Given the substantial growth and resurgence of country music in the UK it has been no surprise to see artists from Nashville make the journey across the pond for the first time, instantly fall in love and desire to return as often as possible. However, Cassadee Pope is one artist who has not just regularly made the trip but was almost ahead of the game as she had her first experience of touring the British Isles over a decade ago with her band Hey Monday.
Fast forward to the crazy world of 2020 and the Floridian is now settled in Nashville as a solo, country artist who has had a number one album, is a previous winner of The Voice and has found plenty of time to return to the UK a number of times for C2C Festival, Country Music Week and to headline CMT’s first overseas Next Women of Country Tour.
She recently released her brand-new acoustic album “Rise And Shine” which was recorded during the pandemic this year and Jamie spent some time chatting with Cassadee to reflect on this year and forthcoming projects.
Given that the album is called “Rise And Shine” and we were chatting at 9am in Nashville time, is Cassadee Pope typically a morning person?
I’ve been getting up really early these days, not really able to sleep in. I’ve not been a morning person by any means, but I definitely like waking up early enough to feel productive, like if I sleep past 9am I usually feel a little bit bad about it but I do sometimes if I really need it.
The year has almost been in it’s own time paradox with parts of the year seeming to go so slowly and seem so long ago whilst all of a sudden we are very nearly out of it:
I know it’s weird, I feel like at the beginning of all of this that time was going by so slow and I don’t know what happened, I think so much has been happening this year that there’s not been a moment of just silence and nothingness. There’s just been stuff that has happened and taken all of our attention, then now we are amongst the holidays which is so crazy. I’m happy for this year to just go away, be on to a new one and that might not be one hundred percent better or all of our problems are going to go away but I think putting this year behind us is going to give us all a fresh outlook and just a fresh start.
Looking at the year and time off the road, how has she found the year in terms of productivity and focus?
I have definitely had way more time to write which has been nice, I have been doing Zoom writing sessions and those have been really incredible. I have gotten some of my favourite songs out of those and been really focused on the kind of music I want to do next with the next full band record which is definitely more pop rock, some country elements but more pop rock than I’ve done before. Then also just music aside, really taking the time to immerse myself in the social issues that have been happening, that have been happening forever but I’ve just kind of had my head in the sand with a lot of it when I’ve stayed busy on the road and stayed distracted where this year I didn’t have any of that to distract me so it’s been a big learning curve. It’s been a big year for me in terms of a shift in my way of thinking and learning how to be a true advocate for minorities, the LGBTQ community and Black Lives Matter so it’s been a really heavy year, but it’s been very eye opening and I feel I have a lot of clarity which is nice.
With the next project that is on the horizon, do these new songs reflect the way the world is right now?
It’s so reflective, I’ve had nothing but time to sit and think so there are a ton of songs about the past, there are songs about things that are happening now and my view on people who take a lot of stake in what other people do in their personal lives then what I think about that. I’ve definitely gone more to an anxty place because of just everything that has happened this year but I’ve really loved it, I’ve been really surprised because I kind of resisted it for the first month or so and once I realised that this wasn’t going away anytime soon I just knew I needed to try it. I started only working with people that I’d worked with before to kind of lessen the awkwardness of writing through a computer and then I started opening up to people that I haven’t written with before. I’ve really figured out a good groove and you kind of realise I can’t sing when they’re playing guitar because it will be off beat and you learn the little things that make a session go by easier on Zoom, so it’s been awesome and I’ve really enjoyed it.
All of the songs that are on “Rise And Shine” were already in her locker, so whilst recording the album and continuing to work on further new material, were there times that songs could have moved or found their way onto the other project?
I definitely had an easy time differentiating, the acoustic album was also kind of a reflective process for me. Songs on there are songs that I’ve written in the past and that I’ve always loved but they never had their moment or felt quite right on whatever project that I was working on. Simultaneously, writing for the next full band project with those songs, they could be fine acoustic but I’m really seeing this next project as full band, like in your face and a wall of electric guitars so it was easy for me to see that these definitely don’t work as well acoustic as the songs that I had picked for the album.
I talked about how this sound for the next project will excite people as it was back in March 2009, when I went to see Fall Out Boy and first became aware of her as her band Hey Monday were opening up on that tour:
I feel like everybody else that this year has had a lot of sitting and thinking, I’ve had so many little moments of WOW I forgot I did that, like with Hey Monday and that I went to that place, looking at pictures and stuff. Really missing touring and travelling kind of made me look back at the Hey Monday stuff, that’s a part of me that’s never going to go away! I love rock music, I love merging pop and rock because that’s really a lot of my influences like Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch then Shania Twain even so I’m excited to lean into that more on this project that’s for sure.
Has the creative process changed in terms of writing songs, themes, ways things are put together and logistics a great deal from her days of fronting a band to now being a solo artist making music in Nashville?
I think it’s definitely changed in my growth, my lyrics and my songwriting in general but it’s always been going into the room with the concept, a melody idea or something and build from that. I’ve always done that since Hey Monday so that’s not changed but even just listening back, I’m kinda embarrassed by some of those lyrics from Hey Monday songs. It’s like wooo some of those lyrics are pretty bad but I know that I was eighteen, seventeen for some of the writing process. Also, I think that songwriting here in Nashville is a very formulaic kind of thing, I love it and I’ve written some of my favourite songs here but it’s really fast! If you go into a session at ten or eleven AM you are done by three or four and you get home for dinner, so it’s a very family friendly process. Where as in pop and rock, we were writing through all hours of the night and sometimes multiple days on one song so it’s a different process for sure.
We hear time and time again about the difference between UK and US audiences, so how evident is it and is it something she has always felt touring over here regardless of the genre?
I’ve noticed it for sure, I think the fans in the UK grab onto songs that are a little bit more obscure on any of our projects, obviously we had our singles and they performed the best but as far as playing live we always notice and I still notice that fans want to hear the last song on the record or a song that wasn’t a single which they all know front to back. I think there’s always more attention to the lyric over there, which is really nice for us because obviously we spend a lot of time on those and want people to relate and that’s the backbone of a song. I also notice people are just listening more, obviously if it’s a slow song nobody is going to be jumping around and rocking out but even for the up tempo’s even if you guys haven’t heard it yet I think they listen closer and there is more of a you feel it whilst also trying to make a decision on whether you like it or not. I love seeing that because when you go to a show you want to have fun, but I love for people to really listen, pay attention to the lyrics and leave knowing me better which I feel I can accomplish over there.
So, is the UK and mainland Europe an ideal place to test the water with new material?
Definitely! You are missing such an opportunity if you have new stuff and you don’t try it over there because it is so true that people really pay attention. I think the radio situation has been so much more inclusive over there because you’re not really paying that much attention to the genre or whether it is up-tempo or a ballad, it’s always what people are responding to the most and that is something that I think is the most pure way to get music to the fans. Then if people don’t hear what they want to hear on the radio, they go and find it and that’s why I feel like people break over there then come over here because people are more open-minded to new music and not just want to hear the hits or what they have heard a million times. I feel safe over there playing a song and not think people are going to use that as a bathroom break, they are going to listen.
Having played or attended a number of festivals in the UK, is she looking forward to ticking another off the list with her appearance at next years The Long Road Festival?
I was so bummed all of my travel plans and show plans in March, I was going over to Australia and Japan but still I was going somewhere. I’m glad to hear that things are looking up to be able to go back over, it’s been over a year now and that’s a little too long for me so I’m excited for next September.
Last week Cassadee played a co-headline show at City Winery in Nashville with Sam Palladio, so how did she feel about playing live again and does it make her more excited to be able to tour again next year?
I did one show that was acoustic, it was like a Bluebird type show at a different venue here in town that was literally the week before the City Winery show and that was my first time playing in front of a crowd since probably February. Then City Winery was just the best thing, they did a really good job of keeping everybody safe, social distancing and everyone was seated. We had to wear masks when we were off the stage, so did everybody else and they had a great green room situation. It was outdoors for us and outdoors in a tent for the fans so that was my first and last full band show of 2020 which is very weird but I’m getting to the point where that honestly made it worse because I had so much fun that now I’ve got the itch and I want to keep doing it but I understand that times aren’t applicable to having a nice big show of people stuffed in a club or something. I’ll just have to wait and hopefully we can find new and creative ways to get these shows to keep happening and for people to be able to see live music.
Does touring Europe still sit very high on her priorities list and how important is maintaining the fanbase over here?
I don’t want to ever go so long without coming over there and have a new record out then expect people to come to a show not having been there for years, so I really think that is a relationship that I consider to be just as important as the relationship with the American fans and everybody else really. I’ve just been shown so much love, acceptance and persistence from the fans and from all you guys on the more promo side of things where I’ve been shown all the love in that respect too. I know that it’s something that I’ll keep working on, I’m fine with that slow burn, playing the small venues and working my way up. That’s the kind of stuff that builds longevity and a long-term career so I’m definitely going to keep working on it.
Then after playing a number of festivals over here and fronting the CMT Next Women of Country tour, is a UK Cassadee Pope headline tour on the horizon or maybe (if only she happened to have a British boyfriend who is also a musician that she could tour with) a fun co-headlining run?
After playing that City Winery show, we thought we could do this. We could share a band and go out! Obviously, the goal is always to headline your own tour and have it be an amazing turnout. I think I’m probably close, but it would be small clubs, I love club shows because it takes me back to the Hey Monday days anyway so I’m down to do that. Co-headlining with Sam would be cool, something with Lindsay would be cool so I’m open for all of it, honestly. I know it’s easy to try and rush a career in reaching a goal, but I also know that it’s important to grow it and I’m down to do that!
To round off our chat, we talked about the little British nuances and things about our country that she has grown to love and get excited about:
I mean high tea, afternoon tea that’s like my favourite thing ever. We’ve actually done that here through the quarantine because that’s my favourite thing to do over there and Sam obviously misses home where he hasn’t been able to go this year so that’s been nice for him to get a little bit of home too! Dressing up in the cute little dress, going to have the cute little finger sandwiches, treats and scones is just my favourite thing.
To which I praised her on pronouncing scones properly which she correctly said like stone rather than sounding like John:
I know, a couple of times I’ve said scone (pronounced like John) and I felt really weird doing it because it’s not how I have said it my whole life so I’m just going to stick to what I know.
Then finishing on the topic of pronunciation, we laughed about how people in the States find unique ways to transform ways of saying words particularly “water” and it must be a game that people have to make Brits sell out and say it Americanised which she has become very familiar with seeing:
Ha ha! Poor Sam, in a restaurant he has to say “warda” after like the third try, when they look at him funny and say what do you want?
Cassadee Pope’s acoustic album “Rise And Shine” is out now (available HERE) and she is due to return to the United Kingdom in 2021 for The Long Road Festival taking place between September 8th and 10th. You can keep up to date with any further tour plans that may come about and get any news about her upcoming full band record that she talked about on her Website Instagram Twitter YouTube or Facebook.