Andrew Hopson is a local boy doing well.
The Tazewell native and Claiborne County High School product is following his dream of being a country music singer. On Monday, he released his latest single to radio, a cover of the John Michael Montgomery song, “Paint the Town Redneck.”
CDX Digital service has sent it to their traditional country stations around the globe, and he credits songwriter Steve O’Brien for helping his perform a song from one of biggest influences.
“I’ve known this song for years. John Michael Montgomery is one of my idols,” he said. “I didn’t know Steve O’Brien had written this song, so we chose to do it.
“It’s about a (country boy) who gets paid and wants to have as much fun as he can. I like the fact (O’Brien) makes references to Picasso. He knows how to write a song lyric, and I’m blessed to have him as a friend and co-writer.”
Hopson also said his working relationship with O’Brien has made his journey considerably easier
“I love country music that rocks and to give a song a unique twist, sometimes I like including unexpected sounds, such as adding chords and special melodies to make music that can be a traditional song with a new twist to a southern rock-sounding song,” he said. “That’s probably why I loved writing and working with Steve O’ Brien who co-wrote ‘Rock My World Little Country Girl.’ He and I write great together and he has become a good friend.”
Hopson’s music is reflective of someone who knows happiness and pain, and he prefers sharing his music and heart to his audiences, bringing East Tennessee everywhere he goes, and staying true to himself and “real country music not country rock.”
“My music is true to the bone. I think you can hear how much I love it, with every word and every strum of my guitar,” he said.
Hopson also said he writes and listens to songs he feels are a part of him and his life, and makes regular trips to Nashville to help realize his dream.
“When I write music and sing, I listen to what relates to me, and sing what relates to me,” he said. “It’s part of my life story.”
Hopson grew up in Tazewell in a close-knit family, and his earliest memories are working on his grandmother’s farm. The first country artists to make an impression on him were Keith Whitley, Hank Williams Sr. and Hank Williams Jr., Merle Haggard and Vern Gosdin. He particularly reveres older artist-like Williams Sr. that paved the way for the future of country music, both as an artist and as a songwriter.
“That’s the only music I listen to. I listened to Hank Williams Sr. and Jr. growing up,” Hopson said. “They have also influenced my music.”
Hopson credits his mother as his first musical influence, saying he heard a lot of country and Southern rock at his house as a child. Another influence is his brother, Matt.
“My mom was the country fan, and my mom turned me on to folks like Willie Nelson, Charlie Rich, Reba McIntyre, Johnny Cash - and the list goes on,” he said. “My brother and I are close as brothers can be. He started playing guitar, and this is where I discovered it.”
Hopson first started playing guitar when he around eight years old, eschewing piano lessons and “using” his brother’s guitar before finally getting his own. Upon getting lessons on the instrument, he first started on an electric guitar before finally settling on an acoustic one. The first song he remembers learning - then singing - is the Jamey Johnson track “In Color.”
“When I sang ‘I’m Over You’ by Keith Whitley, my friends thought it was Chris Young singing,” Hopson said. “I had to sing it, along with the CD track, to prove it was really me singing”
As a high school senior, Hopson mulled ideas on how to spend the rest of his life before his family convinced him to chase his dream in country music.
“Toward the end of my last year in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do,” he said. “I went to (Walters State Community College), and I had trouble picking a major,” he said. “My mother said I loved playing music, so I decided to go for it.
“I went to Nashville, and met (music consultant and freelance journalist Preshias Tomes Harris), and it was on from there.”
Hopson appreciates everyone who has listened to his music, including family and friends, and said he’s gotten positive reviews from people who generally don’t listen to country music.
“A lot of people who’ve heard my music like it. I met a guy at a gas station who heard my single, and I’ve gotten a pretty good reaction to the music I play,” he said. “My mom, my brother and my cousins love the music, and they’ve been to my shows all the time and listen to my CDs.
“I’ve got a cousin in Morristown who doesn’t listen to country music. He prefers metal, but he listens to my music.”