Singer/songwriter Hope has a heart filled with “Love, Love, Love” – current hit single from her self-titled Atlantic Records debut. When speaking with her it becomes immediately apparent she is beaming to share her heart with others. The Merriam-Webster definition of “hope” is to cherish a desire with anticipation, but does she feel her career has thus far lived to her name? “Yeah,” says Hope, enthusiastically. “My whole life I’ve been writing music. Somehow the writing process has led to something hopeful, painting a silver lining on a lot of the ends of the songs. I have just a natural hopeful outlook on music and life. Even though as an artist it’s easy for us to write a sad song, I try to find ways to put hopeful things at the end of them.”
The optimism of the guitar-wielding New York native glows as bright as the California sun, where she currently resides. If the music-loving world continues to embrace Hope, her shine will hopefully see no end.
Soul Train: Okay Hope, your name also means a belief in a positive outcome. Is there a situation in the world you’re hopeful will improve?
Hope: Absolutely! I hope the world we live in will get better, and that people learn to be family and help each other. Uplift each and support each other, because there’s a lot of competition in the world. I’m hopeful the world will be a better place, better than it already is. I think it’s awesome! A lot of people think right now things are really down, and it doesn’t look too bright. But I believe it’s your outlook, and I hope that gets better and better every day.
Soul Train: Tell us about an instance in your life where your own outlook made you want to stop what you were doing and write about it immediately.
Hope: I was performing on Hollywood Blvd. with my guitar, they call it busking; I was just on the street singing and playing my guitar. A friend of my mine from Australia that I had worked with came over and said to me, “You know, nothing is going to last forever.” I was out there singing, and I wanted my music to be heard by so many people. I thought about what he said and realized he was so right. So I started writing a song called “The Rain Don’t Last”. The words are: The rain don’t last forever, the storm will always blow; but if the sun don’t shine forever, you gotta let it go.
Soul Train: How long have you been playing the guitar?
Hope: I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 5-years old, off and on. I love it! I can just grab my guitar and go anywhere and write a song.
Soul Train: Was there ever a time your guitar felt like your security blanket, and you needed to hide behind it?
Hope: Absolutely! When I first started writing songs I wasn’t writing songs on the guitar, I was writing songs on the piano. And when I came to California I’d worked with different producers, and I realized it’s something off about being able to make your own music from just an instrument and also be really mobile. It’s hard to haul around a piano. So I started playing the guitar, and it was definitely interesting. Recently I have done a lot of performances where I have to put my guitar down, and I’m so attached to it! I…almost kinda sleep with my guitar sometimes! [Laughs] I fall asleep while I’m writing with it. So some of those performances were a little bit more difficult because I had to let go; but I love a challenge, I love being able to step away from my guitar and be who I am, and not feel like I have to hold on to it.
Soul Train: For a lot of guitarists, their guitars become almost like a pet. They give them their own personalities. Has your guitar taken on its own personality? Have you given it a name?
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Hope: [Laughs] Well actually…they’re kind of like my babies, but I don’t have names for them or anything like that yet! [Laughs again] I have two Martin guitars and they’re my favorites. I go between them; sometimes I feel like playing the really nice one, other times I just want to play the simple one to feel like I felt when I first started writing. I have different ones for different moods.
Soul Train: When you’re out-and-about and you come across a nice guitar, in the store or somebody else’s, do you feel compelled to touch it, grab it and try it?
Hope: It’s very hard for me not to play the guitar when I see one. Sometimes I’ll go to the guitar store and just hang out for hours, and just play all the different guitars. So definitely yes!
Soul Train: Have you come across a fan you felt so drawn to you just had to reach out and touch them?
Hope: I was doing a show in Bakersville… I was at a table signing CDs and this girl came up to me, and she was shaking! She told me she’d brought this CD and DVD her brother had given her. The CD was of songs he really liked and the DVD…he’d passed away and the DVD was footage of him. She wanted me to sign them and she was shaking, so I just threw my arms around her and pulled her close and just held her there! At that moment she said, “My brother loved your music and I love your music, and I’m so happy I’m here! And he’s not here now, and I just want you to sign these.” I have a brother too so that really impacted me. There were people in line, but I just took time to reach out to her and talk to her. It was pretty intense though.
Soul Train: Has there been a time yet in your career where you felt as emotional as that girl and needed someone to do the same thing for you?
Hope: We’re all human no matter what we’re doing in our lives. We have our ups and we have our downs. There are days when I feel gray, and I try to take that energy and put it into my music to get it out. I have a great network of friends and family who are very supportive. I can always call them and say, “I’m having a rough day!” They’ll hold me if I’m crying. No matter what I’m going through they’re always very supportive. My mom is a huge part of my life, which makes it a lot easier.
Soul Train: Was it easy going from piano to guitar?
Hope: It wasn’t very difficult for me going from playing keys to playing guitar because I was used to moving my fingers around and trying new things. When I picked up the guitar it was natural for me.
Soul Train: What pianist or guitarist was the first to touch you emotionally, and make you proud to say you play those same instruments?
Hope: Wow…that’s a deep question… As far as the piano it would have to be someone classical I listened to when I was younger. Beethoven. On occasion I would hear a song in the grocery store, and would hear beautiful pieces of classical music. That kind of inspired me.
Soul Train: Isn’t music in the grocery store is great?!
Hope: It is! It’s all of the classics and they always play them; some of the most amazing songs! That’s how I learned, growing up I wasn’t allowed to listen to a lot of secular music. I had to sneak around and record the radio, whatever I could do to hear what was out there. So going to the store to hear music was amazing. [Laughs]
Soul Train: What about a guitarist?
Hope: My father played guitar. He was the first influence I had. I think that was the biggest influence for me; hearing my dad write me songs every week. He listened to Jimi Hendrix, so growing up I would try to find Jimi Hendrix music and listen to it.
Soul Train: How did your father respond the first time you sang for him?
Hope: When I first sang around my parents I was really shy. They would hear me sing with my sister and my brother, we were kind of a trio. But my parents didn’t know I could sing…well. It wasn’t long ago I played my parents some of the recordings I’d done and they were so excited! Right now my father is one of my biggest champions! He’s telling everyone about my music! My father loves my voice. He’s always telling me, “You have an amazing voice!” [Laughs] He’s so encouraging.
Soul Train: Okay Hope, who did you enjoy playing with most – your siblings or your instruments?
Hope: WOW… [Laughs] Umm…let me see here… Well obviously my siblings are my blood and they can talk back to me, so I would have to say my family! [Laughs] They’re my heart and I love them so much, so my brother and my sister, for sure. Music is my other love.
Soul Train: If there was one song on your album you could sing, and dedicate, just to your family, which one would it be?
Hope: I love that question! Of all the songs on my record I could dedicate to my family I think it would be “Lighthouse”. I would dedicate that one because we’re really close, throughout my journey in music I’ve had awesome support from my brother Christian who helped me work on my first record. We got a great response. And the street performing…all of this stuff we did together as a family. When I hear “Lighthouse” I think of all those intimate moments on the sea of life, and sometimes you can’t see where you’re going to end up. When you get there you realize along the way the process was just as beautiful as arriving.
Soul Train: Do you stop to talk to street performers when you see them?
Hope: Yes I do! Every time I see them, if I like their music or if they’re doing something interesting, I’m mesmerized. I stop, I listen, and I try to get their information. It’s something awesome about taking your art to the street and being brave enough to get out there and perform for people who aren’t necessarily there to see you. That’s what I experienced. Sometimes I’d be in tears going “Why do I even care? Why do I want to do this so bad?” But part of me was so determined and was telling me, “You have to!”
Soul Train: If someone told you the only chance the world had to be better and for its people to act as a family – like you said earlier, was for you to take your music back to the streets anywhere the world, would you do it?
Hope: If that was the only hope for mankind, I would do it! The people are right there. Some stop and some don’t, but it’s amazing to get that up-close. There are no walls. They can’t contain the sound. It travels wherever it wants to go. And I’d do it again and again. I love it. I would go out there tomorrow and perform! I would do a street performing tour! [Pauses] And I’m feeling like I need to, actually.
Check out her video for the single “Love, Love, Love.”
— Mr. Joe Walker
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Mr. Joe Walker is an acclaimed journalist published over 2,000 times in more than 30 different regional, national, international and online entertainment and news publications. He’s likely writing something as you’re reading this. While also Editor In Chief/Creative Director of The Ultimate Interactive Magazine (TheUIM.com), he contributes to Hear/Say Now, Muskegon Tribune, Kalamazoo Gazette, and SoulTrain.com. Follow him on Twitter @mrjoewalker.