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Pamela Hopkins: “Pearls of wisdom”

I would probably just suggest to my colleagues to take it day by day. Being an independent artist can spur some exciting things, but it can also create a lot of time where it seems that nothing is happening. So every single day, do something that move yourself forward; write, find something creative to post, […]

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I would probably just suggest to my colleagues to take it day by day. Being an independent artist can spur some exciting things, but it can also create a lot of time where it seems that nothing is happening. So every single day, do something that move yourself forward; write, find something creative to post, learn a new instrument so you can accompany yourself, work on your website, etc…just be sure you’re being productive, even if it is just little baby steps. Give it a few months and look back and see how all the small things have added up to bigger things.


As a part of our series about rising music stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Pamela Hopkins

Little Rock, Arkansas native, Pamela Hopkins, is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. Her first Nashville album of all original music was released in February 1995, and she got back in the studio recording her second album/EP project that was released in October 2018. Pamela also released 2 singles in 2019.

Pamela got back in the studio in the spring of 2020, in Franklin, TN, to record her next 4 singles with Off the Row Recording Studio as one of their “Breakout Artists.” She is super excited to let her fans hear her new co-written songs, as well as the fresh country sound with writer Jim Femino.

In 2021, Pamela has 6–7 new songs to release throughout the year. She co-wrote each song with various Nashville writers and was excited to release her first co-written duet featuring Matt Dame, on February 5, 2021 titled “Little Things.”

In October, 2013, she began as a Dueling Piano Player for Ernie Biggs in the River Market District of Little Rock. In January of 2017, Pamela transitioned to Willy D’s Rock & Roll Dueling Piano Bar, a larger venue, in the River Market District in Little Rock. In addition to Willy D’s, she can be seen in other venues, Norwegian Cruise Ships and clubs across the US. She continues to grow her craft, repertoire, and network of fellow musicians in what is a very unique niche in the music industry — Piano bars!

Pamela also has a band that plays her original music as well as many of the tunes you love to hear, from country to classic rock, her 5 piece band is comprised of some of the best musicians around. You can book her band to play for all occasions…just reach out to her and/or check out her schedule to catch them playing a public event.

In her own words, Pamela says, “I’ve had a passion for music since I was a young girl, singing, playing cello and piano. I’ve been successful in music, as a wife, in raising a family and have held two successful careers in law enforcement and then as English Teacher for the middle and elementary school level. I am now in the midst of this next chapter of my life, dedicating it to my music career and couldn’t be more excited about achieving what’s been a long-term dream of mine — a full-time music career.”


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in Little Rock, AR. Life was not easy in our household because of how my dad was (an alcoholic, and many times violent when he was drunk) while I was growing up, but I know that he loved us and was doing the best he knew how having the addiction he had. I went to public schools and for most of my childhood, grew up in a small house in a not-so-safe neighborhood in the southwest part of the city. My parents made sure that my brother and I both were involved in sports growing up, so we spent a lot of time at the baseball fields. I played softball almost my entire young childhood and when I step foot in a baseball field even today, those fond memories come back to me. It’s the smell of the dirt, hot dogs, popcorn, sound of the bat hitting the ball, etc…that just takes me back to that time in my life. Baseball is still one of my favorite sports to watch live. I absolutely love going to baseball games!

Once I was done with playing softball, I spent time in gymnastics because I wanted to be a cheerleader and needed to learn how to tumble, which I did, and became a cheerleader throughout junior high and high school. I even got back to playing ball in high school — BASEBALL — because my school didn’t have a softball team and had just started the baseball team during my 10th grade year. So I became the first female on the baseball team at my high school. I was the girl who liked to be in everything I could cram into my schedule. So I did flag line with the band, I was in the different high school musicals, I was in different clubs and on committees for dances, and I also held down a job all throughout high school.

I remember back when I was in the 4th grade, moving to Bellevue, WA (right outside of Seattle, WA) to live with my grandparents. My parents had gotten into a huge fight and my mom moved me and my brother up there because she had planned to divorce my dad. That was really hard on me because I was not well received by the other kids due to having a really bad southern drawl and I got made fun of because of how I talked — ALL the time. I enjoyed living up there as long as I wasn’t in school and it is still one of my favorite places to go back to visit. My parents worked out their differences and we moved back to Arkansas, where I have been ever since.

I started playing the cello in the 5th grade and my orchestra teacher encouraged me to apply for Horace Mann Arts and Science Magnet Jr High and join the fine arts side of the school so that I could continue playing music. I applied for the school and got in, and continued on that path, graduating from Parkview Arts & Science Magnet High School. While I was in school, I also learned to play the piano and eventually joined the choir in high school. Music was a big part of my life from the 5th grade on. Before that, I loved to listen to music and sing around the house. I think I wanted to sing because my older brother sang in choir and barber shop quartets in school and I looked up to him — and I guess, secretly wanted to be just like him at the time. I think my entire life would be different had we stayed in Washington even just a little longer. I probably wouldn’t have joined the orchestra in elementary school because I would have missed the entry level year and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to attend the magnet schools that I went to that gave me such a foundation in music.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have held several careers in my lifetime. I spent about 13 years as a police officer, spending many of those years as a School Resource Officer/D.A.R.E. Officer. I got promoted to Sergeant and moved back to street patrol on the evening shift. This made it really difficult to see my kids who started begging me not to go to work because they missed me. So about 9 months into being a sergeant, I applied for graduate school. I decided that I wanted to be back in the school environment so I had planned to become a teacher and get my Master of Arts in Teaching degree. Now, with each career path that I chose and committed to, I believe, was exactly where I was supposed to be at that given time in my life. Once my heart wasn’t in it anymore, I knew it was time for me to find my new passion.

The last year I taught, my husband and I went out one night to a piano bar in Conway, AR. I asked one of the players, David Rasico, if I could get up and sing with them. He allowed me to sing and I got talking to him after the show and asked him how I go about getting into the dueling piano gig. His basic answer was, learn to play and sing 30 songs and come back and see me. Well, I practiced every night, driving everyone in my house nuts I’m sure, because I played the only piano I had, a 1918 upright grand piano, so there was no way to put headphones in while I learned. My family probably heard each of the 30 songs a minimum of 200 times because I was re-learning how to play piano, while learning to sing these songs at the same time. After I had these songs learned, I went back to talk to David and he started letting me sit in (no pay) every week until I eventually was offered a part time job in the Little Rock club, playing a couple times a week.

I had just kind of planned to teach and play part time for as long as I could until both of my parents started having health issues; my dad was diagnosed with cancer again and my mom was starting to have strokes. I also had a young kid with Type I Diabetes, so I was very limited on the time I could take off to help anyone. Teachers don’t get very much leave time to take care of illnesses, doctor’s appointments, etc…during the school year, so I worked even harder and was finally offered a full time playing/singing job, playing weekends. I was also able to get a different day job (I became a yearbook rep) that allowed me the flexibility I needed to help my parents if they needed it and take care of my kids as well. So I quit my teaching job to start chasing my dream to perform music on a full time basis.

I have spent the past few years performing cover songs at piano bars (I still do). A few years ago I decided to try and find my own sound. I wanted to know what “Pamela” sounded like so I started working with Cliff and Susan Prowse (Big Red Dog Productions) at finding some songs and recording them — which you can find on my 2018 EP, “With or Without You.” So as the natural progression goes, 1) record other people’s songs, then 2) start writing your own. That’s exactly what I did and where I am now. I co-write with other writers a few times a month. Out of the 10 songs that I plan to be part of my next full album, I co-wrote 8 of them. Currently 5 of the 10 songs have been released as singles. Once all 10 songs are released, we will rerelease them as a full album and have CD’s pressed.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

While I was playing piano on a Sunday night in Little Rock, at the club I got my first paying gig at (Ernie Biggs), a guy sent a drink up to the piano after I sang/played his request, “House of the Rising Sun.” I said, “Thank you for the drink,” over the mic, and the bartender leaned over and whispered that it came from the lead singer of Five Finger Death Punch, Ivan Moody. Come to find out, Little Rock was the first location on that particular tour, and they would be rehearsing for the week. I went over to Ivan’s table and thanked him for the drink again, and he told me that he loved the way I sang his favorite song — he had actually recorded that song with that band. We visited for a while on my break and he ended up staying past closing to hang out with us players. He ended up giving me a few tickets to the show and my youngest son and I got to go on stage during the concert and be a part of one of their songs. That was a really neat experience.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’m not sure that this was a “mistake” in actual performing, but definitely a bit embarrassing and funny I think. I wear these cardigan-type tops over my tank tops that I wear on stage (basically to hide my fat when I sit and play the piano). I had gotten dressed in a hurry because I was running late (which is my typical MO) and went on to work, barely making stage time. After my first set, I went to the bathroom and came out of the stall to wash my hands, fix my makeup, etc…when I looked in the mirror, I saw a huge white tag on the side that was exposed to the audience, and the neck tag standing straight out through my hair. Yes, I was wearing my outer of clothing inside-out. No one said a word about it. There is no way that it wasn’t noticeable because my outer layer is black 99% of the time. I guess there is a benefit to playing for drinkin’ folks! Lesson learned — I check that every single time now.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m currently writing with co-writers on a weekly basis to increase my repertoire of songs. I have a new single coming out at the end of April or beginning of May called “Givin’a Damn (Don’t Go With My Outfit)” which I co-wrote with Dave Lenahan and Melissa Leigh. I’m working on a t-shirt design and a tumbler to package together for a pre-sale leading up to the song’s official release date. I’m really excited to release this song because I think a lot of small town people will be able to relate to it.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think diversity is very important because after all, we are the melting pot here in America. It’s important that children see people who look like them depicted in a positive light so they have something to aspire towards. Seeing all types of cultures, genders, sexuality, religions, etc…allows for people to be more comfortable in their own skin because they don’t feel isolated. We are all human and deserve to be treated with dignity and to also know that we are not alone. When film and television depict a diverse population of people doing extraordinary things that can really ignite hope in those that may not have role models around them to look up to. So the little girl that watches a movie where there is a female president or CEO of a company can see that it is okay to pursue something big in their life. Film and television can and do influence people in positive and in negative ways, so I think if people of all walks of life are represented in a positive light, more young people will be able to see themselves in those positive roles.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I feel like I had great people advising me once I came back into music a few years ago. So I can give you examples of what people told me that I felt was helpful. The guys that took me under their wings were very encouraging and gave me “pearls of wisdom” that I thought were very helpful. My buddy Matteo told me to always perform sober. He basically said that when you’re learning to perform and interact with people on stage, having any substance in your body will inhibit your ability to make good decisions and learn the actual job you’re being paid to do.

Another musician friend of mine told me that when I am performing to make eye contact with every single person in the room if I can. Connecting with each person while you sing can make or break your performance and following for that night. When people feel special and a part of your show, the engagement goes up and people are likely to return and/or buy your merch.

I was also told to be a good partner on stage, and because I wanted to keep my job, I tried to stay attentive to everything that was happening and tried to pick up what the more skilled and experienced players were doing. I was in the “fake ’til you make it” mode. That seemed to work pretty well for me until I could find my own footing on stage.

I have a good friend, Stephen Winter, who told me to take good care of my instrument — which is my voice. He had lost his voice completely and I believe had to have surgery. So learning proper singing technique is important. But, trying to do all of those things that “take care of my instrument” didn’t stop me from having some vocal issues from over singing and using my voice too much. Because of that, I have had to undergo vocal rest and constant vocal strobes to make sure that I am not damaging my vocal cords permanently.

The last great piece of advice I was given was to perform in that moment. Getting in my head over one note can cause so many other problems to happen. I’ve had to learn to feel the music I’m performing and to be 100% authentic in how I go about pushing a song a particular way. I feel every song I write and every song I perform. I was encouraged to just be me when I am doing my thing on the stage, people like the authenticity.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I would probably just suggest to my colleagues to take it day by day. Being an independent artist can spur some exciting things, but it can also create a lot of time where it seems that nothing is happening. So every single day, do something that move yourself forward; write, find something creative to post, learn a new instrument so you can accompany yourself, work on your website, etc…just be sure you’re being productive, even if it is just little baby steps. Give it a few months and look back and see how all the small things have added up to bigger things.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I know this is going to sound super dumb, but honestly speaking, if I could think of one thing that every single person could do that would make a difference in our world, it would be to smile at other people and speak to them. A simple smile and “Hello, how are you today?” spoken to someone that you normally might not speak to, can make a world of difference to that person. Speaking kind words and giving a smile, is contagious and might just make someone feel like they matter. So many people live their lives without meaningful interaction with other people. So just say kind words to everyone you come across, this could be a child, a homeless person, the guy pumping his gas next to you, etc… This little gesture cost you nothing!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are a few people who have been very helpful to me and in making me the performer and instrumentalist that I have become. The first person that gave me a chance to get on the stage was one of my good friends named David Rasico. I still get to play across from him at my current gig at Willy D’s. I met David a little of over eight years ago when my husband and I visited the local dueling piano bar. I asked if I could get up and sing a song with them, and he allowed me to. When he went on his break, I asked how I could get into doing what he was doing and I told him I could play a little piano. His answer was, “learn 30 songs on the piano and come back and see me.” So that is what I did. It took me about 4–6 months, but I had some songs, and he allowed me to get up on the stage and work on playing them and singing in front of people.

Now, I had songs, but I sure did not play them correctly. So the next person that helped me was my good buddy Matteo. He showed me how to play different grooves for each type of song. So I worked daily to make sure I could play and sing at the same time. This is how I got started in performing my weekly gig that I have been doing for 7 ½ years now.

Along the way, I have met so many other players that have helped me here and there with different aspects of my show, and all of that is how I am who I am on stage today. After about 4 years or so, I started to wonder what my actual sound was. I had covered all of the popular artists in different genres and I felt like it was time to develop my own sound. I became friends fellow dueler Susan Erwin Prowse and that time, she was dating Cliff Prowse, whom I had known a couple of years. Cliff and Susan were starting to help develop artist in Arkansas and was starting to record and write with them. I decided to start down this new journey with them. I recorded my 2018 EP, “With or Without You,” with Cliff and Susan. Cliff wrote the first song I recorded called, “Not Another Sad Love Song.” Susan helped me connect with some Nashville writers, and I ended up recording three more original songs on that EP and a cover of Zombie by the Cranberries (it was my most requested song and still is, so I decided to do my own version of it). The next year, I released one of my own original songs called, “Give Him Back to Us,” and another single, “Forever.”

Since then, Susan and Cliff created a country music festival that happens every September. Susan gave me a chance to open their first year. Since then, I have created my own band and we played for the 2nd annual Yadaloo Music and Arts Festival, as well as, recently, the Sounds of Unity show, That has been an online live endeavor and is now partnered with the Yadaloo brand.

Each of these people has been key to launching my career, either as a dueling piano player or as a recording artist. Without just one of them, I would not be doing what I am doing now. I cannot thank them enough.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” is “Breathe, darling. This is just a chapter. It’s not your whole story.” by S.C. Lourie. I, like everyone else in this world, have bad days and good days. There are days where I’m on top of the world, and days when nothing goes right and I just want to stay in bed and cry all day. But what I know is that we have seasons in our lives. Some are great and some are challenging. Regardless of the season, it passes. So appreciate the good seasons that bear fruit and work through the seasons that bring about a drought in your life. They are just small chapters in your book of life. How you react and how you manage through them is what builds your story. You are the sum of your chapters. There have been times that I knew it was time to close a chapter and move on. It wasn’t always easy to do that and sometimes I wanted to try and hold on longer than I should or give up too soon, I think we all do that. But, no matter what, I just remember that “this too shall pass,” whether I want it to or not.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would absolutely love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Ashley McBryde, Reba, or Dolly Parton. All three of these women have been such a big influence in my music career. I’ve been listening to Dolly and Reba for what seem like forever now. Both amazingly successful women in music and in TV/film throughout their lifetime. I truly look up to both of those ladies (as well as many others). Ashley McBryde is from my home state of Arkansas, and I love her writing style and the fact that she is a little older than the “normal” Nashville artists that are “making it” right now. When I want to get into the mood of writing, I start listening to her music and ideas just start flowing. I have no clue why this happens to me, but I feel a connection to her sound, lyrics, melody, etc… From the little I know of her, I think we are a lot alike and would get along really well too.

How can our readers follow you online?

If you go to my website, www.pamelahopkinsmusic.com, you can join my email list (so you get to hear my new songs before they release and get my latest updates about what is going on with me). You can also follow me on YouTube on my Artist Channel or my VEVO channel. If you search my name, both will pop up for you. My PamelahopkinsVEVO channel has my “official” music videos and my artist channel has some live performances and other fun stuff. You can also follow me on Instagram @pamelahopkinsmusic, Facebook.com/singerpamelahopkins, twitter.com/phopkinsmusic.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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