Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Q&A with Kaitlin Hopkins

BroadwayWorld.com favorite Kaitlin Hopkins, and star of shows like Noises Off, Bare, Bat Boy and many others has just released her first solo CD - Make Me Sweat. We checked in to get the scoop.

When did you first get the idea for the CD? How long has it been in the works?

The CD was in the works for three years all together. We didn't start out with recording a CD as our objective but when I look back on the chain of events that ultimately led to us recording Jim's songs, it makes perfect sense.

Jim and I were out in Los Angeles after BATBOY closed, I was shooting a television show and Jim was writing a lot of music during the days while I was working. Jim has been composing for years and while we were hanging out by the pool on the weekends he would teach me some of his old songs so we could sing them together. We found that our voices harmonizing together was a very unique sound and we started thinking about doing an evening of his music.

I responded to Jim's music so much, on every level and I knew the first time I heard Jim's songs that it was the only music that I was really interested in singing. As time went on, it eventually evolved into Jim writing songs for me, about my life and the things we were experiencing in our lives at that time.

On and off over the next year Jim kept writing new songs for me and we would work on them, slowly developing the sound and style we were looking for. The second year, we were out in LA again because I was shooting a pilot for FOX and doing a wonderful production of She Loves Me with Rebecca Luker for The Reprise series. While we were there, Michael Feinstein asked us to sing a few songs at the opening weekend of his new club, Feinstein's. That was the first time we had tried any of the songs out in front of an audience. The response was so fantastic, people asked if we had a CD they could buy and another club approached us about booking us. That was the first time we realized we really had something and wanted to pursue it more. At that point it was just me, Jim, and his guitar. Somewhere along the way we realized we both wanted to record the music and do arrangements for a full band.

The third year was really spent figuring out how we were going finance our dream and actually do it. We knew we wanted to produce it ourselves without anyone else's time or money restrictions, so that's what we did. We were very lucky to find an investor who gave us that freedom. Finding the time we needed to do the recording the way we wanted to with our schedules was another matter. Sometimes you have to turn down work to make room for the things in your life that are important to you, it is a scary thing but ultimately incredibly liberating to have control over what you do, and how you do it. I have learned that some times you just have to trust that if you are on the right path the universe will provide what you need to do it.

When was it recorded?

It was recorded over the summer. The musical we were both doing, Bare, went on hiatus for three months waiting for the new theater (Dodger Stages) to be finished. We decided that was the perfect time to do it. Thanks to the musicians in the band for Bare , it was possible. We were all free at the same time and Jim and I decided not do anything else for the whole summer except work on the album. We spent two months just fine tuning the songs, arrangements and rehearsing, and a little over a month recording and mixing everything.

How would you describe the style of music?

It is pop/rock music with blues, country and jazz influences. I like to call it rural rock. "Authentic" is the best word I can think of to describe it. Jim takes risks emotionally in his songs, he speaks the truth and always, always has humor in everything he writes. It is very real, present and specific, and as a result it appeals to me a great deal as an actress because you are able to go moment to moment with it and the songs feel more like well constructed monologues.

Tell us about some of your favorite songs on the CD...

It is hard to pick a favorite. One of our goals was for every song on the record to be a great song for one reason or another. I get so disappointed buying cd's and only liking one or two songs out of the whole album. I really wanted to create an experience for the listener where each song they hear is a favorite-- where they can't wait to get to the next one. I had the time of my life making this cd for that reason especially, and I like to think you hear the joy of that in each song, even the ballads.

However, if I have to pick one or two, I would say "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" and "Cold Rain in New York" are on the top of the list, mainly because I enjoy singing them so much.

What was the process like of Jim writing all the songs for you?

It really was amazing-- a dream coming true. I think every singer is flattered when a composer writes something for them, but it is a different experience altogether when the song isn't just being written to suit your voice, it's being written to reflect your life. I have had composers write for my voice before, but always in relationship to the character I was playing and how the character would speak or behave. Here, I had someone who knows me better than anyone, asking me: what do you want to say? What do you feel strongly about? What do you need to sing about? What kind of groove do you want this song to sit in? It was a very intimate process, mostly really fun, sometimes painful, and at times, scary, very scary. As we got closer to actually recording, I suddenly got frightened about what we were trying to do. I felt very vulnerable and exposed. I felt like " this is me, how I feel, not a character I can hide behind". Of course, that was the whole point, but it was scary, nonetheless. I had to deal with my own fear of rejection in a completely new way, opening up some places that are easier to keep shut down because Jim's songs deserved that honesty from me.

A lot of our "what should Jim write about" process was really fun. One time I was stuck in awful traffic on the 101 freeway in Los Angeles at 4:00, and I called Jim screaming on the cel phone about how I hate the LA traffic(who doesn't) and how I couldn't wait to get back to New York and a subway. By the time I got home he was waiting in the driveway with a glass of wine and a song called "Stop the Madness" all about my experience in rush hour. We couldn't stop laughing and neither one of us could sing it for quite a while without giggling. It turned into a kick ass rock song--I just love it. Kevin Rice's drum/car/horn honking solo is one of the most inspired things on the album.

My other favorite moment came when Jim wrote "Shirley's in her Nightgown", which is about my mom, Shirley Knight, her dogs Smokey Joe and Biggles, and my sister Sophie. It is all about how the simple, little things in life are the things that support us most and make us appreciate what we have-- each other. Jim wrote that song about three months after Sept 11th when we left New York for a break and went to stay with my mom in LA. I didn't realize how depressed I really was until we were home and I was with my family. It is amazing how healing that can be, how comforting the smell of coffee and homemade biscuits can be. I think we both needed something to hold onto at a moment when the world felt like quicksand. Sometimes, something as simple as seeing your mom in the driveway in her nightgown picking up the newspaper and the dogs running down the hall in the morning to say hello is all you need to start the healing process.

What was the appeal of doing an album of all new songs as opposed to standards?

I definitely want to do a record of standards in the future, but what appealed to me most about doing this album at this time was all those things I spoke of before that scared the heck out of me. I guess, at this point in my life, I don't want to do the safe thing any more in my work as an artist. I have done that for a long time, God knows, and it has served me well, but it gets boring after a while. It is hard to explain. It is very gratifying to get technically skilled at something, anything, but at some point that isn't enough-- you want to put more of yourself out there, you need more. You fail more when you approach the work this way, but when you get it right, it is so much more satisfying. My need to express myself artistically through this music was more important than being "good" at it. It was something that I had to do for me.

Some of the band names look mighty familiar, where do we know them from?

They are affectionately known (by some) as the Bare band, but they will always be so much more than that to me. Kevin Rice, Kyle Smith, Dave Madden and Adam Countryman are all exceptional musicians, and we were so blessed to have them collaborate with us on this project. We are even more blessed to have them in our lives as friends. We could not have done this without them, they took the songs and elevated them in every way.

What was the whole Bare experience like for you?

It was really great on several levels. First, it was an exceptional group of people-- kind, supportive and creative. That aspect gets more and more important to me the older I get. Time and life is too short to work with crazy or unkind people no matter what the project is, and we were all very aware of how lucky we were to have this particular group of people together creating this show.

Secondly, I loved "Claire" and I loved playing Michael Arden's mother. Michael and I had a connection that was very moving for me, and it was wonderful and very natural to use that in our relationship on stage together. I was also very affected by how many people spoke to me, or wrote to me about their experience listening to me sing Claire's song, "Warning". Damon and John wrote a song that really spoke to many people's relationships with their mother's. It was a gift to sing it.

Thirdly, I liked what the show was about, and I had a great deal of respect for our producers and the risks they were taking. Michael David and Lauren Mitchell were passionate about this show and believed in it and in the team's collective ability to fully realize it. It broke my heart when Bare lost its funding in the eleventh hour. I am hopeful that someday this show will have the life it deserves.

What else are you working on currently?

Well, it has been a very exciting year for me creatively. Doing Nicky Silver's new play "Beautiful Child" and then going right into "Bare" took up most of the year. I thought after recording the cd I would take some time off but things didn't quite work out that way. I do a lot workshops and readings but I have to say there were three that I just finished working on that I was very proud to be part of. "Adrift in Macao" is a new musical with book and lyrics by Chris Durang, music by Peter Melnick , directed by Sheryl Kaller. We just did two performances for the backers, and the producers are planning an off Broadway run next year. I have been working on the show on and off for two years and I am very pleased that this show is getting produced, it is just fantastic and deeply funny. I am really looking forward to getting in front of an audience with this one, it is going to be a great ride, so keep a look out. The other show is actually a new opera called "The Screams of Kitty Genovese" that we just did at The Public with John Caird directing, libretto by David Simpatico and music by Will Todd. This is also an exceptional piece of work and if there is justice in this crazy world you will see this on Broadway in the near future. The last one was a new musical called "Party Come Here" by David Kirshenbaum, book and lyrics by Daniel Goldfarb, directed by Jason Moore that we did for the Roundabout. Wow, what a great role and a funny, funny show. I really had a blast on that one and all three of those boys are crazy talented so God only knows what will happen next with that show.

As far as film and television work goes, I just finished shooting a film with Julianne Moore called "Trust The Man" and I am hoping to be re- joining the cast of "Recue Me" again this season. I play the mother of a gay teenager who is having relationship with Dennis Leary's daughter on the show and it looks like that story line will continue.

I have also be offered a Broadway show for the fall that has me more excited that I can stand but as the negotiations are still happening I need to keep my little mouth shut until the producers make a formal announcement of the whole cast. I can't wait to talk about it! Jim is busy writing a new musical for me called "Patience" and we hope to workshop it right after the first of the year. For anyone who enjoys radio plays, two of the shows I did for LA Theatre Works "The Play's The Thing" series have just been released on cd, I love them, so check them out if you have a chance. "Proof" with (me), Anne Heche, Robert Foxworth and Jeremy Sisto and "The Heidi Chronicles". Playing "Heidi" was a dream come true, I love that play and working with Molly Smith (who directed it) and Wendy Wasserstein was fantastic. The rest of the cast is amazing, Martha Plimpton, Raphael Sparge and Grant Shaud.

Any upcoming appearances to promote the CD?

I will be appearing at View Bar on Monday December 27th as part of Will Clark's weekly live talk show from 7pm to 9 pm to help promote the CD if anyone is in town and wants to come by it should be a blast.

I am also doing a two-night gig at Opia on January 30th and 31st. I can't wait to get in front of an audience with the band and have some fun. It has been years since I performed a solo show in a club and I am really looking forward to it. We will do quite a few songs from the album, but I will also do some old favorites that I think everyone will enjoy… details to follow after the first of the year.

The CD is currently available at Colony Records, and is also for sale online at www.cdbaby.com/Kaitlin, www.TowerRecords.com or her web site, www.Kaitlinhopkins.com.


Related Articles
Vote Now for the Best of the Decade Awards

From This Author Robert Diamond