Hopkins formed aggressive songwriter band Brighter Shade in 1996. The original line-up consisted of Hopkins on vocals and guitar, Andy Birdsall on vocals and guitar, Sean McIntyre on bass, and Marcus Petruska on drums. They recorded their self-titled debut in 1996.
Later, a second line-up followed featuring Hopkins and Birsdall, but added members; Wilder Embry on bass, Damian Cartier on keys and John Woodward and Eric Sanders on drums. They recorded Brighter Shade’s sophomore album, Divine Ignorance in 2001.
Brighter Shade still plays periodic gigs in and around the Atlanta area.
Hopkins’ recording studio “Brighter Shade Studios” shares the name-sake of his band, and was where the Zac Brown album “Home Grown” was recorded in 1998. Brighter Shade Studios was also used in the recording of first two major albums of the Zac Brown Band; The Foundation and You Get What You Give.