It was one of those times. About a quarter way through our CRS 2020 interview with Andrew Hopson, it clicked. This guy was really “country”. He wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. He didn’t come riding up to the Omni Hotel on a horse and he didn’t have that perfectly pressed Wrangler look of George Strait, but there was no mistaking that Andrew Hopson was a country boy. Although the question remained. He sure came off as “country”, but could he sing it? He had the twang, but that’s still no guarantee. I could not wait to find out after the interview. Well, I found out. If you’re looking for that traditional country sound, look no further than this guy. Put him on a billboard and simply headline it, “Country”. Grab a cold one and join us as we pick the brain of someone brand new to us. It was quite an adventure!
Think Country (Annette Gibbons): So, good morning Andrew. How are you?
Andrew Hopson: I’m good. How are you?
TC (AG): I’ve had coffee. I’m doing fine now.
Think Country (Patti McClintic): Yeah, we’ve both had coffee, so we’re fine now, but before that, you didn’t want to know any of us.
TC (AG): So, you’re quite a new name to us at Think Country. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
AH: Well, I’m from Tazewell, Tennessee. I don’t know if you know where the Cumberland Gap is at?
TC (AG): I’ve covered most of Tennessee, but I’ve never heard of that town.
AH: It’s up in the northeast, right there near Virginia and Kentucky, so, it’s right there in that area.
TC (AG): Oh, okay.
AH: There’s a lot of history in that area.
TC (AG): When did you start doing country music?
AH: When I was in high school, right before I graduated high school. Well, before that I actually started out playing mainly electric guitar and stuff like that. I played with a guy named Ben Eller. He was my teacher and he actually played guitar for a metal band, Whitechapel. He wasn’t actually their regular guitar player, but he knew all of them so he got to tour with them once or twice. That’s kind of what I grew up around, and I kind of figured out, “You know what? If I’m gonna sing, I probably need to do country because I can’t really get over the accent.”
TC (AG): You’ve got a little bit of an accent, just a smidge!
AH: A lot of people think I’m from Texas, but I don’t know a lot of people that sound like this there.
TC (PM): I was going to say you sound like you might be from Texas.
TC (AG): I have friends from Tennessee, and one of them sounds just like you and I love that.
TC (PM): We don’t mind the southern accent, we like it. It’s all good.
TC (AG): We appreciate the southern accent.
TC (PM): We do.
TC (AG): So, when you were back in high school, when did you think you might be a country artist? How did you start?
AH: Well, me and mom were kind of talkin’ about what I was gonna do. if I maybe actually thought about comin’ down here, and she knew somebody that knew a lady named Preshias Harris. I don’t really know how that was all tied in, but my mother adopted me when I was six or seven months old, and it turned out that the connection was a lawyer, and that lawyer was the one that worked on my adoption. There were two or three people involved, but that’s how we came in contact with Preshias. Two days after I graduated high school she invited us to come down here and meet her. So, we came down and met her and that’s where it all started. I didn’t really know anything about how any of this stuff worked either, but I’ve come to learn it has a lot to do with writing music, which was never something I planned on doing. Then I met this gentleman right here, Steve O’Brien, so he co-wrote the song I actually have out now. He co-wrote it with Rich Fagan. It’s called, “Paint the Town Redneck”.
TC (AG): So, tell us about the song.
AH: Well, that song, it’s a pretty rowdy song.
TC (AG): Somehow, I get that.
TC (AG): It’s not a drinking tea and eating biscuits song, is it?
AH: No, it’s a good honky tonk song. A lot of the local bars where I live, they play the Hell out of it. Every time I come in, they’ve got me a beer sittin’ there and the song’s just playin’.
TC (PM): I can hear you singing a honky tonk song.
TC (AG): I always ask people, “What’s your sound like?” With you, I don’t even think I needed to ask.
TC (PM): You are a honky tonk song. You’re a walkin’, livin’, breathin’ honky tonk song.
AH: That’s an album title.
TC (AG): It’s nice because it makes it that much more relatable.
TC (AG): Have you started songwriting too?
AH: I actually have, yes. Me and him (referring to Steve O’Brien, who was present at the interview) have actually written several songs.
TC (PM): Would you call him a mentor?
AH: Absolutely. Yes.
Steve O’Brien: More of a friend. I learn from him.
AH: A little bit of both. We’ve become good friends, yeah.
TC (PM): That’s great. I love that.
AH: I have another single comin’ out called “Stronger Than That”. It’s gonna be out in March and me and him co-wrote that song. I don’t know what that was, actually it started out, well, I’ll just tell you the story. It started out we were gonna do what isn’t like it was a savage song, but it was a slower song, and it was about drinkin’ (which Andrew Hopson pronounced as “drankin'”).
(That was it. Annette and I both looked at each other wondering if this guy was for real, because we loved the way he said that word.)
TC (AG): Drankin’!
TC (PM): Don’t you just love this guy already?
TC (AG): Drankin’, I love the way he says that, it’s so different!
(Laughter which was not, in any way, intended to make fun of Andrew Hopson, in fact it was quite the opposite, we thought it was the coolest thing ever.)
AH: So, we started writing and I looked at Steve and I said, “Let’s make this more of an upbeat song, let’s make another honky tonk song,” and he was like, “Alright,” and he just started to play this little melody on the guitar and I was like, “That’s it, right there!” You know, he just starts talkin’ and writin’ and he writes stuff down.
TC (PM): You remind me of a new generation Tracy Lawrence or something.
AH: Well, thank you. We got this verse down and I’m just singin’ and singin’ it and he said, “I’ll be right back,” and he walked out for a minute, and I don’t know, it just kind of happened, like, in my head. I didn’t even think about it and I just started singin’ it, and I heard this chorus and it just came out. He walked back in and I started playin’ it, and he said, “Is that it? Is that the chorus?” and I said, “Yeah.” It just happened.
TC (AG): You know, it’s the songwriting that always fascinates me. I can’t hold a melody. I mean, you never want to hear me sing, ever, but songwriters, it’s just how you come up with ideas and that special something that’s never been done before.
TC (PM): It’s my dream to someday sit in on a songwriting session. I just want to sit there really quiet and not say a word and watch.
TC (AG): Oh, no. I want to say one word so I get my name in the credits.
AH: It’s a cool song.
TC (AG): That’s coming out in March?
AH: Yes, around March 9th.
TC (AG): Let us know when it does so we can listen to it. We’re quite unique at Think Country, having one base in England and Patti’s based here, so we can share the song on both sides of the pond.
TC (PM): Yeah, you can probably tell I’m from here with my funny accent. (For those that don’t know, I’m a native New Yorker and can’t even fake a southern accent effectively.)
TC (AG): There will probably be a whole new range of UK fans who love country music and we’re going to get it out over there as well. So, three words that kind of sum up your style of music?
AH: Hmmm… Real, I guess. Traditional, I suppose. Rowdy.
TC (PM): So, real, traditional and rowdy?
AH: Oh, and drinkin’.
TC (AG): Drankin’!
AH: Oh, right, drankin’, I’m sorry.
TC (PM): Drankin’ with an “a”.
TC (AG): It sounds like the upbeat ones are more you.
AH: There is a song I’ve recorded that I don’t necessarily know when we’re going to release it, but I think it’s been sent out and mastered and everything. It’s a song I recorded, actually when I was like, 19-years old. It’s probably been two years ago that I recorded the song, it’s called, “New to Neon”. It’s written by Phil O’Donnell, and around here they call him “Philbilly”.
TC (AG): Fast forward. At this time next year, what is it you’ll have hoped to achieve? What are your goals?
AH: Playin’ more shows around here which I’ve not really done that much of, and writing more.
TC (PM): Are you playing any shows here soon?
AH: Hopefully. Anything I can get right now.
TC (AG): If you do, you’ll have to let Patti know so she can try and get out and see you.
AH: Okay. I’d also like to write a lot more and possibly have enough for an EP or a full album.
TC (AG): Thank you so much for coming out to meet with us.
AH: It was a pleasure meeting you as well.
Andrew Hopson. He’s country. He couldn’t be anything but country if he tried, and that was just our impression upon meeting him. Once I heard his music, that thought was confirmed. Give him a follow on social media and listen to his music. See if you don’t agree with us. He’s what a lot of you have been asking for, and that’s “real” country. He’s as real as the ground you’re walking on and you can quote me on that.
Andrew Hopson can be found:
*Featured image courtesy of Andrew Hopson