Hopalong Andrew is a singer and songwriter who just released a new album that celebrates city life through the fun, fantastical figure of the “Urban Cowpoke”. Hopalong Andrew is actually the moniker for singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Vladeck. Born in Manhattan, he was a NYC Park Ranger stationed in Central Park, and is perhaps best known as a member of 2000s indie rock band The Honey Brothers (with actor/musician Adrian Grenier). Hopalong Andrew sings clever and whimsical cowboy songs about city life performed in the great tradition of the American West. His mission is to celebrate all aspects of city life and nature, while paying homage to the singing cowboys and folk singers of yesteryear.
Andrew recently discussed his music and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and how did you create your defining sound?
Andrew Vladeck (AV): While my family lived in the city, my parents loved the American West and our living room put you smack dab in the middle of the cowtown. There’s plenty of gorgeous Native American artwork, pottery, baskets, as well as plenty 1950s memorabelia from the silver screen Westerns. It was on one of those plastic Gene Autry guitars that I strummed my first chords, listening to the singing cowboys on the victrola.
MM: What inspires your songs and do you typically write lyrics or melodies first?
AV: All I have to do is walk out the door in this town. The array of cultures is spectacular and splendid. A single subway car can carry multitudes. The song of a bird all the more precious when contrasted by the urban aural landscape. A sliver of neon sunset when framed by buildings. A postage stamp sized park amidst the Brownstones. You hold it more dear. An initial lyric will burst forth like an exclamation, and then the melody follows. And then I usually buckle down with pencil and paper and work hard, hashing out words that will grab the ear and inspire.
MM: How did you initially form your band and, why did you focus on an old west theme?
AV: A few years back the great musician Lloyd Miller asked me to cover one of his family events. I didn’t play family music, but after a moment’s thought I realized that I DID know all this music from childhood, and I played 5 folk instruments, and that I loved the American West and my wardrobe was made up of vintage Western Wear…. it came together naturally When it was time to add the band I just looked to Brooklyn’s fantastic Americana scene and tapped the very best!
MM: Can you tell us about the content and inspirations behind the songs on this newest album?
AV: With “The Yodeling Ranger of Central Park,” I recount my days as a Central Park Ranger and convey the value and charm of a great city park. “Tyrannosaurus” tells the story of when I was a kid and sleept over at the American Museum of Natural History. “Outside!” parodies the classic cowboy song “Rawhide” — with a posse of stroller-rollin’ cowpokes I saw riding to the park.
MM: Of all your songs, which are your favorites and fan favorites?
AV: One of the most challenging songs, and most fun for me to sing is “I’ve Been Everywhere in New York” where I sing the names of 105 NYC neighborhoods in under three minutes! A lot of my grownup fans appreciate “Broadway was a Native American Trail” (which is 100% true!) because I honor the Native American origins of New York City and encourage further study. The Lenni Lenape people are the real native New Yorkers — isn’t that something!
MM: What experiences with fans have been most memorable to you and why?
AV: Not to be corny, but I look forward to every single day. The wonder in the children’s eyes and the excitement for trying something new, the voices of the grown-ups, their laughter and smiles as we all create music and sweet moments in real time. I’m so lucky to get to do this!
MM: When you started out making music why did you focus on music for kids?
AV: Actually, I’ve never focused on “music for kids.” I started out writing songs that were meaningful to me that can be considered more “singer-songwriter” or “rock” genres. I was in an indie rock band called The Honey Brothers that had its moment in the 00s — it was a blast! It was only recently that I took to writing Western-style music set in NYC – it’s just so much fun for me and I wanted to have a laugh and wanted to have fun and connect to people. It organically has found a family audience. I think if you focus on what you love, and positivity, then all people, including kids, will enjoy it. I think that’s why The Beatles are the best family band ever. People follow glowing, genuine enthusiasm. You can’t fake it.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future?
AV: I don’t want to give my next steps away… let me just that there are vast cultural resources in the city and I intend on taking full advantage of them as I craft new music. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
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