I have a knack for falling in love with artists that seem not to want to tour, record, or be heard from more often than once every five years (see previous posts on Christopher Jak). One of my favorite “talented and silent” types is a fella named Justin Hopkins from Hermosa Beach, California. Thanks to some previously unreleased stuff recently showing up on iTunes (without announcement of any type, so who knows how long it’s actually been there) and a string of shows happening recently in California, my love for this amazing songwriter and musician has been resparked.
I first heard about Justin in 2004…he was one of my first MySpace finds, if I remember correctly. His Building EP was one of the soundtracks to my fall that year, and I actually have it in hard copy…the only one of his releases I actually own a physical copy of. He just has this HUGE voice, and his style of songwriting was right up my alley … very story tellerish. On that EP, he was still pretty rooted in guitar; at the time, I was madly in love with acoustic, and the opening chords of “Laughing Out Loud” were just magical to me (I think “We Live Art” was probably my favorite from that EP, however).
Fast forward three years to when he released Bastard of a Gentleman via digital download only. I’d been keeping up with him via MySpace and had downloaded an acoustic version of a song called “Goddess” that I was maniacally obsessed with. I remember being so excited for the release, sitting at my desk waiting an eternity for the 17 songs to download – SEVENTEEN SONGS! Worth every second of waiting…it is an amazingly brilliant album. This record was definitely more of a production – the guitar was still there, but full on electric, and he started to mix piano into a some songs. Now I love me some guitar, but Justin on piano is one of the most amazing things I have ever heard. I was also intrigued by how “Goddess” had changed … and lyrics from the original version of the song showed up in a song called “Racecar.” I know a lot of songwriters do this, but with “storytellers” (like Springsteen, for example), I’m always amazed by how they can take part of the story and put it into another one and it still works. Many of the Bastard of a Gentleman recordings made their way onto iTunes last year as Vol 1: Here Goes Nothing under Justin Hopkins & The Guilt, although a few bonus tracks (“Try,” “Better Than You Are”) never made it anywhere. The whole album that was Bastard of a Gentleman is not available anywhere today, at least not that I’m aware of.
In 2008, a charity record called AFL Music – The Cause, Vol. 1 got released, and one of Justin’s songs called “The Best Part of Me” was on it. It had never been released before, so of course, I had to get that. The crashing piano was in full on effect…In the meantime, he was teasing us by putting songs into his MySpace player that hadn’t been released yet, like “Courderoys,” which quickly went into contention for my favorite Justin Hopkins song EVER – but frustratingly, was never available. He also kept touring in Sweden, of all places, and a few places in Europe during this time and would put up live versions of songs he played there. He had a free download of him performing an acoustic version of “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” in France, and it is one of the most beautiful versions of the song I’ve ever heard done (feel free to e-mail me if you want a copy of it).
A couple of weeks ago, a few tweets popped up on Justin’s Twitter…he was playing a handful of shows in California. Flipped over to his Facebook page to get some more info. Just scrolling through the feed, I saw an album cover that I didn’t recognize and some notes about it being on Spotify. I went trolling on iTunes and found We Are Where We Came From, which included another handful of songs from Bastard of a Gentleman, some other unreleased stuff that I’d heard (“Why Would God Come to L.A.”!!!!), and a few songs that I’d never heard and … HOLY SHIT – “Courderoys!” I have NO idea how it got onto iTunes without me knowing about it, or how long it’s been there, but it has reignited my obsession for Justin’s music. “Courderoys” will be the first song on my Summer Mix, and I’ve had it on repeat in the car lately – sunroof open, windows down, volume all the way up repeat.
So here’s my plea…Justin, please, please, please tour. Please come to the East Coast. Please release new music. 2011 has been good to me so far, and getting to see you live would totally just make my year.
Y’all check him out. There are a shit ton of old videos on YouTube; none are great quality (except one official music video where the sound and the video don’t match up). Then go buy some Justin Hopkins music to feed your soul.
Someday (this one is a brilliant showcase of his piano ability if you can get past the distorted sound)
Fighting the Tide (older song)