward offered Hutson a bartender job at Lounge Side. She maintains a small bartending job at Saxon Pub, as well.
Authenticity in Austin
Following performances of “One Night With Janis Joplin,” Hutson says Joplin fans came up to her, hugged her and told her how the show made them feel. Cari Hutson has the same impact when she sings to Austin audiences, and she delivers with nothing short of one hundred percent.
She is now expecting a child, and finds that she has more to give to the audience, with the joys of being a mother. She sets an example for all musicians to keep moving forward with life and keep being true to oneself.
“Know who you are and keep people around you that know who you are,” Hutson remarked. “If you’re really going after your dream, and you have that conviction, and if you have your heart in it and your convictions in it, it’s going to sell to somebody.”
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you seen Cari Hutson perform live?
Lauren Lyman is a freelance writer, flutist and singer. She is a graduate of Texas State University, where she attained a Master of Music in music history. She wrote her master’s thesis on the sisters of Heart, as well as Fiona Apple, Madonna and Janis Joplin.