Off-The-Cuff with Pete Hopkins by Harriet Kaplan
L.A.-based singer/songwriter Pete Hopkins has requested not to do a conventional Q&A interview for www.punchrecords.us. Pete feels it's more honest and authentic to talk directly about his music and art than follow a set format. The conversation itself will instead be more revealing and introspective as random topics unfold naturally and he can comment from an organic place. Maybe this is a reflection of how Pete and I first crossed paths. There was no rhyme or reason. Certainly, nothing was planned. I was supposed to see another musician perform at a Jeff Buckley tribute at Room 5. After watching several other musicians, do one cover song after another, Pete Hopkins stepped up to the mic, sang and played on guitar "Hallelujah" and I knew I was in the presence of something special at the time. I asked Pete if he played out on his own or with a band and had original songs. He told me he did. I was writing for a music publication that did live reviews of independent singers and songwriters. He had a gig coming up and I arranged to see him and brought a photographer to shoot him and his backing band. The photographer and I agreed the show was really good and the songs were strong and memorable. I wrote my review and it ran in the magazine along with the photo. Pete and I would keep in touch and he would keep me informed about what was going on with his music and eventually we had more regular contact with the advent of Facebook. I didn't see him perform again. He was working on a number of projects and trying out all sorts of ways to find an audience for his music in the interim. Today, the Pete, who I saw and viewed as a realist, and somewhat hopeful then, is now more preoccupied with other concerns about the day-to-day realities most people have. He wants to perform again for the pleasure of getting out and sharing his music rather than being coldly focused on the end goal of a “making it”. Hopkins has a lot on his mind these days.
Below is what he calls an “off-the-cuff conversation.”
“I’m in a different headspace about a lot these days, so you’re probably best to just catch me in the moment.” Pete explained. “I was asked a question recently: “If you had the chance to take a selfie with someone famous, living or dead, who would it be and why?” “My initial thought was selfies and the selfie movement, make me uncomfortable. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t overanalyze things the way I seem compelled to do (including music by the way) I’m a bit self destructive perhaps. It’s easy for me to get in my own way. I’m working on that or being okay with it and still finding peace.
"Anyway, the selfie question was put to me and it was concerning a job I was interviewing for so I couldn’t very well say "I hate selfies." So instead, I tried to think of another way that this seemingly random question could serve. After I considered it more thoughtfully, I said the famous someone I most would like to take a selfie with would be God. The reason would be so that there would finally be irrefutable proof that could change everyone's life no matter what side of the fence you are on. If you get the chance to wish for something, you got to make it count. “As I told you, I’m in a different headspace now.
“As far as a return to live performance and promoting my work, I’m dealing with the aftermath of the fact that I kinda gave up for a while," Pete said. "Without ever really giving up. My artistry is sharper than it's ever been. I’m closer to living and feeling the music I write, sing and play than I’ve ever been before.
“I don’t understand the significance of talking about my music. The best thing about music to me is and always has been - how it sounds. I'm lacking in the will to “hawk” about it. Honestly, I have no shows planned beyond this one (a recent show at El Bar) that fell in my lap." All I know is I love this and want it in my life.
"My music is not on iTunes," Pete explained. "I have like 188 likes on my fan page. My official website hasn't been updated in years. It's laughable. To me it’s like this: “Why build a hot rod if you believe the race is fixed and there's no way to win”? It’s a terrible thought process, I know, but that's where I was at from being jerked around by this industry as well as my own self-imposed station. This existence is exhausting. It feels like the winter of my discontent. It has been a very long winter. I am now ready for spring. I’m getting used to the idea that it’s important to do a whole bunch of things you don’t want to do, in order to truly shine a light on what it is you do want.
“Thinking about hype makes me cringe. The idea of self promotion makes me ill. But damn it, I love to play. I love to sing. I love when my music affects someone. I love when an audience listens. I love the applause. What's frustrating is that “making it” is a numbers game. Still, I'm confident that if my words and music made it to enough eyes and ears, I would alter their lives and make them feel."
With an uncanny knack for writing memorable and melodic pop, soul and funk influenced/flavored songs, L.A. singer/songwriter Pete Hopkins always delivered and never disappointed as a singer and overall performer. At a recent show at El Bar, Hopkins gave it his all. His 10-song set, with a number of highlights including "New Umbrella," "I Won't Cry," "Become," "Love Come Around," and "Extraordinary," the show felt like a cathartic and liberating experience/release for Hopkins as he hasn't played out live in almost a year. He seemed invigorated and re-energized being back on stage and loving every minute of it. Hopkins smiled quite a bit looking into the audience and in between songs he told stories of the high points in his career to date and offered sentiments of peace, love and blessings to everyone listening to his music. None of it seemed or felt contrite or corny as Hopkins seemed to be coming from a genuine and sincere place of caring. His heartfelt, commanding vocals were front and center. Hopkins belted out the more uptempo songs with gusto, passion and urgency. He gave the numbers in the mid-range scale a more delicate, quieter and nuanced reading. The material is reminiscent of Prince, Simply Red and Jamiroquai. Definitely sonic ear candy that is irresistible. The set itself was sparse yet effective with Hopkins accompanying himself on guitar trading off forceful licks in tandem/against his tasteful rhythmic counterpart Edoardo Tancredi on drums.
-by Harriet Kaplan