Ron Pope is an independent musician who has had no trouble making waves in the music industry and the world. His singles have been downloaded over a million times on iTunes and he has been featured on television shows such as TRL and So You Think You Can Dance. His most recent album Atlanta is a sweeping masterpiece of blues, folk, and even country elements inspired by fellow greats such as Arcade Fire, Dawes, and Bon Iver. Last fall, while in the midst of his latest world tour for Atlanta, Pope took the time to answer some questions about his life and art.
1. What’s your favorite color?
I like blue … green is also nice. 80% of my clothes are black; can black be my favorite color without people thinking I’m depressed?
2. You mention many different places on your new album; Houston, Dallas, Connecticut. The album itself is called Atlanta. Do all these places and others you mention have significance in your life?
Absolutely. I spend so much time traveling; in fact, at the moment, I don’t even have a home base. My stuff is in storage! The places I visit in any given week are my home, so when I’m somewhere that feels good to me, it’s a real game changer. If a place causes me to have a strong reaction, be it positive or negative, it’ll often find it’s way into my music.
3. I noticed that Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs was one of your favorite albums of the last five years, I can definitely hear some of their influence on the album. Are there any other bands or artists that influenced the production on “Atlanta?”
While I was writing and recording “Atlanta,” I was listening to a handful of albums that all sneak in there one way or another. Everything Arcade Fire has done, Dawes’ Nothing Is Wrong, Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor, Freelance Whales Weathervanes, and both Bon Iver records all come to mind.
4. You have lots of detailed sprawling narratives in your lyrics. Is there a common message or theme you are trying to convey throughout the entire album.
I’m just trying to speak on the absolutes within the human experience. My songs are meant to touch on themes everyone can understand, whether you’re a 70-year-old woman or a 12-year-old boy. We all know about love, faith, sadness, despair, hope, hopelessness, longing, desire … those are things we all have inside of us, and that’s what my songs are about … what it means to be a human being.
5. Did you write this album for yourself, or for others?
I write for myself; I release the albums to connect with everyone else.
6. Why did you decide to remain independent as a music artist?
I’m only interested in working with people who will add value and commit themselves to helping my project. That’s hard to find. This music is my life and I’m devoted to it implicitly. When I find people who care about my project, the team grows, but I don’t need a brand on my ass that says “Property of XYZ music” to feel validated.
7. What do you do to stay focused and refreshed while you are on tour?
I try to go running whenever I have the time. That’s a fun way to get to see a city when you’re only in town for 24 hours.
8. Is there a genre of music you listen to that would surprise your fans?
I listen to Rick Ross pretty much every day. I’ve been working on that “Huhhh” noise he makes; maybe it’ll pop up on my next album. I just like music; I listen to all kinds of stuff.
9. What has been the best moment of your touring experience thus far?
Earlier this year, when I took the stage in London at Union Chapel and the fans just erupted. It was insane. That was the biggest room I’ve ever headlined and the response from the fans was overwhelming. Honestly though, every time we get on stage and people show up, I’m pumped.
10. What is the “thousand pounds of hurt” that you speak about on the song “Atlanta”?
It can mean whatever you’d like it to mean. Once I release the songs, your interpretation of the lyrics is just as valid as mine.
11. What is the most unexpected aspect of becoming a popular musician?
I think it’s funny how excited people can get about things I say that don’t have anything to do with music. I made a disparaging comment about McDonald’s on Twitter once and people flipped out on me. That’s kind of interesting.
12. And lastly, what is some of your commentary on the current state of the music industry, both mainstream, and independent?
Well, if you like dance music, now is an incredible time for popular music, as it’s permeated every format. You even hear elements of dance music on “country” records now. It’s everywhere. If you’re a rock fan, it’s challenging to find music, as rock radio is dying. For people who have time to devote, there’s an incredible amount of new music out there on the Internet, so that’s exciting. The homogenization of radio playlists is kind of heartbreaking to me, because by only playing the same 15 established artists, we’re depriving listeners of the opportunity to find great new artists.
Rihanna is incredibly talented, but should people hear her voice five times an hour on every station? In my opinion that’s ridiculous. There’s lots of great music out there; play some of it! I will say this, to end on a hopeful note. I first heard Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” in the middle 2011 after it had become a huge hit in Australia and said, “This is amazing! I’m sad that they’ll never play this on the radio in the U.S.” So sometimes, you never know. The success of tunes like that and Adele’s “Someone Like You” make me hopeful for the future of popular music and radio.
Thanks for crafting a thoughtful, interesting interview, Jelani. I sincerely appreciate that. [END]
For more information on Ron Pope and his music, visit his personal website at ronpopemusic.com. You can also download his most recent EP, Monster on iTunes.