By Kelly Baughman
The band may get the standing ovation, but sometimes it’s the man behind the music who deserves the glory. You may have seen him bustling around The Hangout or the Flora-Bama with his ginger hair, beard to match, and an infectious smile that never seems to leave his lips. He’s sound engineer, Jerr McCutchen, and he’s more than meets the eye.
Born and raised in Mobile, McCutchen spent much of his time on the beaches of Orange Beach and Perdido Key growing up. Having always had a passion for music, McCutchen honed his craft on various instruments such as bass guitar, woodwinds, and brass. “At one point in my life, I could play 14 instruments,” McCutchen said. Thinking that he wanted to pursue music in some form or fashion, McCutchen, a self-proclaimed “band nerd”, took a job at a Mobile music store where he began to learn the ins and outs of audio equipment.
After a few years of putting together PA systems as an employee, McCutchen and his father purchased the store after the original owner passed away. “It was the worst time in the retail music industry in history. It was 2009, and the stock market had just crashed and the housing and job markets were in major crisis. Unfortunately, retail music equipment is purely a luxury item unless you’re a gigging musician, and most of our customers were not,” he said.
McCutchen said he and his father held on to the store until 2011, when they were forced to close their doors. “The retail music industry didn’t see a positive year of growth until 2013, and we just weren’t able to hold on. But I’ll always be thankful for that experience because I made some really great friends with musicians I work with every day now,” he recalled.
After closing his music store, McCutchen started working for a music production company out of Mobile called Sound Associates. “Having played 14 instruments over the years, I learned what to listen for in each one, and I knew what they needed to sound like through the system, I just didn’t know how to run a board. So I just taught myself.”
That lead to McCutchen being in high demand as a house mixer, at places like The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint, Soul Kitchen, and many more. “That led me to go on tour all over the country with the support band for the Candlebox 20th anniversary tour. We played the Moore Theater in Seattle which is where Candlebox is from 20 years to the day that their first album released. It was a pretty cool experience,” McCutchen said.
After his days of touring, McCutchen found his way back to the beach as a sound engineer at The Hangout in Gulf Shores. For the next three years, McCutchen served as the Front of the House Engineer for stage 5 at the Hangout Fest and all events in between.
An impromptu meeting with then Flora-Bama music director Donna Slater ended up with McCutchen leaving his post at The Hangout to try his hand at the ‘last American Roadhouse’. Now, serving as the talent buyer, production manager, and artist relations manager, McCutchen oversees shows at the Flora-Bama, Flora-Bama yacht Club, Ole River Bar, Coastal, and the newest addition to the Bama family, Shunt Gulley in Santa Rosa Beach.
As part of the Flora-Bama management staff, McCutchen said he appreciates the training and the opportunities that have come his way. “I can’t say enough about the owners and the management of this place. The respect they have for the employees and musicians is second to none, and I think that shows through the work that they do. Joe, Pat, John, and Cam have been amazing and have created this culture of music here that has resonated nation-wide. It’s exciting to be a part of that,” he said.
Although responsible for 3600 shows a year, McCutchen isn’t just a one trick pony. In addition to his busy schedule at the Flora-Bama, he also owns and runs a local food truck called Beachin’ Eats. Based out of Gulf Shores, Beachin’ Eats can be found traveling and serving customers all over the coast like Ono Island, downtown Mobile, Columbia Southern University, Shrimp Fest, 1065 Fest, and the Blue Angel’s Homecoming show, just to name a few.
McCutchen honed his culinary skills under classically trained chefs, and serves Triggerfish Tacos, Carnitas Tacos, cheese curds, gourmet burgers and more.
While his entrepreneur skills continue to grow, McCutchen said his true calling will always be music. And while he doesn’t consider himself much of a singer, you can find him making cameo appearances from time to time freestyle rapping during a musical break or jamming along with the band. “I like jumping in and playing some sets on the bass, but I do enjoy getting on the mic and playing around with songs like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme during musical breaks,” he laughed.
But while he admits the singing is best left to the professionals, the professionals will admit that the sound is best left to McCutchen. With his highly trained ear for sound and each individual instrument, he makes even the best bands sound that much better.
“Musicians play instruments….I play musicians. And I’m pretty proud of that.”