Interview: Cassadee Pope
Former lead singer of rock band Hey Monday and 2012 ‘The Voice’ winner talks about her revealing new country album
Cassadee Pope is one of the most exciting talents coming out of Nashville at the moment and, after a turbulent few years of major ups and downs, the multi-talented 29-year-old is back with her most personal body of work to date; Stages. The album will showcase a new and deeper side of the songwriter to fans around the world and, with the star promoting the record in London, now felt like a fantastic time to catch up with Cassadee to discuss the messages behind the songs on the album, touring, and the UK fans…
Are you enjoying being back in London?
“I am, man I love it here! It feels like a second home now, I’ve been here so much. It’s so cold, it’s sunny today, it’s like the sunniest day so far.”
The last time you were here was for Country Music Week. What was that experience like?
“It was amazing, yeah it’s so awesome to be a Nashville artist and come this far away and to see so much support and so many fans that love the music that we’re making there. Yeah, it was amazing I got to play two shows, one at The Borderline and then one at Bush Hall and they both were just packed and fans singing along to every word so it was an amazing experience. The Borderline reminded me of back when I came here with my old band and it was just a really sweaty crowd. That’s just a great vibe, I love it. I brought one guitar player with me and it was pretty simple but the fans here I think they just listen to music differently. It’s a lot more lyric-driven which as a songwriter means a lot. It’s just a great time on stage seeing people really connecting with the lyrics. It’s fun and we really appreciate it more. We’re coming a long way and we don’t get to come a tonne so when we’re here they love it.”
So, are you going to be coming to C2C Country To Country in March?
“I won’t be able to this year, I’m actually touring with Maren Morris back in the States, so I’m gonna be with her; That’s a good excuse but hopefully next year I love C2C.”
Are you excited for your fans to finally hear your new album?
“I’ve had a little bit of anxiety around it because it’s just such a personal project and you know I’m self-releasing it so definitely the nerves are setting in but it’s also really exciting because I’m just seeing so much support from everybody, you know my peers, and the industry in general. So it’s felt like there’s a lot of people rallying for me so. Yeah, the album’s called Stages, and I wrote seven out of the eleven songs on it and one song is an interlude, which one of my good friends who passed away a few years ago sent to me, so I just put that on the album because I wanted him to be a part of it. But it’s just a really, really personal project so I’m very excited.”
We’ve heard a few songs off the LP and you’re definitely baring your soul this time. How does it feel to be making music like that?
“Yeah a lot of life has happened since my last record and I actually went into the studio to do this album and at first it wasn’t going to be an album it was just four of five songs to just get a project together to show people and then I don’t know I just started to really wonder, ‘Why stop there?’. Things started happening during the making of it and I just thought there’s a story unfolding here so why not just go with it and see what happens and then next thing I know I’ve got an album and I don’t want to wait to release it so I’m just doing it.”
Your new single If My Heart Had A Heart is also showing a different side to the album, it’s more emotional. Did that play a part in choosing as the next single?
“It did, yeah. The reason I went a little bit more light lyrically with the first two songs with Take You Home and One More Redlight was [because] I wanted to set the tone and show people really where I am right now in my life. And then this new single If My Heart Had A Heart is a little bit more of a glimpse into what I’ve gone through over the last you know almost two years now and a lot of the record is about the tough times. I kinda wanted to set the narrative that way and ease people in. I didn’t want to release that first. It was right off of when things sort of panned out for me so I didn’t wanna lead with that sort of sentiment. I wanted to release that after a few singles that were a little bit more upbeat and happy.”
So, what are you hoping the fans take from the record and its message?
“It’s been interesting and this isn’t from the fans but you know some certain people who have gotten the album early it’s been fun to see how they’re interpreting certain songs. So I’m kinda excited to see that from the fans because you know what I wrote about one person the fan might think it’s about somebody else and I definitely wanna let the music speak for itself. I think fans will definitely get a good idea of what’s been going on and you know they’ll see a few emotions that I have had over last two years. I’m a little ashamed of some of them but I also think if I’m not gonna talk about it or put it in my songs then how authentic am I being?. So they’re going to see some sides of me that they haven’t before.”
Well that’s the best thing about music isn’t it, getting it all off your chest?
“Yes, it’s therapeutic for me. It’s kinda selfish, it’s nice to get it off my chest. For some people, they take comfort in knowing that they’re not alone in feeling that way so it’s a win-win.”
Is there any song in particular that you’re most excited to share?
“Yeah, there’s a song called Bring Me Down Town and I love that song because I went into this session with my songwriter friends and we talking about spending certain phrases and Bring Me Down Town is kind of a fun one because I’m actually personifying a town and I’m kinda talking to it and being upset with the fact it’s reminding me of somebody I miss or that I’m trying to forget. So I kinda wanted to take that approach to the song and I’m pretty proud of the lyrics but it’s also just sorta anthemic and really big. The chorus really hits so I’m excited not only for fans to hear that but to play it live, that’ll be fun.”
Will you be releasing a video for that track?
“Probably, eventually. I’m definitely in the process of coming up with some treatments for If My Heart Had A Heart music video because I have the lyric video out but we’ll see. That might be it, that might be the next single contender.”
So, with the album what was the overall writing experience like for the project?
“It’s so freeing, being able to go in and have a hand in everything. I’m used to being on a label and the last few projects were under a major label which is incredible but it’s a different experience it’s a little bit more raw. When you have a tonne of people that sort of have to approve everything it could sometimes get a little watered down. Everybody is kinda afraid to offend people, or worried that this song might not connect with the masses and I was a little less worried about that this time around and I was a little more like okay, hey this is about me and this is the project. I’m just gonna bare my soul. It might not relate to everybody but the people it does relate to, hopefully, they really love it and get behind it. And it was nice not to have a deadline or timeline it was just over the span of almost a year and a half so it’s been a while in the making and it’s been really great to take my time.”
It’s always better to take your time as you get your heart into it.
“Yeah, and like I said before I started the record and it was at a tough time and I was writing songs about really tough things and then things turned around and started going really well, turned into a new relationship, there are songs about that. Yeah, it really is like autobiographical in that way like life happened during the making of it which I think really cool.”
So, are you feeling any pressure to follow the success of your label projects with this record?
“I mean yeah, I definitely hope that it’s as and more so successful than my first record. That second record thing. There’s still pressure even if you’re not on a label, there’s still like that hope that you succeed expectations of everybody but you know if it does as well as, or gets critically acclaimed that would be amazing. But I’m really hoping that it does some amazing things and opens a lot of doors. I’ve still got my eye on country radio, that’s something we all want.”
Are you finding it difficult to be played on country radio as a female artist at the moment?
“It’s a little bit of a struggle but I’m hoping that the relationships I’ve made in the past will help with that. I mean I’ve gotten radio directors texting me asking me for the song and to play it so that’s a good sign. But yeah, obviously I shoot for the stars as far as like what I want but I’d be happy with you know, just what I’m getting now; great streams, great press and friends that love it and so hopefully the fans love it as well.”
So, how does it feel to now be making this music that is coming directly from yourself with little outside influence?
“It just feels very, very exciting and it’s nerve-racking, you know there’s definitely more pressure. Before you could kinda be like, oh it’s this person’s fault or it’s that person’s fault. But I do have a great team behind me, [laughing] I mean I guess I could blame them if I want, but it’s really me if things don’t go well or they fail then that’s all on me and that’s kind of a scary thought but it’s also really empowering and like OK well I better make sure that it doesn’t fail and work the hardest I’ve ever worked because I don’t have this big conglomerate behind me so yeah it’s a great challenge.”
You’ll be touring the new album Stages across America his year, can we expect any UK shows soon?
“Yeah, I’m working on it, there’s some dates being tossed around and venues and we’re discussing the timing of it but yeah this year for sure I’ll be back.”
Do you have any messages for the UK fans who have been awaiting new music and live shows?
“I mean I can’t believe how long they’ve stuck with me. I think the first time I came here was 2009 with Fall Out Boy and that was such an amazing tour but you know the fans have really stuck around and from when we came back for our headlining tour to C2C a few years ago to Country Music Week last year it’s been amazing to see the support and people who still pay attention and still want the music. The waits almost over and I just appreciate everyone here being patient.”
With Country Music Week and C2C, how do you see the main difference between the UK and US audiences?
“Oh, that’s a good question. You know I think with CMA Fest in Nashville It’s actually really similar to Country Music Week and C2C here because people travel from all over the world to come so I think that’s the most similar crowds I’ve seen between the two countries but in general I think like I said before the UK fans are a little bit more excited because they don’t get it as much and they do listen to music a little differently. It feels like there’s definitely a lot of people relating to the lyrics a lot more and just listening a little closer, so that’s nice. It’s rewarding as a songwriter to see that.”
Overall is the Stages LP be more country-pop or mainstream country?
“Yeah I think mainstream country is a really great way to put it and you know it’s definitely cohesive with what I’ve released before so it’s not a major departure from that. But I think the main difference is the lyrics. I’ve grown a lot since 2013 when I released the first record. [time] goes fast or slow depending on what’s going on in your life and I think that’s the biggest difference but there’s definitely a few songs that go a little more Pop and then there are songs that kinda stay exactly where I’ve been so yeah people aren’t going to hear it and think oh wow this is a lot different. It’s still me, just experienced a lot of new things in my life now.”
Is there one thing, in particular, that’s changed for you over the past few years that has made an impact on the music you’re making now?
“Yeah, I think I’m just a lot more open to talking about different things in songs and really not holding back in sessions you know. I would be afraid to open up a little bit and wouldn’t want to talk about certain things and now you know it’s just sort of part of the songwriting process for me. The shackles are off, you know I went through a really big life changing process almost two years ago, going through a big break-up and leaving a label and management and going through a whole change you know I have a lot of inspirations there that I didn’t have before, so that’s the biggest difference in songwriting for me in my life. You know my life changed.”
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Cassadee’s new album Stages is out now. For more info, go to cassadeepope.com