Caleb Lee Hutchinson Interview

Our interview with Caleb started off like an awkward first date. “Caleb Lee Hutchinson. 20 years old. Dallas, GA. I’m a pisces. I like meat lovers pizza and rocky road ice cream. My favorite color is blue.” When I comment as such he agrees, joking “This is”.

While you may know him from a little show called American Idol, Hutchinson’s musical journey started years ago in a town called Dallas, Georgia. As a small child he remembers getting a karoake machine from Grandma. He’d put on a black cowboy hat, pop in some Johnny Cash, and sing along. It was around 7 or 8 years old when he made his first move, auditioning via the internet for a TV show. At age ten Caleb played his first show, picking up a guitar a year later. While other high schoolers were getting after school jobs, Caleb made whatever money he could picking up gigs at restaurants, bars, anywhere that would give him a chance. One day there was an advertisement on Facebook that Idol was coming and so this young musician thought what the heck he’d give it a shot. If the show didn’t work out, then he would go to school, try to make it playing music in the college circuit. Little did he know just how big an impact on his career that day would have. Not only did he make it through auditions and onto the show, but he placed 2nd in the 2018 Season.

Caleb tells us he’s not a real competitive person, which alleviated a lot of pressure on Idol. His goal wasn’t on winning, but on opening up doors to do what he loves. “Idol taught me to care less. Going into it I was very much worried about what people would think of me. It gave me a good crash course on taking criticism from the Internet.” Good lesson for anyone in the spotlight especially but anyone on social media period. He adds “I think people get too caught up in the competition. I don’t want to do what anybody else is doing. It doesn’t matter if someone else beats me in the race, it’s a different course.”

When asked the most rewarding part of the show, Hutchinson is quick to reply that it was the audition, which set him up for what he’s doing now. He confides that he had just lost a lot of weight and went into the audition super nervous, thinking nothing would happen. Looking back he realizes “It was a moment of personal growth. I forced myself to get out and do something.” Proving to himself he could do it was the most important thing, and he continued to do that week after week. Doing the show forced this then teenager to grow up in a quick period of time.

For Caleb it was weird having to do cover songs because he was so used to playing his own music. While he loved the songs he played on the show, they weren’t his signature style as an artist. A small town boy, returning to his hometown with a TV crew was surreal. While it was a huge honor seeing all the fans come out and support, it was a grueling experience in itself. By then Hutchinson was so burned out and exhausted all he wanted to do was crawl into his own bed and sleep. However for security reasons this wasn’t possible, and it was a very short visit with family.

Some people think the TV show is the perfect reflection of the artist. And while that is sometimes true, it’s not always the case. While Caleb Lee Hutchinson’s name being recognized from American Idol has opened some doors, it has also closed others. “So many people have a preconceived notion of what I want to do. And a lot of my music it’s like oh you’re doing this? This doesn’t sound like Josh Turner. All I can do is be me” he shares.

Hutchinson’s music influences may surprise you. Growing up on Classic Country (Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Johnny Paycheck), Americana (John Prime), and later Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childress, and Jason Isbull he isn’t your average reality TV star. Country Music isn’t his first choice, it just fits his songwriting. His style pulls from everything he grew up on. Although he just released an album more music is on the way and he couldn’t be more excited. We’re told they are more of a reflection of who he is, and how much he has grown.

Like everyone he gets songwriting ideas from his life, but also from movies, books, stories, etc. He has pages of song ideas on his phone to draw from as well. A tough critic of his own work, one of Caleb’s favorite songs is called “Workhorse”. Some of you may have heard it played out live at a show. If you haven’t stay tuned.

Moving to Nashville Caleb has had to adjust to city life. “It’s weird being in the middle of the city, but at the same time it’s a really cool experience getting to be out in my own in a new environment”. Though he goes back home to visit family as much as he can, it’s still a big change. He adds “It’s definitely motivating looking out your window and seeing thousands of people out there trying to do what your doing.”

While some people may have originally hopped onboard the fan train through Idol, many have become avid supporters of his original music. “That’s 1000% the best thing that’s come out of this whole Idol thing, getting to connect with people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise” Caleb remarks.
There are so many artists on the bucket list to play with, but Sturgill Simpson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Hank Jr. are top choices. Fun fact, just the other night he had the pleasure of meeting one of his idols, Tyler Childers backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. Caleb admits he was totally fanboying and embarrassed himself.

Caleb says he doesn’t have many fears, though he mentions looking over heights, drowning and wet koalas. While he may get nervous about what people think of the music he puts out, when he’s playing he’s in his comfort zone. Even if Caleb Lee Hutchinson hadn’t become a household name (Idol or otherwise), this young man wouldn’t be doing anything else. If that meant having to work a day job he didn’t like in order to pay his bills so be it. He’d be out playing gigs and writing music in his free time.

Performing is Caleb’s favorite thing, and playing at CMA Fest this past June was wild. It was the first time putting together a band and he loved getting to play with one of his friends from back home. “As I’ve been working and trying to build a musical portfolio and try to figure things out I haven’t really had a bunch of shows” he tells us. But that’s about to change, so definitely keep your eyes peeled for tour dates to be announced soon. While details haven’t been announced yet he did give us a little bit of a teaser. There will be a lot of Southeastern shows in September (Georgia, Alabama, Carolinas, TN). He is especially excited to play the North Georgia State Fair and perform for all the hometown friends, fans, and family.

Does he ever have doubts? Sure, who doesn’t. “I’ve had moments of uncertainty but it’s hard to get down when I look at how far I”ve come. I’m certainly undeserving of any of it. It helps that now there’s people that care about it.”

Hutchinson says he knows plenty of people who are fame driven, dependent upon how many likes and followers they have. “It’s an easy thing to get into and I”ve certainly been in that headspace before but it’s toxic. You can’t look at your whole life based off of that. I’m much more focused on doing something that I’m proud of.”

Caleb adds that if he ever got to where he hated this or wasn’t proud of what he was that would be the end. His main goal isn’t to get rich or be on the tabloids. The dream is to be able to support himself and make a living doing what he loves. Thank you Caleb for sitting down with us, we wish you the best of luck!