Cari Hutson is stepping out into the world as her most authentic self. Her new EP, Salvation & Soul Restoration, arrives next month (Feb. 12) and captures her grit, resilience, and tremendous growth since the release of 2018’s Don’t Rain on My Sunny Day. The singer-songwriter works through the death of her mother (“The Rescue”), seeks to offer change in the world (“Blame”), and comes to understand mental and psychological limits, as she does with the new song “Take the Day.”
“This song was generated from the new balance in the pandemic and figuring it out with new anxieties and stresses,” Hutson tells Audiofemme. More than anything, the kickstarter to her new EP centers around knowing when you “need to take the time to really absorb how you’re feeling. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned during this time at home… truly trying to find a balance of joy and the anxieties that happen in life.”
Based in Austin, Texas, Hutson has had plenty of time for deep reevaluation of her life. Her mother died in September after a very long battle with alcoholism, and the new EP threads together acceptance of sadness and the joy wrought out of personal growth during life’s darkest times. “I watched my mom for years be an amazing professional,” she reflects. Her mother was a registered nurse, who, towards the end of her professional career, worked in home health hospice care.
“I watched her give of herself to her limit and then beyond. I saw how that affected her. Now that I’m a mom, I don’t want to step into her shoes and have [my daughter] Hazel see the same things. The growth happens in having the determination to not recreate history,” says Hutson. “You don’t get any more different shift in perspective than the finality of [death]. You have to really really dig down deep in your gut and say, ‘I’m not going to live my life with some of the same choices that I watched her live with that in the end took her.’ Stress kills, and it brings you down. You have to find those moments when you say ‘enough is enough’ and take care of yourself. I want better for myself.”
Early in the pandemic, another switch happened. While her daughter was on vacation, visiting grandparents in Galveston, lockdowns swept the country. The family naturally had to quarantine for 14 days before Hazel returned home. “It was very strange to be away for my daughter for that long,” she offers. “As much as I missed her, it was in those moments of just sitting in the backyard ─ and it was during springtime here, so it was rather beautiful out. The world was upside down, but in my backyard, I found this oasis where time stood still. I was able to really hear the birds chirp. I noticed things I never would have noticed.”
Salvation & Soul Restoration sheds light not only on such revelations but her wealth of experience ─ from fronting bands like Remedy and Blue Funk Junction in the 1990s and brief musical theatre studies at Texas State to a recent collaborative endeavor as part of a supergroup called PAACK. Hutson has also performed as rock icon Janis Joplin in the touring production A Night With Janis Joplin. “There’s a lot of self-doubt that happens out there,” she muses of the long, winding road which brought her here.
Hutson released her first record in 2011 and the follow-up in 2018. But neither found her nearly as self-assured and vocally muscular as on the forthcoming five-song project. She reclaims her worth as both a woman and a musician, offering up sharp messages about accountability, pain, and breaking toxic cycles.
“In writing this EP, there’s a whole lot of self-realization and growth as a person. It’s creating that balance between being a mother and a musician. Enter pandemic, and the balance shifts again,” she remarks. “I’m a bold woman, and I have a perspective.”
Salvation & Soul Restoration is Hutson’s first proper foray into releasing her music. Previously, she would simply post the albums to Spotify and let them do whatever they were going to do. Now, she takes the reins firmly in her grip and demonstrates renewed strength, command, and determination to take up space and make some noise. “It’s a big deal for me. It’s really me stepping into my own,” she says.
Hutson will celebrate the release of her new EP with show livestreamed from The Saxon Pub via the venue’s Facebook page on February 12 at 9 pm CT.