Russ Hopkins releases children's album, "Froggy"
By Shelley Widhalm
When Berthoud singer/songwriter Russ Hopkins compiled his newest album he realized he had enough tunes to appeal to children for his December 2019 release, “Froggy.”
“Froggy” features a collection of 13 blues, folk and rock ’n roll songs, plus a few lullabies. He wrote six of the songs, co-wrote one, and got six from the public domain, like “Big Rock Candy Mountains,” “Hole in the Bucket” and “Baby’s Bed.” He co-wrote “Roger’s Riding Shotgun” with his ex-wife, Michelle Roderick, in 2005, about their late springer spaniel named Rogers, who used to ride shotgun.
“He was a sweet dog,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins produced, performed and recorded the album with his friend and fellow collaborator Jerry Palmer of Fort Collins, who also did the arrangements, through his home-based recording studio, Kiva Records. Tom Capek at Colorado Sound Studios in Fort Collins did the mastering.
“Half of the album is old songs. A handful of them are original tunes,” Hopkins said. “I’m proud of the fact that they fit together that these songs have such a deep tradition and they fit well with my originals.”
Two traditional songs Hopkins recalls his mother singing to him when he was a child, “Froggy Went Courting” and “Pretty Little Horses.”
“The track ‘Froggy’ is pretty meaningful to me,” Hopkins said. “There’s a personality there. In terms of the album, it makes a good picture too.”
That picture appears on the album cover, depicting a cowboy-hat-wearing, smiling frog holding some flowers as he rests on a lily pad.
A few of the originals are inspired by Hopkins’ children, Ian, 14, and Hunter Androvich, also 14. Ian was the inspiration for “Lighthouse Band,” and Hunter, “Cactus Song”—when he was six or seven, Hunter stuck his finger in a cactus and got angry when it pricked him.
“We started talking about it, and the song developed out of that (about) respecting people’s differences,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins dedicated the album to his 1-year-old grandnephew, Zeke, who loves the album.
“It was his arrival that was in the back of my head as I started organizing my recordings,” Hopkins said.
The album is Hopkins eighth, and it’s been a long time coming as he began writing the songs for it in 1982.
“I wish I could have done this when (my children) were smaller. A lot of this happened when they were small,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been getting a pretty good reaction from it. You don’t have to be a child or young person to enjoy it, but it’s kid-friendly.”
Hopkins originally got in to music at age 14 in 1972 when he bought his first guitar. Over the years he performed mostly solo, but also in a few bands and as an opening act. He performed with and supported national stage acts like John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful and Chuck Pyle, known as the “Zen Cowboy.” He performed locally in Berthoud, plus all over North America, the Indian subcontinent and Australia.
Hopkins primarily sings and plays the acoustic guitar and considers himself more of a singer/songwriter than a folk artist. He plays a mix of modern folk, country and blues.
“When I’m writing songs, they span all styles, depending on what I’m thinking,” Hopkins said. “In terms of categorizing my music, I never feel comfortable when I’m pegged to any style.”
Hopkins entered the recording business in 1989 when he founded Kiva Recording Studio in Fort Collins, followed by Kiva Records, an independent record label. A producer and audio engineer, he was actively involved in the businesses until his move to Berthoud in 2003, becoming a stay-at-home dad until 2011 — he also took a leave from performing during that time. He now records his own albums and albums for friends and occasionally for others through Kiva Records.
“I also, as part of that, had a small record label with a website when most people didn’t,” Hopkins said.
As a producer, Hopkins worked with several international artists, including David Bromberg, Michael Hedges, Odetta, Tom Paxton, Al Stewart and Jesse Colin Young. He also served as a sound engineer for a few live performances.
“I like music; one reason is because it connects me to mystery and connects me to feelings,” Hopkins said. “When I perform it, it creates something different. There’s something different about it you can’t just get by playing it by yourself. There’s connection, an energy. It ties into the songwriting for me, trying to express myself, but it’s bigger than that.”
For more information, visit Hopkins’ website, www.russhopkins.com.
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