John Driskell Hopkins Interview
John Driskell Hopkins is a singer/songwriter, guitarist, bassist, ukulele and banjo player, and founding member of the Zac Brown Band. John recently finished up the Welcome Home Tour with the Zac Brown Band. He will be performing songs from his holiday albums with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra on December 14, 2017 and also has a benefit concert for Restore Life on December 21, 2017 both in Georgia before he joins the Zac Brown Band in Las Vegas on December 29, 2017 to close out the year. John took some time earlier this year while out on the road to answer some questions for us.
How did you get started playing music? Who are some of your influences?
I've been singing since I was 3 years old. I was very involved in choir and theatre growing up, and I've been playing in rock bands since I was 15. I’ve always been a big fan of amazing singers. My favorites are Indigo Girls, Journey, Darrell Scott, U2, REM, and dozens of others.
When did you get your first ukulele? How does ukulele fit with the sound of the band and how has it influenced your style?
I’ve had a ukulele for a long time, I only started using one in our shows in the past 5 or 6 years. It's a great compliment to Zac's nylon string [guitar] and it's really wonderful on the beach songs we play. I also like it when we do an acoustic set. It's cool to have a different voicing when there are so many guitars on stage.
How is tour going? Where have you been so far? Any songs with uke making it into the set this time out?
This is a very busy year for us and we don't stop until November. We've been from the U.K. to Australia to Mexico to Alaska. I've been using the uke on our Island Medley and in our new song called “Start Over.”
What's next for you after tour?
Right now, I'm in the middle of making my second Christmas album. This first one was entitled In the Spirit and came out in 2015. I was accompanied by the Atlanta Pops Orchestra and featured Indigo Girls, Laura Bell Bundy and Balsam Range. This new one is entitled You Better Watch Out and it's all about Santa. I'm being accompanied by the Joe Gransden Big Band and this album features Bela Fleck, Aoife O'Donovan, Daniel De Los Reyes (ZBB Percussionist) and Joe Gransden. You might recall my ukulele being featured in a bonus track from last year's “Mele Kalikimaka” featuring The Dappled Greys. If you missed it, here's the video…
Kala Ukulele App Update!
The Kala Ukulele App with Tuner was recently updated with nine FREE holiday songs including “Jingle Bells” and “Away In a Manger.” If you haven’t downloaded the FREE Kala Ukulele App yet, you can download it from the Apple Store here and from Google Play here. If you already have the App, what are you waiting for? Learn some holiday songs in time for your next gathering!
What are your favorite holiday songs to play on the uke? Let us know in the comments.