The future looked bleak for Maryland-bred folk-popper Eric Hutchinson a few years ago.
Right after signing with Madonna’s Maverick Records the label folded, forcing him to reconnoiter in his parents’ basement, where he eventually penned, then self-released, his debut recording, “Sounds Like This.”
Quickly snapped up by Warner Bros., the Perez Hilton-touted album broke worldwide via irresistible hits such as “Rock & Roll.”
“At one point, I did feel like my young adulthood was being stunted by living at my parents’,” says the 31-year-old. “So I think a lot of my new album, ‘Moving Up Living Down,’ is about that transition — from young adulthood into adulthood.”
Or from suburban cellar to New York apartment, where Hutchinson (who plays The City on Sunday) composed most of “Moving” on piano while an angry neighbor one floor below pounded on his ceiling with a broomstick.
“I’m thinking that now that the album’s out, I should give the guy a copy and say, ‘Here — this is what you were banging through the whole time!’” he says of his ebullient set, with potential hits such as the reggae-swaying “Talk Is Cheap,” an R&B-stomping “The Basement” and the synth-funky disclaimer “I’m Not Cool.”
“I can’t think of a song on the album that he didn’t bang through — you’re right in the middle of having this stroke of genius, then bam — you lose it,” Hutchinson says.
But the singer has a winning Everyman appeal and a charming humility, too.
Recently, he got to play Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (“Definitely a place I never pictured going, but they were really excited that I made the trip”) and duetted with Kelly Clarkson on Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” every night while opening her tour (“I thought I had a good voice, but getting onstage next to Kelly was a whole other ballgame”).
He also got friendly pointers from the legendary Quincy Jones, like culling only the five best tracks from any session, then sculpting even better ones. “That’s what I ended up doing. I wrote at least 100 songs since ‘Sounds Like This,’” Hutchinson says.
Post-tour, Hutchinson began exploring his new urban surroundings like a wide-eyed naif. For inspiration, he found some unusual haunts. “Hotel lobbies!” he says. “I like the energy in there, because people are coming and going and nobody will ever rush you out. You can just hang out, read and wait for the inspiration to come back around.”
Is Hutchinson just kidding with “I’m Not Cool”? “I’ve definitely had some moments where I realized my house was floating away from Kansas,” he says. “But not all my songs are autobiographical because, frankly, my life’s just not interesting enough!”
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $16; sold out
Contact: (415) 522-0333, www.slimstickets.com