by Maria Arroyo
I had the most unreal opportunity to do my first in-person interview with singer/songwriter, Ron Pope, while also sticking around for one of his first shows back for his Stuck On The Moon tour at the Foundry Thursday night.
Opening the show was a good friend of his, Nashville singer/songwriter, Caroline Spence. As her performance began, it was evident that Spence had a special way with her voice and her heart-filled songs. She has been traveling with them for the tour because, frankly, Pope was not okay with the possibility of Spence running off the road in her car. He highly suggested that she just come with them.
Spence is such a talented musician and really captivated everyone in that venue with her music. She was so interactive with the audience and really set the stage for an unforgettable show.
We began the interview with Pope explaining his musical timeline from the beginning up to the present moment. He explained that, in the early 2000s, he had been in a band called The District, where he was the frontman and lead guitarist (which is about as far as he wanted to go for a solo career). As time passed, he began writing songs, but they didn’t fit with the band’s sound. He eventually recorded a handful of them with an old roommate who was studying recording at the time.
“We gradually started building this fanbase of a 100 people of the day listening, and they spread it like wildfire. The first Monday in October 2007, I got 100 plays. The following Monday, 1,000 plays, then 10,000 plays, etc. Then I became the most popular unsigned artist, so that was pretty striking… it’s just started rumbling down the mountain from there.”
Pope talked more about his experience as an unsigned artist and how he was able to push his music out so fast. A friend of his was one of the first interns at TuneCore and showed Pope how to distribute his music digitally to create revenue. This led him to create a record label to offer these services to other musicians.
“In early 2011, my wife Blair and I created a label that offered the services of a traditional record label, but without taking ownership of their songs,” Pope explained. “Owning people’s recordings felt antithetical to the reason we started this whole thing in the first place and we want to continue to offer people help.”
We then switched over to talking about his new album, Bone Structure, due out on March 6. He said that initially, this was supposed to be a fun and carefree album, but didn’t go as planned.
“We went to London and had this really scary experience where two men in masks attacked the driver of the car I was in,” Pope explained. “The driver called me thinking they were trying to get me, but in that short period of time, I was terrified and it started making me think about how short and fragile life is. Anything can happen and being a new parent, that was really striking. My daughter was a few months old. I shifted directions and decided to make an entire record where every song is either me speaking to her directly on my experience of me being her father [“My Wildest Dreams”, “Practice What I Preach”] or they are a narrative from my own life that I feel have a moral that may be of use to her and use as life insurance.”
Pope continues, “This experience really shook me up and I was really scared of her growing up and not having a father or not having guidance in life. Maybe I should be censoring myself to some degree, but it actually allowed me to be the most honest that I’ve ever been… since I just made this for her without considering anyone else, that made me think I could say whatever I wanted to say without considering anyone else because I didn’t care if other people didn’t like it. I could speak very honestly and openly because I’m just sharing it with her.”
Pope continued on and talked about more of life in the music business. “My journey is not sanitized, some parts were really dark. Stuck On The Moon is about a guy that used to sell me cocaine,” he admits. “Someone that I always think about is Keith Richards. He was not great because he took drugs, he was great in spite of the fact he took those drugs, and that was a lesson I had to learn the hard way. I always thought that you had to live a certain way in order to be a musician and live very recklessly. All of those things that I was doing in order to live the life I thought I was supposed to be living, were holding me back.”
So why music and songwriting?
“Well, I don’t have any other skills and they put you in jail if you sell drugs… so totally why I still do it,” He joked.
As the whole room continued to laugh on through this question he elaborated some more.
“I was writing poem and later I started creating music and then I started mushing those things together,” Pope explained. “Songwriting is a way I can talk about things because I’m not good at talking about myself. I can work out how I feel about lots of things and it helps me to connect with other people. I was very lonely as a kid and listening to music made me feel a lot less alone. It has been very powerful to watch my music go out and attached to people in that same way… a little piece of me and becomes a part of their life.”
That’s really inspiring to me. I imagine being able to go to all of these new places while on tour is very exciting!
“Well I’m always busy with sound checks and rehearsals and the actual show that I never get to see any of it!” Pope exclaimed. “I remember I took a run one morning and ended up forgetting I had a sound check to be at and saying see?? I knew it!!! I knew I couldn’t sightsee… I’ve gone everywhere and I’ve seen NOTHING… so at a certain point, it just becomes hard.”
We talked some more about his touring experiences and he said he loves to be on stage and play, but at this point, the touring is a lot of work and isn’t nearly as fun as just being on stage.
Being able to see how much he interacts with his fellow musicians was something so special. He was very one-on-one with them, and as he introduced them to the crowd, he told a story of how they met and that he just cares about them so much. To see that is just something that I will hold onto forever. Even in our interview, he spoke about one of the perks of being a musician is being able to meet new people and becoming friends. He had met Spence while in Nashville and they really hit it off and he has become a huge fan of hers. He also met Ted Young, who was also there for the interview, and he’s been a huge contributor to this album as well. As Pope so gracefully put it, “I find musicians that I really like and then I make them my friends.”
From the minute we met and talked, until the end of the show, he was nothing but honest and genuine. All of his past experiences really made him into the artist that he is today. It was truly a pleasure to meet someone that inspired my songwriting as a teenager. He ended his show with the song, “A Drop In The Ocean”, and had every person either in tears or singing along.
This show was an experience I will never forget and definitely one for others to put on their calendars!