Frightened Rabbit’s Billy Kennedy opens up on the heartache of losing bandmate Scott Hutchison and the journey of recovery he’s been on in a sit-down interview with Ieuan Williams ahead of his new band Haiver’s gig in Dunfermline this Saturday....


BILLY Kennedy is not the person he once was.

Young, touring the world beside his Frightened Rabbit brothers and living a life few are lucky enough to lead, he now reflects on those days by characterising himself as “such an ungrateful f****** person” for not appreciating where he once stood; stages in America, Australia, across Europe, the Scottish bread and butter venues they made career-launching impressions in.

The consistency of performing songs he loved with those he loved was a privilege, but with it came the sacrifice of the space necessary to address, consider, and understand the actions, thoughts and feelings he now recognises as depression.

Alcohol was a self-prescribed numbing agent on tour but there was no anaesthetic for the heartache he, the band, and fans would endure on May 9, 2018.

To most, Scott Hutchison was Frightened Rabbit. When news of his tragic passing emerged the tributes and words of love were honest, poetic and poignant, his 36-year impact on the world cherished and remembered; his voice, his lyrics, his charms, the tiny changes he made along the way and encouraged us all to make.

Billy Kennedy is not the person he once was because he’s been making some changes of his own.

In the wake of Scott’s death he was struggling, the catalyst for “a lot of drinking” he reveals, withdrawing himself from the people around him.

“I was grieving heavily, or just not dealing with it; I was in grief, but I wasn’t wanting to feel it. I’d numb everything with alcohol, or whatever I could get my hands on I would take and use that as some kind of release. As the years passed, I realised I couldn’t do that and had to deal with my emotions. It was only when I felt my own emotions and let them out that I was able to process them.”

In the space of one moment that May, six years ago last Thursday, he had lost a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly, bereft of a goodbye.

The feelings during the infancy of a new life without Scott have now shrivelled, wilted and made room for an appreciation of the times they had creating music, making memories and laughter.

He had to work for that clarity by fighting for sobriety and allowing for time to pass, crucial for any recovery and the reclamation of a spotlight to shine through the greys.

“I was resentful. Not towards him, but I was gutted that we had lost everything; we lost our best friend, our jobs, our whole career and our confidence,” he conceded.

“Looking back now, I think of the good times we had in the band, but I took it for granted back then. I was young when I joined, but now I am so grateful for so much now as you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

To understand anyone is to know where they have been and what they have endured. Billy was hurting, heavily, but he now finds himself in a “completely different world”, better equipped for its challenges, as well as its freedoms.

He’s taking care of himself. He’s sober. He’s helping others. He’s on the other side and maintaining his wellness.

Delivered in its purest form with a contemplative and wry smile, he remarks: “I’m better than I’ve been for a long, long time. It’s cool.”

It shows, too. Over the course of this interview there is no hiding the enthusiasm and passion for being able to speak so candidly and openly about his experiences, the reunion with his love of music and returning to performances in front of crowds of people. He cares not for the size of the venue or its audience, he just wants to play.

Dunfermline Press: Billy Kennedy (right) spearheads new band Haiver. (L-R): Craig Brownlie, Brett McCann, Findlay Wallace Brown, John Bonnar, and Billy.Billy Kennedy (right) spearheads new band Haiver. (L-R): Craig Brownlie, Brett McCann, Findlay Wallace Brown, John Bonnar, and Billy. (Image: Joe Somerville/Harris Trust)

He finds himself in unfamiliar territory with Haiver though, the new formation he spearheads. Billy leads from the front, and that’s taking some getting used to. When they play at PJ Molloys on Saturday night, expect to hear swearing in the gaps. He’s just nervous, and he hopes you find that “endearing” as he navigates an “exciting and terrifying” prospect of shakily stepping back under the lights to a roomful of listeners.

“It’s nice trying to win folk over,” he says, alluding to expectations of how Haiver may sound in comparison to Frightened Rabbit, an unavoidable conclusion from learning and playing in the Scottish music scene favourites for so long.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people after gigs, and they’ve said to me that they didn’t know what to expect and they were worried they were going to hate it. Most people have been like, ‘Man, that was class, I don’t know why you’ve been so scared to do this for a while’. Because there is this relationship with Frightened Rabbit, there is going to be comparisons made and I’m happy with that, but at the same time it’s a completely different project – it’s me.”

With a laugh and an appreciative demeanour, he chimes: “I mean, it will sound similar because I was in that band for 16 f****** years! It’d be s*** if it didn’t sound a bit like that, to be honest; we all wrote together and performed in a certain way.”

In his eyes he learned from the best, viewing Scott as “one of the greatest songwriters”, highlighting his craftsmanship on the page: “I don’t think many folk can touch him when it comes to lyrics.”

Scott taught Billy the art of fingerpicking guitar, but his lessons transcended the stages and studios.

“He was like a big brother to me,” he tells me. “He taught me a lot, not just in music but in life experience too, which rubs off on me every day. Not just Scott but the other guys in the band too; they all have a massive influence on what I do because I respect them so much and they are all incredible musicians.

“There’s a photo of Scott in my studio and when I’m writing I know it’s there. He’s a big inspiration and always will be. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Scott.”

Even in passing it appears Scott’s presence has been in attendance on stage with Haiver as Billy leads his charges in a version of regular opener in Frightened Rabbit sets, Living in Colour. The self-deprecating 39-year-old reckons he’s “made it s****, basically”, but he cannot offer any reasoning for the events that have transpired in recent live airings.

Attempting to explain: “There’s been weird s*** happening. I’m not even joking, one gig the mic flopped halfway through, and the other time the mic started swaying to the side. I don’t know if there’s a spirit there, man. It’s funny, I don’t know what to expect. If something is going to go wrong, it’s going to be in that song.”

Haiver’s first single, So Slow, came out in October and was followed by Lookin’ Out My Back Door in January. In unreleased demos heard by the Press, the storytelling is a beautiful journey through grief, loss and hope, capturing moments of his life now expressed vividly in song.

This weekend is eight years since the last time Billy will have played in Dunfermline as Frightened Rabbit performed at the Alhambra Theatre in 2016. The eight years that have followed have been bruising and wounding and while they may never fully heal each mark affords the opportunity to restore and grow, to leave an impact on others and better oneself.

Frightened Rabbit may not exist without Scott Hutchison now – an interview with the band in 2019 provoked this self-admission -, but the legacy he leaves behind only strengthens. The charity Tiny Changes was formed by his family a year on from his death by suicide in a united effort to “transform young people’s mental health in Scotland”, with a range of innovative projects now launched across the country. These projects would not have been made possible without the charity’s formation, inspired by Scott’s struggles and his words for the world to embrace.

Having had time to recover, Billy too finds himself helping those in need of guidance after retraining as a mental health practitioner, a career he would never have envisaged for himself in his twenties or early thirties.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do next,” he reflected, adding he chose this path over stepping into the police force.

“It’s such a rewarding job being able to help others - I think I never thought of how privileged I was to have certain things that some folks don’t have -, and the ability to listen to people and help their mental health and sit down and have a conversation with them that they may not usually get the chance to. I love my job. You see a lot of hard stuff and deal with hard things, but I love it. I get out and about to meet different people as well, and that is great from a social aspect for me because I was very anti-social for so long and now I’m out and about travelling to different parts of Glasgow I never knew existed in the 20 years I’ve lived here.

“I don’t want to be horrible to myself, but I feel like I’ve been such an ungrateful f****** person for so long. To be able to help others, that’s the whole point. Scott can do it with his lyrics, but I can’t… cause I’m not Scott Hutchison.

“If I can help others in any way… I really enjoy that now as I used to be quite a selfish person... I think that’s cause my mental health was f*****.

“I’m no longer that person.”

Billy Kennedy is no longer the person he once was, and that’s just fine.


Doors on Saturday at PJ’s open at 7pm with support provided from Hoyden and The New Shade. Tickets cost £16.50 on Ticketweb.


If you or anyone you know has been affected by any of the issues or themes raised in this article, advise and support is available.

• SAMH gives mental health information and can direct you to local services. Call 0141 530 1000 or email

• If you need to talk, call Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 or see

• Families who need support after being bereaved by suicide can contact PETAL on 01698 324 502 or email

• Call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or email the charity at