Interview: Ron Pope

ron pope

American singer Ron Pope is gearing up to release his new album ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ on January 6th, with him then heading out on a world tour shortly afterwards, where he will play eight dates in the UK.

While he may be super busy preparing for all that, we were very lucky that he still found the time to have a chat with us!

As well as discussing the new album and the upcoming tour, we also spoke about sightseeing in London, crazy fans and the idea of collaborating with Taylor Swift.

HTF: Hey Ron! How’s things?! We saw you recently got married, congratulations! Hope married life is treating you well!

Ron: Thanks! So far, so good! We’ve been married a little over a month and she hasn’t run away screaming yet, that’s got to be a good sign?!

HTF: Haha! Now you’ve got lots of exciting things coming up: the new album, the launch party being held at Bowery Ballroom in New York and then your European tour, what are you most looking forward to?

Ron: All of 2014 is going to be crazy! We’ve got a world tour coming together to support my new album ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ and I’m pumped to visit my friends all over the world! The thing I’m most excited about is that we’re finally putting out the album. I usually finish a record and put it out a month later, so all of this waiting has been driving me crazy!

HTF: We can imagine! And we’re very excited that you’re heading out to tour the UK in January/February! You’ve performed here before, what do you love the most about England?

Ron: My fans in England are insane! They show up and they go crazy. I love it there! That’s why I come back every chance I get.

HTF: Any places you plan to visit or anything you want to do whilst you’re here in the UK?

Ron: Here’s an interesting fact, I’ve visited England so many times, but I’m always working, so I almost never get to do any sightseeing. The first time I ever saw Big Ben was at 4am when I went on a long walk by myself because I couldn’t sleep. That was probably on my fifth trip to London. I want to see the Tate Modern; it’s my Mrs.’s favorite museum. In general, what I’m most excited about when I get over there is seeing my friends. Some close friends from NY have moved there, plus, some of my closest buddies are UK musicians, like the guitar superhero Ryan Ansah, who has played with me at times, and the incomparable Mr. Saul Ashby.

HTF: Well we hope you have a good time catching up with friends and hopefully get to do some sightseeing this time around! How are UK fans different from fans in the US?

Ron: The farther north in the UK you go, the harder it is to understand what people are saying, in the US, you have to go South for that to happen. I’m from down there, give me six drinks and I’m speaking a different language!

HTF: Ha brilliant! After the UK, you’re heading out to other European countries, which city are you most looking forward to visiting?

Ron: Last time I went to Berlin there was a blizzard, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that the weather will be more friendly this time. I’ve always wanted to check out that city. The Oslo show sold out more than three months in advance, so I’d imagine that show will be nuts. I’m really excited for all of this!

HTF: How do you find life on the road?

Ron: I was made to tour. It’s not unlike running; painful to start, but once you’re going, you never want to stop. After three weeks on the road, it’s easier to keep going for a year than to come home and adjust to living like a person again. Also, the high that comes from playing for people who are really excited to see you every night is like nothing else in the world.

HTF: But what do you miss the most about being away from home for so long?

Ron: When I’m away, the thing I miss most is my family. It’s a bummer to miss birthdays and stuff like that while we’re out there. Also, I miss legit Ethiopian food, which I always have trouble finding when I’m away from New York.

HTF: Any funny stories that you can share that have happened on previous tours or any good tour bus stories?

Ron: On the little tour we did this summer in Europe, we had to add a second bus driver, because some of the drives were too long for our driver to do by himself. The second driver, who spoke very little English, would wake up screaming in German in the middle of the night. Everyone would wake up horrified. At the time it was not funny, but looking back it’s kind of hilarious. There’s this older German guy flipping out on a tour bus with a bunch of American musicians who are falling out of their bunks in their underwear like: “What the hell, dude?”

HTF: We understand you’re bringing Wakey! Wakey! And Alexz Johnson with you as special guests on this tour, but what can we expect from your live shows?

Ron: I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you. And I’d hate to kill you now, the interview is going so well! Seriously though, it’ll be a mix of new and old material, with Boots Factor on drums, Kyle McCammon on bass, and Nate Lueck playing guitar and keyboards. I’ll be running around playing guitar and sweating and we’ll all lose our minds and deliver a rock show that will knock people on their asses! That’s the plan, anyway.

HTF: Sounds great! You performed at a few festivals this summer in Sweden and Germany, do you have a preference over playing festivals to more intimate gigs?

Ron: Festival gigs are really fun. You’re outside in the middle of summer, and everyone is on their feet, wearing tiny clothes, seeing twenty bands in a weekend, eating all kinds of crazy food from random carts, and drinking overpriced beer until they fall in the mud! Headlining gigs are nice because they are your fans who are there to see you specifically. Sometimes, at a festival, there are people who’ve never seen you and don’t know the songs, so you’re fighting to win them over, which is challenging. Honestly, put me on any stage and I’ll play. I love playing music and if people show up to watch, that’s a pretty incredible bonus.

HTF: The upcoming album titled ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ is out on January 6th – what’s the reason behind the title?

Ron: The first song I wrote for this album, the one that really set the tone for the rest of the project, is called ‘Silver Spoon’. There’s a line in that song that goes, “If this is how the story ends, with the headlines cursing, could you persecute me still? When they’re calling off the dogs, and you’re sleeping on the lawn, will your heart desert me?”

HTF: ‘Lick My Wounds’ is the lead single from the album (which we love!) and it’s got a different vibe to your previous material, is that the kind of style we can expect with this new album? Can you share a bit about what the upcoming album will be like?

Ron: So glad you like ‘Lick My Wounds’! Over the course of ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ you’ll hear the story of two people’s relationship from start to finish. It follows them from the moment they first see each other, which happens in ‘Lick My Wounds’, all the way on through to their last moment together.

HTF: So a concept album, and what was the song-writing and recording process like for it?

Ron: I wrote the songs over a fairly long period of time. I started sketching out ideas on tour in early 2012, then wrote ‘Silver Spoon’ and one other tune from the album last August. I continued chipping away at little ideas here and there as I travelled. I came up with some of ‘Lick My Wounds’ in Mexico then finished it with Kyle back in Brooklyn. Some of the ideas on the album come from notes I made in Australia, as well. We did a week of sessions last December to try and figure out exactly what we wanted the album to sound like, then I went on tour in Europe and kept writing. After that, I spent two months in Paris writing songs every day. It was really intense. Every step for this record involved more work than anything I’d ever done before. As you said, this sounds like nothing I’ve ever done before. It took a lot of focus to get us to that place. My friend Raphael Peterson came in and really challenged us to push the songs into a unique sonic headspace. Nate, Kyle, Raphael and I were joined by engineer Ted Young, who was a steadying presence. We spent more hours in the studio working on this album than we have on all my other albums combined, and in the end, our dream of exploring new sonic territory feels pretty actualized to me. I also really liked the idea of telling a story with the whole album, so I’m glad that worked out. “Concept album” is seen as a dirty phrase in the music industry at times, but this felt like a concept that really made sense for me. As far as what to expect, I’d say you’ll have to wait for January 6th and then listen yourself to see what you think!

HTF: We can’t wait to hear it! Also, is there going to be a music video for ‘Lick My Wounds’? Because we’d certainly love to see one!

Ron: There is! We shot an awesome video in LA with my good friend Jillian Rose Reed as my counterpart. It’s got a gorgeous aesthetic and hopefully it’ll drop soon! We’re working that out now.

HTF: Ah great! Now you’re probably most known for ‘Drop In The Ocean’, and although we have a lot of favourite songs of yours, I particularly love ‘One Grain of Sand’ and ‘About The Rain’. What would you say is your favourite track that you’ve ever written?

Ron: At the moment, ‘Silver Spoon’ is my favorite song that I’ve written. I was challenging myself to work outside of the confines of really basic song structure (where I usually live), and the song turned into something I’m incredibly proud of. I can’t wait for all of you to hear it!

HTF: We can’t wait either! But what about your favourite track to perform live?

Ron: It’s always fun to perform the new material live. On the last tour, ‘Lick My Wounds’ was really great to play. In January, we’ll be working a lot of the new songs into our set, which I’m pumped about.

HTF: Your song lyrics really stand out and speak to people, especially as the way you write things can be interpreted in different ways, but what inspires you when writing?

Ron: I know this sounds simplistic, but I just pay attention. I try to write songs that speak simply on the human condition; things that can be understood by children or old people, college girls or forty-year-old soldiers with wives and kids. Emotions are universal, we all know about love, hope, faith, sadness, and so on. A great song touches on something that everyone can understand.

HTF: Who would you say are your musical inspirations? Is there a role model that really inspires you?

Ron: As a guitar player, if you don’t mentioned Jimi Hendrix, you’re probably lying, so of course he’s in there! The last few years, playing with Nate has influenced me pretty heavily; his precision is awe inspiring and is in fairly stark contrast to how I usually play, so I admire him a lot. As a songwriter, I love people like Bruce Springsteen, who can make you feel something and also deliver a lot of energy. Bob Dylan, of course. I think Win Butler from Arcade Fire is on some next level shit and his work makes me want to be better.

HTF: What influenced you to pursue a career in music?

Ron: I wasn’t a good enough baseball player to get paid for it, and I didn’t have any other skills. Thought about being a farmer but I don’t like being outside. Considered being a racecar driver. May go back to that if this doesn’t work out!

HTF: You first went to university to play baseball before transferring to pursue music, in hindsight are you kind of glad the baseball route didn’t work out?

Ron: I guess I always knew that I didn’t want to work for a living; I wanted to play a kids game, and then I ended up making up stories and singing songs with my friends while we travel around seeing the world. Maybe I’m immature?

HTF: Not at all, it sounds like the perfect job! We’re very jealous! Now what would you consider to be the most significant moment in your career so far?

Ron: There have been so many crazy experiences in my career, it would be tough to pick one! The day we finished ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ was huge for me, because I’d been working on it for so long. I was trying to make myself better with this album, so finishing it and not giving up in the middle to make a simple, safe record was a big moment for me.

HTF: You were previously signed to a label but have been making music independently for a while now, do you prefer it that way? What influenced you to go independent?

Ron: I don’t rule out the possibility of working with another label or some kinds of partners in the future; it takes a lot of hands to make a record successful. When I decided to part with my label, it was because our partnership didn’t make sense; I gave much much more than I was getting in return. I promised myself at that point that I’d only work with people who added value, which is how I pick all the people I work with now. We’ll see what happens in the future.

HTF: You’re also part of a band ‘The District’, having experience of both, do you prefer being a solo act or part of a band?

Ron: Well, I’m in a band all the time. My “solo project” is actually a band, with Kyle, Nate, and Boots. I very rarely play by myself and they each have input on everything we do. Being in The District is a very different experience, though. There are six of us; Zach Berkman, Mike Clifford, Will Frish, Chris Kienel, Tom Schecter, and I. We take turns singing lead, swap instruments, and write all the songs together. In an ideal world, I’d be able to play with The District every night, but those guys all have other stuff going on, so we sneak that in whenever we can. We have a new record in the can as well, so that should be coming out soon too!

HTF: Understandably, you have a lot of female fans, what’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done?

Ron: It’s funny that you said “understandably” there, because I’m floored by that! To me, the craziest thing are the fans with lyrics tattooed on them. I’m like, “That’s FOREVER! You want words I made up written on you FOREVER?!?!” It’s so flattering and overwhelming.

HTF: Which artist would you love to collaborate with and why?

Ron: Jay Z is amazing and he continues to do great, relevant work almost twenty years into his career. I look up to him as an example of not only what a great artist can do, but what a business minded person can do when given the right opportunities, regardless of their background. I’d love to work with him some day.

HTF: We think that would be cool! Also, I saw a comment on a YouTube video of yours, left by a fan saying you were the male version of Taylor Swift. A lot of people had agreed with it, what do you think of that statement? You’re both very open with your songwriting, if the opportunity came about would you ever consider collaborating?

Ron: She’s talented and incredibly successful, so obviously, I’m really flattered by that compliment. People are in love with that she does, so it’s nice to hear that people feel something like that about my work. If you happen to talk to her, tell her to call me when she wants to co-write a song! I’m in!

HTF: Well thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us. All the best with everything, we can’t wait to hear the new album and we hope to see you on your UK tour in February! But lastly, looking forward to next year what’s in store for you?

Ron: There’s so much in store for 2014! I can’t wait to release ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ and hit the road to come visit y’all! My message is this: mark your calendars for January 6th and buy the record that day please, and grab your tickets for my shows before they all sell out! And of course, y’all be good to each other! See you soon!

Listen to ‘Lick My Wounds’ below, the lead single from Ron Pope’s upcoming album ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ and make sure you catch him on tour in early 2014!

Interviewer: Sophie Sinclair

About Sophie Sinclair

Sophie is Hit The Floor's Pop Editor. She enjoys all kinds of music but pop is her speciality. Loves a good boy band and knows the words to every single Taylor Swift song, like ever.
  • Eoin hannaway

    Amazing man. Amazing music. Amazing person