After Scott Hutchison, mastermind and frontman of Scottish band Frightened Rabbit tragically took his own life in 2018, mental health charity Tiny Changes was founded by his brother (and bandmate) Grant and his family in his memory.
This weekend (20th-21st June), Tiny Changes will be hosting a series of live-streamed Tiny Gigs performances from the likes of Tim Burgess, Matt Maltese and The Staves, alongside many other acts and talks. As well as being a whole lot of fun, it aims to both fundraise and highlight the important work Children and Young Person charities in Scotland are undertaking right now.
Ahead of the event, we called up Grant to talk about the live-stream, the charity work Tiny Changes is doing and the legacy of Scott Hutchison and Frightened Rabbit.
Hey Grant, could you tell us about the idea behind this weekend’s Tiny Changes live-stream event?
I’ve watched a few streams and really enjoyed seeing the performance, but also it felt like a good way to connect with other people as well, and have some sense of togetherness. When people are distanced, and we’re all pretty isolated obviously, live music is one of the things that’s going to suffer the most. People are talking a lot about hospitality being last to reopen, but realistically, live music and live arts are going to be even further off because of the numbers and proximity, it’s almost impossible to control. So for the same reason, people want to put on real festivals, bring people together and have a great line-up that people can go to one place and see.
How did you go about curating the line-up?
We were very keen to have it feel as diverse and as varied as possible, and also the great thing about festivals, giving smaller acts an opportunity to be on the same line-up as Frank Turner, Tim Burgess or Bill-Ryder Jones. I remember that you know, when we first started, being on the same stage as LCD Soundsystem or Blur even. So we thought that was important to make it as interesting as possible, but also you know have some well-known acts so that people tune in and get as many people on board as possible, because obviously, we’ve got a message alongside it.
Not having that face to face interaction, that’s such a huge part of a live show and especially for a frontperson. That was the case with Scott; if he was still here and trying to do live-streams, it’s something that he would probably find difficult because you feed off the energy and feed off people shouting at you, heckling you. So watching someone like Frank [Turner], he’s managing to still keep that connection which is amazing.
Could you give us a bit of background on the Tiny Changes charity and the work you do?
Two years ago, my brother Scott took his own life. He and I played in Frightened Rabbit together for 15 years. My family and I felt that shortly after something needed to be done about this. Someone like Scott was in a position that a lot of people would… do anything to be in. And having a seemingly good and prosperous life, that he would still make this decision… We had an amazing amount of support and offers of help and condolences and sympathies. And one thing that we felt was what happens to families who don’t have the profiles of Scott? The backing of hundreds or thousands of fans around the world to kind of rally around them. This happens to people daily, you know and what about those families who don’t have that network to tap into?
So, we felt that starting a charity would be something positive we can do, out of the tragedy of losing Scott. Pretty quickly, we decided to focus on children and young people, in reference to Scott’s mental health. He had mental health issues from a young age, and at the time, my parents and teachers maybe wouldn’t have recognised that and thought it was down to his personality or just being a quiet boy. Or maybe that it was something that he would grow out of. So something that mum was quite passionate about supporting and trying to change was how we approach and how we deal with mental health issues in children and young people. It’s been a year since we set up the charity, and we’re just now arriving at the point of being able to give out some money. It feels like it’s been a long process, in terms of setting up what’s essentially a small business. But we’ve been taking a lot of donations, done a lot of fundraising and now we’re getting into the action, funding various bits and pieces.
What are some of the projects you’ll be supporting?
We just launched an emergency relief fund connected to COVID-19. That came along as a surprise to us as much as it did with everyone. But we felt that we couldn’t really stand back and watch organisations suffer because of it. So we set up a fund for that, and we’re going to fund 23 different organisations. And they go across a really wide array of projects, we’ve got a couple of theatre groups, we’ve got Intercultural Youth Scotland who work with young people of colour. We’ve got NSPCC, who are a big children’s charity. The great thing about being able to fund [NSPCC] is that they’re set up and have got things in place to implement action now. But much like everyone else, they’ve still had fundraising problems with coronavirus. Everyone has, even your big charities. We funded a couple of bigger projects because we feel like they can get to work now.
So it’s a good mix of some smaller community initiatives and some bigger charities that we’ll be announcing next week. Towards the end of this month, we’ll be launching our small grants programme which was meant to be our first programme for funding. Obviously, the emergency one came in before. So that would be more general applications rather than things are specific to COVID-19. I mean, that’s hard because I guess almost everything will be now heavily affected by that. But with these small grants we’d also like to hear new ideas from people, hopefully from young people as well as to what they think, to help with a more long term preventative [strategy], so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the applications
Obviously taking into account the disruption caused by the pandemic, what are the charity’s plans for the next 12 months?
We’ll get that funding and then, you know, we were quite keen to be not too ‘hands-on’ in terms of micromanaging projects, but certainly being there to support them. And just continuing with help and support alongside the funding, people that might need it or want it. We have had a lot of fundraising plans and ideas that now might have to change.
That’s the nature of the charity; that social interaction is a massive part of it. And that’s obviously going to be difficult, or it’s at least going to be different. Again, music from my involvement in it would be a big part of it too, and that might now need to be something that we rethink as well. So we’re definitely gonna have to sit down and have a rethink over the next 12 months.
Did your experience in Frightened Rabbit managing a band help prepare you for the challenges of setting up a charity?
Charities are very different. The differences being the sort of scrutiny that they’re under compared to any other business, which is obviously justified and right. With so much for the band, you’re just kind of winging it and see how it goes. You can’t really do that with a charity; they don’t let you do that. So that experience [of being in a band] helped but it’s been a steep learning curve. I think one thing that we maybe didn’t appreciate was, it being such a personal project, but at the same time, it is a business. A company in the marketplace of that industry is the same as any other. You’ve got your competitors, you’ve got the same customer base as other charities, and you’ve got to think about how you can reach them, how you can convince people to donate to you over other established charities. And that becomes quite hard to get your head around when you’re so close to it, when it’s around the death of someone that you love. You have to take yourself out of it sometimes and understand why that [how you feel] is not as important to someone who you’re asking for £20 from as it is to you. And it can be quite hurtful. As a family, it’s been a hard slog at times. And again, like you do with any other business and the band, you’ve got people pulling in all directions and you’ve all got the same common goal, but how do you get there?
It has been difficult, but we’re kind of slowly building it to a point where we’re handing pieces over. And again, that’s that for my experience with the band came in, you get to from the point where you do all yourself or you just don’t do some of it. And then the bigger it gets you can go okay, we can outsource this to them and then we can definitely get to the point where you can just concentrate on being the band. And I think we’re hoping to get to a point where again, we are just the family, and our involvement in the charity is less about board meetings and structural organisational of the charity. Where we can kind of just be more faces of it and continue the legacy of Scott and the story that is attached to that, the message that he left with us. And we can have other people on email and other people approving payments and all these things that take time, and it’s not really our expertise. But we’ll get there because the support is incredible, and it’ll continue. Unfortunately, the focus of children and young people doesn’t have enough funding and doesn’t have enough support.
Given the lack of face-to-face interactions at schools and disruptions to exams, it must be more stressful than ever for young people.
School is hard enough for some kids and then on top of that, as you said, you’ve got these scenarios that are just completely alien. And it’s even hard for parents to kind of understand that at the moment as well. It just must be so confusing for children right now. And that was why it became so important to get some money out there. And what does the future look like? School in Scotland at the moment is going back after summer so, not going back until after the holidays. But that’s not going to be a normal school day still, and it’s going to be a completely new way of living and learning for the time being and possibly forever. Stress and pressure on a young mind is incredible. Going into high school, secondary school we’re going through so many changes personally, mentally, biologically, and now you don’t have the support of your friends. Even thinking about people in relationships in high school. Now look back in high school, your first girlfriend, you know that relationship. When you thought you were in love, you might look back at that and think you were silly, but in the moment that’s incredibly intense and important. And that just gets taken away from [kids]. We’re yet to see the real impact of this on the generation of young people who are living through it.
Some children map out their whole lives based on what they’re going through school and exam results and to have that suddenly taken away from you. It must be so difficult and these kind of transitional periods in the children and young person’s life which we know, already are key times like going from nursery school, primary school to secondary, secondary, whether it’s university, college or a job. All these moments are kind of flashpoints, and mental health and wellbeing has a real strain put on it, and if you’re in that moment, you’re in that transitional moment right now, what does it look like?
You’ve mentioned recently that there some Frightened Rabbit songs you’d been working on with Scott that haven’t been released. Will these songs be getting a proper release?
We do want it to see the light of day, they’ve been worked on to the stage of a demo. So had we gone beyond that to the point we had some ready to release then I think they would have been out by now.
But they’re at the stage where the next phase would have been for us to really delve into them and pick them apart and work on getting them from the demo point to a song. That’s quite a crucial and probably the most important part in the process. And I think up until up until now, really none of us have felt ready to go back to the songs and do that with them. But we have spoken about it recently I feel like we definitely want to release them because they exist. And you know, they exist digitally so someone will probably leak them at some point. We feel that they should get out there and that we should be in control of that. We definitely have to do it. We had to give ourselves time personally to make sense of what happened and figure out what we’re going to do with our lives.
Now we’re probably in a better position to go back to them and, and have a look at them and work on them. That will happen, it’s just there’s no time scale on it, but now we feel we can at least listen to the tracks and start feeling them out.
And essentially we had a list than Scott actually posted online on the FR Instagram, so anyone can see it, with three columns of demos that say ‘Yes’, ‘Maybe’ or ‘No’. So that’s a kind of incredible thing to have. To know what he felt, we can straight away go “right we’re not touching those ones in the ‘No’ pile because he might have gone back at some point and got them up to a ‘Yes’, but we’re certainly not in a position to do that”. We’ve got a body of songs that we know how he felt about them. Which is good because this is gonna be a lot of pressure. Frightened Rabbit was, is and always will be Scott.
We’ve got a good idea from [Scott] and from how we feel about them all, which ones we can carry on. There will be new music, but it’s just about timing and all of us being in the right headspace.
Last year you released a covers version of ‘Midnight Organ Fight’, will there be any performances of Frightened Rabbit songs over the weekend?
Frank Turner is going to play a Frightened Rabbit set. He said that straight away after I asked him about it. He always played a [Frightened Rabbit] song in his set anyway, ‘The Modern Leper’. And after Scott died, all the music during the changeover and in between bands at his gigs was Frightened Rabbit. You know, he’s a big fan and a friend of Scott’s as well, so he was keen to do that.
After Scott died, it was incredible to see how many people played songs and spoke about him and in a way that… he never really realised the impact that he had on people, and on a lot of other musicians lives until you see something like that.
Even being in the band, I’d hear demos, and they were far more fully formed certainly in his head anyway. I could hear some of them as a fan, and when we finally got to the point of singing and putting down full lyrics, I was blown away by so much of it. And I still don’t think many people can come close to Scott who are around at the moment in terms of his lyrics. We always found that musicians and people in certain bands were aware of us. When we toured with the National, toured with Death Cab, toured with Biffy, the requests for us to do that came from the bands. That wasn’t the sort of agent or management or label setup, that was the band going ‘Maybe we want Frightened Rabbit to do it’. That’s pretty incredible. Praise like that makes you feel like ‘okay we did something right’. It would have been nicer to get more fans, but… [Grant laughs to himself]. It’s always amazing to know that musicians were listening to us and appreciated what we did.
Why should people tune in over the weekend, and is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about the stream or the charity?
I’m sure a few people will be missing out on festivals this summer and gigs in general. On top of the great line-up, it’s something fun and different. Something that we’re trying to do to bring people together. When you can’t do that in person, we just want people to share their music and their experiences with as many people as possible.
Over the weekend, it’s pay-what-you-feel or what-you-can to attend, there isn’t a fee, but we’re encouraging people if they want and if they can to donate. But if you can’t, that’s absolutely fine. Like I said, the main goal and mission is to bring people together to share music in a way that we’re currently not able to.
For more information on Tiny Changes, visit tinychanges.com. Tiny Gigs will take place via Facebook Live at facebook.com/TinyChanges. Pay What You Can at justgiving.com/tinychangessco.
For mental health resources, visit mentalhealth.gov.
Words: Dillon Eastoe