Even though finding an audience these days can be rough, Opie Hendrix is reminding us all that he still sings. The Houston based artist recently released Unhappy People, his fifth studio album, and has taken advantage of his “layoff” during the pandemic to focus on releasing videos from his latest album.
“A lot of the time we spent finalizing Unhappy People,” says Hendrix. “We made it vinyl which has always been a dream of mine to have an actual record cause when I was a kid, holding records and playing them, you just get lost in the artwork and it was something I always wanted to do and nowadays it's about the only thing to do.”
He released the album last month, which is available locally at Cactus Music and Vinal Edge and available for order online. Hendrix celebrated with an album release show at the Mucky Duck, one of the few music venues in town that has been able to continue to hold live shows with limited seating and offering live streams of performances.
“It was my first time ever headlining the Duck,” says Hendrix. “Limited seating with family and friends made it very comfortable. It’s different, there’s an energy that the crowd gives that helps the music flow. It seemed intimate. On the bright side, I get to say I sold out the Mucky Duck,” laughs Hendrix.
He will once again be performing at the Mucky Duck on November 20 for another limited seating and live streamed concert.
Unhappy People sees Hendrix departing from his more Americana and blues roots sound to an eclectic batch of songs with more pop rock elements than in his previous albums. “This record is kind of like my love letter to the world. It's an open heart open letter, take what you need and if you don't, pass it on.”
Adding, “I just want these songs to mean something and each one of these songs it touches on some fragile issues.”
He counted on the support and production talents of another Houston musician: John Evans. “It was pretty awesome. I’ve known the man well over 25 years now, we go way back. I produced my first four records and I like them, but there's a magic to the way Evans brings out sounds.”
“I just let go and rather than being the control freak, I just said here's the songs and he came in and polished them up real good. It was an exciting experience, I mean he's a monster.”
“I Still Sing” is his third video release from the album, premiering here. In the video, made by Masaya Tamegai, Hendrix can be seen meandering around his home and neighborhood. Clad in a comfy leopard print robe Hendrix pokes around at his neighborhood convenience store, somberly strums his guitar and reflects on friends from the past whose photos line his walls.
“Those are my deep friends,” he says of the touching images from his home. “They have moved on. They're just people that touched my life.” On display are friends and old band mates including Luther Rada from Houston’s Luther And The Healer who passed away in 2018.
“Luther, he pretty much taught me everything I know on guitar and how to present myself as a musician,” says Hendrix, remembering when he first met Rada who schooled him in the blues, a sound and approach to playing that can still be heard in Hendrix’s guitar playing.
Hendrix and Tamegai discussed making videos a long time ago but both artists got proactive during the shutdown and started filming.
“Everybody is just bumming around the house a lot of times, even if you're working from home, so we had that little motif but really no idea of what it was going to be. We just shot random stuff and out it he edited it all together and it just flowed.”
Hendrix describes how Tamegai took the footage and created his own story with it, and though it is not the exact story Hendrix had in mind when writing “I Still Sing”, a similar message of reflection and unity with a lonesome undertone came through.
“I Still Sing” lists artists that have inspired Hendrix from Lucinda Williams to Morrisey and their own non linear paths to success. “It’s about staying the course and no matter what happens, I still sing.”
Hendrix also credits his love of music for inspiration behind the song. “The pleasure that just listening to music gives me. I spend a lot of time just listening to my record collection. I love vinyl”, he emphasis. “The healing power of music, no matter what you're into, is the flow of it and then the chorus is about staying in the game and accepting and coming to be at peace with who you are.”
Hendrix knows first hand how an artist can often experience bumps and turns in the road, he admits he himself took a break from music a few years back and Unhappy People marks his return to the studio and the stage, Hendrix had just started playing venues again when COVID-19 shut down most venues.
“I took a little time off because I wasn't in the right headspace. It was just becoming you know, ‘You want fries with this?’ I wasn't feeling any inspiration I guess or so to speak and that happens to folks sometimes but I still sing.”
“Everybody is feeling a little bit, I don’t know what word to look for, because some days are great you know, some days sharp, other days flat. You’ve got a lot more time to reflect. Maybe that'll be a good thread that can tie us all together somehow because this is a new thing for everybody to experience in their own way.”
Hendrix remains optimistic saying, “We are going to be okay, even if we ain’t, we are going to be all right no matter what and that’s what you gotta hold onto.”
Opie Hendrix will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, November 20 at at McGonigels Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, $120 for a table for four. The concert will also be live streamed on The Mucky Duck's Facebook and YouTube pages.
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