10 Questions with ... Cassadee Pope
August 2, 2015
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Cassadee Pope's unique vocals and powerful performances stole the national spotlight during Season three of NBC-TV's "The Voice." Pope wowed from the start with offers from all four judges during the blind auditions before accepting with Team Blake (Shelton). Excelling throughout the competition, Pope displayed diverse musical tastes and talents, covering such songs as "Stupid Boy" (Keith Urban) and "Cry" (Faith Hill). Her version of the Country hit "Over You" (Miranda Lambert) was one of her three Voice performances that catapulted to the #1 spot on the iTunes All-Genre Chart, further proving Pope's wide consumer appeal and vocal prowess.
In January 2013, Pope signed with Republic Nashville, which released her debut single, "Wasting All These Tears." In October of that year, she released her "Frame By Frame" album.
Last month, Pope's first single off an upcoming sophomore album was sent to radio. "I Am Invincible" made its debut at the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles on July 25.
1. The last time you were out and about, it was a full-on promo run. You were just off "The Voice" and I suppose there was a sense of urgency to get music produced and out there.? Did you have more time to build this as a real project?
Definitely. Because, not only - it is just one song - but there are so many other elements that have just been getting better and better. Like, I'll just put it out there - my confidence. My confidence in my brand, who I am, and what I want to say. I wrote a lot of songs that I was excited about, but it all led me to this particular moment and this particular message. So I had more time to kind of develop that.
2. For the last year, you've been in that sausage-making part of the business; down in the trenches, out of the spotlight, writing songs versus the other where you're out there on radio tour and at radio remotes. Which is more satisfying to you?
Of the two worlds, I definitely like to be out and about, busy, without having a second to relax. That's where I thrive. But, I wouldn't have changed this past year. This needed to happen for me. I needed to have time to move here to Nashville, because I was going back and forth between LA and Nashville. So I've finally gotten some roots here, and I just went in the studio five days a week for like eight or nine months straight and that really helped me figure out exactly what this next phase would be. It's so funny, because watching when you're in it - like out there in the last cycle - you don't really have perspective. But for me, this past year really put everything in to perspective for me. I was here writing, and I saw my peers out there on TV doing all of the things that I want to be doing. All it did was add fuel to the fire. A very healthy, competitive side in me came out. It was a good year for me to figure it all out.
3. I guess it was hard for you. You're a young, contemporary artist, so is it hard to be watching the industry happen before your eyes since the landscape can change so quickly?
It can. But the good thing about the industry changing is, so am I. We're all just artists trying to figure out what we want to say next. So as much as the industry changes, I'm going with it. That's the beauty of it all. It's fun! When you're writing songs, it's like a muscle. You're continuing to work it out, and you're continuing to tone it and shape it. There are so many songs that I'm excited to show people after this one that I feel tell my story just as much as this one does. So I've got a whole catalog of autobiographical kind of authentic songs.
4. I remember running in to you one day at Edgehill Café on Music Row with Sarah Buxton, and you had just written a song you were really excited about. What was that song, and is it on the project?
"Huff and Puff!" Oh my gosh, I just tracked the vocal for that the other day. I'm so excited about that! That was right in the middle of us writing that. We went back and finished it up, and I just did the vocal the other day right around the corner. I was gone on tour, and the girls went in to do the tracking session for the band. The first time I heard the track, I was like, "Oh, you guys, this is good!" So there are a lot of those. I'm excited. I get to say a lot of things that have been in there for the past year or two years.
5. You were talking about the harmonies, and as I listen to the song, it struck me where your voice is. Did you do the harmonies on "I Am Invincible?" Your voice is high, so is it difficult to get those harmonies from others?
I did. It's kind of funny, the guys in my band are men, obviously. They have to get up there, and sometimes they have to take the middle harmony and the lower harmony just to fill it out. I've always found that I really love male vocals behind my vocals, because it really helps with the lower end since my voice is higher. For this song, they're so in the background, and I did a lot more peddling and pads and "oohs" and "aahs," and I didn't think it would really matter to have a guy in there. But it was fun; I love doing harmonies. It has always come natural to me to sing the harmonies with the radio instead of the melody, so it was fun.
6. Was there an instant in your life that was relatable to writing this song?
Definitely. I feel like as a kid going through my parents' divorce, this relates to me in that sense. I felt so helpless and didn't know what to do; my parents were going through this tough time, and I saw them both struggle. I just decided to come out of it and get a thicker skin out of it instead of letting it take me down a wrong path. You see your friends go through the same experience and don't handle it as well. I think I'm also lucky that I have an outlet like music that helps me handle things in a positive way. "I Am Invincible" definitely reminds me of that experience. And also just the music industry in general, especially being a female in Country music. We have a lot of obstacles; we have a lot of things in our way we have to sift through to get to where we want to be. The song definitely reminds me of those experiences, as well.
7. I was looking back at some stuff that we have written about you in the past, and went back to a column I did about you in March of 2014. We were talking about the challenges for female artists then, but the landscape has changed a little since then. We recently had Kelsea Ballerini come out with a debut #1 single, and the following week we had another female #1 for the first time in four years. Do you see that as a potential in-road for you? As you're watching, do you feel like the time is right for you to be back with new music?
Oh yes! I think the timing of this song in particular is just impeccable with all the talk about females in Country music over the past few months, especially. Coming out with a song called "I Am Invincible" from a woman in Country music is just perfect timing in my eyes. And I am so happy that women are cutting through now and that the pendulum is swinging back. I'm happy to take part in the movement. This message in the song is for everybody, not just for women, but it is pretty perfect. At the beginning of the song, I'm saying, "For my girls," so it sets it up pretty perfectly. But it does relate to anybody. I'm getting fan emails - I have an email set up for fans to with and go back and forth - and people have heard it from YouTube, and they're saying already that it has helped them through some difficult times. So it's already catching on; I'm very excited.
8. Have you noticed anything in the format, sonically, that's different since you've gotten back in the studio? Does anything feel different?
No. It really doesn't, because when I went in with Dan Huff, he's got his process and the way he works. In Nashville, the way is to track a live band and maybe sprinkle some things in afterward, and that is exactly how [my producer] Julian works, which has always connected with me, because I come from that band world. You go in to the studio where it's raw, and it's gritty, and you get what you get, and you move on. And I think that Country music is one of those formats that still honors that and sticks true to tradition. That's something I never want to lose in my music, so I made sure that process was still the same.
9. It's interesting that you said Scott [Borchetta] is such an integral part of this. There was an interview with Scott recently that talked about the difference between "American Idol" and "The Voice." He mentioned your name, of course, and it seemed to me that he really wanted to have that input the way he was on Idol. Do you sense that, as well?
Yeah, I am really lucky. When I got off "The Voice," the team here - Scott, Jimmy Harnen, everyone - was just so welcoming, and everybody jumped right on board, and it came out, and that was that. Where, with "American Idol," he got to mentor these people through the whole process. I met Scott after it ended when I came down here to sign the contract. So, it really did feel like, what I experienced in the studio with "I Am Invincible" was very similar to what "American Idol" contestants experienced with him. So I'm really happy I got that experience with him, because he's so good in the studio. He's so smart and he's receptive; the three of us, we all had so many ideas, it was like the kitchen sink. We threw everything at the wall, and none of us had pride and said, "No, that was my idea. I want to keep it." The best ideas won. Scott is really good at that, and I can't believe he was able to have time to do that. I'm so lucky he was able to do it.
10. We want to ask you about your involvement with the Special Olympics and singing "I Am Invincible" for that incredible event. Do you have a personal connection with Special Olympics?
I don't. I have kept up with it for many years, but I've never gone to them. I don't have somebody close to me who is disabled, but I have always been inspired by it. When the timing worked out with this song and the Special Olympics, I thought what better song to represent these amazing athletes than this song. And they heard it and thought it was perfect for the event. The timing of all of this was amazing, and I'm honored to be a part of that opening ceremony.
You mentioned that the song has been out there on YouTube, and you've done a ton of shows. Have you been performing "I Am Invincible" at your shows?
Yeah, I have. I kind of took a chance, and my band and I performed it at a few shows with very little practice. But it's a pretty straight forward song, and my band is incredible - I trust them with everything. So, we played it, and immediately we got a huge reaction. There was actually a song I teased a few months ago, and it got some traction. I played it live, and people enjoyed it, but I did not see this kind of reaction with the other song. So, I think the message is really resonating with the fans, and it is helping them through whatever difficult times they are going through. Some of my fans are younger, so a lot of them are going through their parents' divorce or bullying or feeling like an outcast. So this song taps in to that.
Even before "The Voice," you had a career in music. How is that career different from this one?
It's so different! With my old band and more in that Pop world, I didn't feel like I had so many relationships with "the other side," like radio, media and press. In Country, I get to hang out with people! It feels like I'm actually hanging out with people, and it's not fake or forced. It's nice. I had so much fun with my old band, and it taught me so much. I traveled the world, and I got to be on my first major-label deal. It was incredible, and I wouldn't change anything about it. But where I am right now in my life, and just overall where my head is, this is the place for me, in Nashville in Country music, where it's a partnership. Everyone works together for the greater good; there's nobody trying to tear somebody down, or anything like that. It just feels really perfect for me.
To that point about making friends with radio, did you get a sense when you were on the Pop side that radio guys really cared about establishing relationships with artists? As you know, Country radio really likes the artists and really wants to be connected and make friends, swap cell phone numbers and email address just so they can have that relationship. Did you feel that was as big of a priority in the Pop world?
I didn't, but I was also 18, and I didn't know what I was really supposed to do. We would go in, play some songs, and go play a show. There was no media training - we went in there, and I think our team wanted us to be raw like that. We were kids; we had never done anything like that before, and I think they found that endearing. We were excited and looking around wide-eyed; we didn't know what was going on! It was probably partly my fault that I didn't have those relationships with radio, because I really didn't know I was supposed to. Whereas, in Country, if you follow someone like Luke Bryan on Twitter, you know he hangs out with radio and he keeps in touch. That's just common knowledge. So, I knew going in to it, these are my peeps! I've gotta get in with them, and I have made some really good friends out of it. I actually enjoy these people, not just for my benefit. I really love these people! And when a song is successful, it makes it so much better, because it's a friendship that made it happen.