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Folk singer brings fresh sound to barn

Folk singer Meg Hutchinson performs June 14 in the historic barn at the Anderson Center.

By Ruth Nerhaugen, contributor

Folk singer and songwriter Meg Hutchinson will make her first Red Wing appearance when she performs at 7:30 p.m. June 14 in the Anderson Center’s historic barn.

Hutchinson was just 11 when she inherited her grandmother’s 1957 Martin guitar, but it set the course for her life’s work as a writer of lyrics and music.

“Songwriting is not something I choose,” she said. “I somehow always knew this is what I love to do. This is what I can’t help but do.”

Reviewers praising her concerts stress that Hutchinson’s concerts and albums are lyric-driven.

“She brings a poet’s sensibility to everyday scenes, painting a vivid picture of the way America lives today,” explained Ellen Stanley of Red House Records.

“The words are really at the heart of what I’m doing,” said Hutchinson, who has a college degree in creative writing. Her songs are messages on topics she cares about deeply, including mental health, wellness and healing, creativity and spirituality.

One national publication called her “A master of introspective ballads filled with understated yearning and an exquisite sense of metaphor.”

Hutchinson, who lives in Massachusetts, has been heard nationally on National Public Radio and XM/Sirius Radio, has toured internationally, and is a favorite at South By Southwest and other prestigious music festivals.

She also has spent considerable time in Minnesota. “Red House Records is a strong base for me,” she said of the label that recently released her new album, “Beyond That.”

In addition to tackling issues through her lyrics, Hutchinson also has spoken and performed as a mental health advocate across the country at conferences and teaching hospitals.

For years, she said, she was private about the fact that she has been living with bipolar disorder since age 19.

“I was raised by hippies,” Hutchinson said, and no treatment was sought until she decided to reach out herself.

Hutchinson is currently working with Ezzie Films and Todd Kwait on a feature-length documentary film, “Pack Up Your Sorrows,” which is about mental health and wellness told through her own experience and the perspective of “some of the leading minds on issues dear to my heart.”

Her goal is to help lift the stigma associated with mental illness and make the issues “easier for people to talk about,” she said. Through it and through her music, she aims to reach out to all ages — especially young people, because the onset is often during the late teens to early 20s.

“Music has been medicine for me since my teens,” she said, adding that it was the words to the song “Pack Up Your Sorrows” that came to define her work.

She quoted the lyrics, “But if somehow you could pack up your sorrows and give them all to me … . You would lose them and I know how to use them … . Give them all to me,” and explained, “That was the moment where the musical, spiritual and mental health threads came together for the first time.”

Hutchinson’s new album is a collection of celebratory hymns from a woman who has made it out the other side of some difficult years and who is inviting others to go “Beyond That” with her now.

She is making her Red Wing debut at the behest of Tom Maakestad, a Minnesota artist whose landscape paintings are on display at the Anderson Center. She performed last fall in his gallery at an event that integrated fine arts and music, and he arranged for her to come back for a concert at Tower View.

People attending the concert are invited to come early and visit the gallery, which will be open from 5:30 until about a half-hour after the concert, Maakestad said. He will be there, and will have special pricing for anyone attending the show that night.

Hutchinson will perform solo in the barn, accompanying herself on guitar and piano.

Tickets are $20; seating is limited. Food and beverages will be available. For reservations, call the Anderson Center at 388-2009.     

If you go …

Who: Meg Hutchinson

What: Music Night in the Barn

When: 7:30 p.m. June 14

Where: Anderson Center

Tickets: $20

Reservations: 651-388-2009