One thing that all musicians seem to know is that nothing is truly fixed. Every chord can be used in an infinite number of ways. Every chord progression can be warped and molded in an effort to sound unique. Even an entire melody can be flipped upside down as long as everything surrounding it has changed. But at the end of the day, it’s all the same. The same chords, the same progressions, and the same melodies. It takes the wonderful mind of the musician to turn it into something no one has ever heard before.
My favorite kind of ‘modulation’ is through a cover. But not just any. If I can tell exactly what song an artist is reproducing after two seconds (because they didn’t actually alter the arrangement to make it their own), I don’t want it. There has to be that surprise factor, where, by the lyrics or melody, you feel like you’ve heard it before but can’t quite put your finger on it. And then it hits you. And you’re impressed. For notable Los Angeles drummer and solo artist Dash Hutton, I experienced this exact satisfaction.
As his first single ever released, it’s quite uncommon to officially put out a cover in order to showcase his craft, especially when it’s meant to be an introduction to an upcoming EP. How can you get a taste of someone’s artistry if it’s not through their own song? Somehow, Hutton pulls this off, and I’m a little obsessed with it.
The track, “Thirteen” is taken from the highly influential American rock band Big Star. But in truth, it’s only the lyrics that have been recycled, as the composition takes on an entirely separate role from any Big Star influence – thanks to the shared production of Hutton and prolific Nashville indie-folk duo, Airpark. And being the son of Danny Hutton, one of the lead singers in Three Dog Night, it’s clear he has the gift of music in his blood.
Hutton opens with a vibrant piano drenched in reverb that eventually soaks his own voice as he begins to sing the opening lines through an atmospheric filter. It’s like you’re swimming through a sunrise fog in space, dewy in an early-morning haze. Slowly, the arrangement advances, as delicate, sweeping strings (Eleonore Denig) gently peak out through the mist, and sliding guitars (Airpark) accompany them in an instrumental trance. Quite different from the quietly intricate acoustic tabs and soft harmonies of Big Star’s hit.
Hutton’s music video for the song also captures his version’s ethereal aura, featuring the vocalist singing towards a vintage-tape camera as cosmic scenes expand behind him.
Even though Hutton is speaking through another’s words and singing to another’s tune, it’s by his inventive creativity and visionary aesthetic that make the track all his own. We remain all the more capable of distinguishing Hutton’s individual sound by hearing the way he innovatively puts a classic record into himself rather than putting himself into a classic record. And for that alone, he’s proven himself to be an artist to watch out for.