Caleb Lee Hutchinson Finds Himself On Southern Galactic

Caleb Lee Hutchinson

via Caleb Lee Hutchinson with permission

Caleb Lee Hutchinson, our latest guest on The Load Out Music Podcast, hails from the booming metropolis of Dallas, Georgia. He’s not one of those kids who grew up with music all around him, but his dad loved traditional outlaw country. Once he picked up guitar, Hutchinson did what teenagers often do: Tried to build an audience, playing out—just him and his guitar—in the few local restaurants Dallas had to offer.

Ultimately, with the support of his biggest cheerleader—his father—he ventured to tryouts for singer-songwriter competitions and found himself auditioning for The Voice and American Idol. And while he didn’t fare too well on The Voice, he became a fan-favorite on Idol and qualified for the show’s finale in 2018. He performed songs by Keith Whitley and Johnny Cash—along with his single “Johnny Cash Heart”—but finished as the runner-up to winner Maddie Poppe.

While he didn’t win, Hutchinson said the experience was invaluable in terms of what he learned and the connections and friendships he made. And as typically happens on Idol, “Johnny Cash Heart” was released after his performance on the show and charted at Number 16 on the Country Digital Song Sales chart on its first week of release.

Hutchinson then worked with Grammy-winning Kristian Bush of the band Sugarland to produce a self-titled EP, which was fully released in June of 2019. He then worked with Grammy-nominated Americana staple Brent Cobb to release “Slot Machine Syndrome” in 2021. In 2022, he dropped the self-produced EP Songs I’ll Never Sing Again, and wrote and starred in an accompanying short film.

Now comes Southern Galactic, his first full-length album that was produced by multi-genre artist Titanic Sinclair. It runs astray from traditional country and is more reminiscent of the experimental, electronic-influenced records produced by the Sturgill Simpson and Paul Cauthen in recent years.

“A lot of it is country as dog’s breath,” Hutchinson said, “But my influences are all over the place, and all those influences are in the record.”

Hutchinson told me he had concerns at first, especially when he was introducing it to his parents which his father’s old-school country music traditionalism and his mother’s distaste for foul language. But at the end of the day, Hutchinson simply isn’t interested in doing what other people are already doing.

Much of the album’s sound Hutchinson attributes to Sinclair, an artist and songwriter himself who brought his deep and eclectic musical toolbox to the making of the record. The music ranges from the chug and twang of the classic spaghetti western gunfight riffs to gritty DIY indie garage rock to 80’s synth-bathed electronic.

Ultimately, it’s Hutchinson’s characteristic sincerity, humor, wit and wisdom—which all comes through in our conversation—that is weaved throughout the lyrics. He’s clearly a smart young artist who is finding himself, evolving, having fun, taking risks, and yet still working to remain true to the songwriting and storytelling he loves that has made him the artist he is.

So enjoy our conversation with the rising artist Caleb Lee Hutchinson on the most recently Load Out Music Podcast.

Aaron Perlut is a writer, host of the Load Out Music Podcast, the front man for country-rock band Atomic Junkshot, and the founder of creative agency Elasticity.