Emily Hopkins – Harpedalist

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

Meris Enzo

This is definitely the little button on the Meris Enzo that puts it in “Arp” mode. It essentially turns the chords you play into sequenced patterns at whatever tempo you set. It was such an amazing experience interacting with that mode for the first time, because I heard Enzo go from doing my bidding, to it having some thoughts of its own and playing alongside me. If you split your signal so one is dry (or going through a separate pedal chain) and the other one is through Enzo on arp mode, the sequences create a wonderful foundation for improvisation. I wouldn’t depend on being able to recreate some of those moments easily; but that’s why I love Enzo. Meris pedals are like people.

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V3

I’d say the EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V3 is near-perfect for me. The reverb pairs perfectly with the harp, and pretty much every other instrument (especially voice)! It would work well in any piece I play. The only improvement I can think of is an upgrade to stereo output.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

Out and about with a Harp

Unfortunately my electroacoustic Camac harp is too large and too sensitive to the weather/humidity to bring on vacation; I’d just be worrying about it the whole time and not be able to enjoy myself! On vacation or long car rides, I usually bring my Harpsicle; it’s a tiny budget lever harp that I don’t have to worry about as much. If I want to bring a few effects pedals for fun, I’ll bring whichever pedals I got recently, with my tiny travel amp and either my Organelle or keyboard to play through them. I just got my new Lottie Canto Colour Palette electric kalimba, which will now be a vacation staple. My wedding gig schedule doesn’t usually allow me to tour, or perform far from my home state, but I’d love to consider it after the pandemic! 
If you’re wondering how I transport my harp to gigs:

https://youtu.be/1SAcSHNpTvE

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I wish I had Fab-Filter Pro-Q 3 in a pedal box, with the same spectrum analyzer graphic display on a screen, complete with dynamic EQ. I know, it’s a lot to ask for. I’ll keep dreaming.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

Cooper FX/Chase Bliss Audio Generation Loss limited edition pedal, hands down. The pandemic hit me really hard. I’m primarily a wedding musician, and at the start of the pandemic, I had so many gigs being cancelled/postponed and the uncertain future forced me to sell the majority of the pedals I owned at the time. I’d have to pay an insane price to get one now due to the limited availability/price inflation. I’m hoping Cooper FX decides to make a Generation Loss V2 so the amazing sounds of Gen Loss can be more available to everyone!

Cooper FX/Chase Bliss Audio Generation Loss

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Chase Bliss Audio’s Thermae has such insane chemistry with the harp and my playing style. Whenever I plug into it and improvise some sketches, I create some of my best music. That pedal has resonated with me above most others over the past few months. It’s not so much direct inspiration from understanding the gear or thinking about it; more so the dialogue between Thermae and the harp in real-time has brought my improvisation to a higher level. The first time I used it, I was recording a demo with it for my YouTube channel, and I’ve used pretty much every sound made in that demo for original music releases, or background music across my YouTube channel. The foundation for my new single, Backyard Spaceship, is actually directly from my Thermae YouTube demo! It was such an amazing moment that I couldn’t recreate in the studio, so I just decided to use that audio as the starting point for that project.

Chase Bliss Audio’s Thermae

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

If I could go back, I’d definitely get a higher quality amplifier than the one I started with! I was playing my brand new electric harp through a very small $150 amp; it was like putting a bumper sticker on a Ferrari. I was new to gear at the time, and didn’t understand my options and the importance of investing in a higher quality amp.

Harp with PA

I also probably would have got an EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath right away, which is an amazing device to help introduce yourself to more out-of-the-box effects pedals if you’re new to electric instruments and effects.

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without

My camera tripod is currently the bane of my workflow. I do a lot of reamping and desk recording, and it just doesn’t really go well with my setup and what I need it to do. I’m yet to find one in my budget that does what I need, but for now, I’ll have to keep taping mine to the edge of my desk on an angle and contort around it to make it work.

Camera tripods

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

The other day, I found out the EarthQuaker Devices / Death by Audio Time Shadows pedal has a secret mode. If you put the switch in the center (it doesn’t click in place but it will stay there) it’ll create some interesting Rainbow Machine-like modulation.

EarthQuaker Devices / Death by Audio Time Shadows

Artist or Band name?

Emily Hopkins

Genre?

‘Cool harp stuff’. I always have trouble putting myself in a genre.

Selfie?

Emily Hopkins

Where are you from?

Long Island, NY.

Working with the harp

How did you get into music?

When I was 8 years old, I went to a Mexican restaurant on my birthday and there was a man playing harp during dinner (I later found out this was the amazing Edmar Castaneda during his college years!). I was absolutely mesmerized by his music, and begged my mom for harp lessons. Since I was homeschooled, I had plenty of time to practice, and was already playing piano for 4 years by the time I started (I tell everyone the harp is essentially just a piano flipped on the side!).

Emily Hopkins early years with the harp

What still drives you to make music?

The desire to connect to others and to break that stereotype of the harp being an exclusively classical / “boring” instrument. I love using effects pedals to show what a versatile instrument the harp is, and to constantly discover the new sounds it can create.

Astral Destiny by Earthquaker Devices

How do you most often start a new track?

Improv! Most of the time, I discover a cool theme while I’m improvising during an effects pedal demo. My new single came exclusively from my CBA Thermae pedal demo, because I’m not overthinking anything.

How do you know when a track is finished?

When you accept that it’s finished, and you stop obsessing over it; whether it’s the composition, mix, or any tiny detail.

Show us your current studio

Emily Hopkins’ Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

The story of the “two bad bricks” really resonated with me. The short version is that Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk, built a wall of a thousand bricks by hand, but two of the bricks ended up crooked. When visitors came to the monastery, he tried to avoid showing them the wall because he was so worried about them noticing those two crooked bricks. One day, someone approached him and told him how beautiful the wall was, but he disagreed, pointing out the two bricks. The visitor said, “There might be two bad bricks, but all I can see are the 998 perfect ones.” Even if you don’t play a piece absolutely flawlessly, most of the time you’re the only person who can hear the imperfections. It’s important to appreciate the successful elements of your work, and understand that imperfections in a piece are what makes it human. Also, I don’t believe in ‘wrong notes’ — only ‘interesting’ ones. 

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Here’s my very first single, Backyard Spaceship!

https://youtu.be/pbPayOi28II

https://open.spotify.com/album/0SZH7JV0eMWyoXpWRuMGdE?si=tbgKgYNMR0m5kuw9BRU2MQ


[Editor: Do you have a favorite tip, trick or way of working with any of the gear from this interview?
Then throw us a comment below…
]