As far as promising female Country singers go, Cassadee Pope lands at the top of the pack. During her run on The Voice last fall, she out-performed her competitors week-in and week-out, taking on such hits as Miranda Lambert's "Over You" (her truly breakout moment), Rascal Flatts' "Stand" and Keith Urban's "Stupid Boy." Even before her eventual win, Big Machine had already expressed great interest in her, and as she heads into her solo debut, she has no trepidation venturing into a male-dominated genre.
I recently had the chance to chat with her and ask her about this, as well as her new single "Wasting All These Tears" (which you can listen to here) and what the songwriting process has been like, and so much more.
Nashville Gab: So, I hear you got caught in the awful storm this week. Were you in Oklahoma?
Cassadee Pope: You know, we weren’t sure if we were going to get stuck or not. We took the precaution and stayed in New Orleans last night because we were supposed to fly to Kansas City. We just thought we should probably not risk it. It’s kind of a good thing that we didn’t. It got kind of crazy.
NG: Do you have any encouraging words for those now having to pick up the pieces?
CP: Absolutely. I feel very lucky that I’ll be able to be there on Thursday. I’m going to help any way I can, do whatever I can to volunteer. I think the donations are really going a long way, texting Red Cross to 90999 has been so helpful…just keeping everyone in your thoughts. It’s just a horrific thing, but all we can do is truck forward. We just gotta get through this next chapter.
NG: Can you tell me a little bit about your partnership with Outnumber Hunger and why you got involved?
CP: It’s definitely relevant to what’s happening now, and hopefully, on Thursday, I can help at a food bank or something. It’s so simple to get involved with Outnumber Hunger. I feel very strongly about being a part of this, because it’s something everyone struggles with. It’s such a big problem in the U.S. All you have to do is go to OutnumberHunger.com and it’s just a simple way to find out what you can do.
NG: You performed on the AXS TV live concert, what was it like to give back in such a major way?
CP: It was amazing, and it was the first time I actually performed my new song on television. I’m very happy I was able to reach such a broad audience. Most importantly, with what I do, it’s such a selfish thing…I love music, and I love singing, and it makes me happy. But to be able to use it to help others is an amazing thing. So, being a part of this label of Republic Nashville and Big Machine Label Group, there are so many perks, and one of them is to be able to give back and be involved in Outnumber Hunger.
NG: Your debut single “Wasting All These Tears,” which is co-written by Caitlyn Smith/Rollie Gaalswyk. Can you tell me about that song and how it came about?
CP: Yea, it’s actually a song that I added my own little flair to it, but the writers are Caitlyn Smith…and I emailed her because she’s a solo artist and just incredible. She was struggling with either keeping the song for herself or letting me do it, and she was incredible enough to give the song to me. I hope to write with her next time I got to Nashville, but it’s such an amazing song. I’m honored to do it. She’s a great writer. I’m getting such an amazing reaction from it already. It’s not even released yet, and people are getting ahold of it somehow. It’s been really awesome to see.
NG: As far as production, did you have any say on how the finished product would sound?
CP: It’s been so amazing. I’ve been there for every step of the way. I’m there when the band goes in and records. I have the incredible Dan Huff producing the songs. He just adds such a cool, rock twist to things, which I wanted. You know, I definitely have a rock edge that I wanted to bring to the table and incorporate into Country, as well. He just totally understood by direction. I trusted him to kind of take the steering wheel and take it away. I was there for the whole thing, so it would have certain lines or licks in everything because I’m such a huge melody person. I just love being able to contribute to second guitar parts and violin parts and whatever. It was a really great experience to be there every step of the way. A lot of times, you aren’t able to be there for everything but I was. It was very special for me.
NG: As a songwriter, what’s the most challenging thing you’ve faced?
CP: It was probably writing for two and a half months straight. That does a lot to you as a person and your mind becomes all mushy. You’re like ‘oh, I’ve said everything I have to say’ and ‘what am I going to say next?’ Then, all of a sudden, you get this crazy inspiration and something pop ups and you write another song. Towards the end of that trip in Nashville, I was like ‘oh gosh, I don’t know if I can write another song.’ But it always ended up happening, and some of those songs towards the end ended up being the best ones. So, it was definitely an obstacle for me to overcome, but I ended up really learning a lot and coming out with some amazing songs.
NG: Who is your favorite person to write with so far?
CP: Oh man. Everyone’s so good. [laughs] I really love writing with Liz Rose. I wrote with her a few years back, so we kept in touch. We kept a pretty good relationship, and I went back this past few months and wrote with her…and also, Emily Shackleton. They both are my favorites.
[Adding:] I love writing with Buzzbee. He’s amazing. He goes between LA and Nashville. And then, I wrote with Nathan Chapman right when I got there, and he’s just the best. He was actually able to co-produce a few of the songs, and wrote one of my favorite songs with him when I got to town, which is called “Eleven.” It’s an autobiographical kind of approach to my parents divorce. It’s a song [that’s] very important to me. It ended up working out really well.
NG: Is it really important for your songwriting to stem from your own life?
CP: It is really important to me. Even if I didn’t write it, I still want it to feel like I did, and I want it to relate to me as a person. So, whether I wrote them or not, it has to be close to me and it has to touch me somehow.
NG: Previously, you were the lead singer for the pop-rock group Hey Monday. Now, you’re going Country. What would you say to those fans that aren’t necessarily Country musicfans?
CP: I would tell them that it’s all hand in hand. It’s crazy how similar Country music is to rock music. The stuff that my band did walked along that line of pop and rock. You can hear those influences in my new stuff. Dan Huff is just so amazing at bringing all those elements together. It’s funny, I’ve been able to get feedback already. The feedback has been incredible. Fans love it. They understand now. I’m not going the traditional Country route. They’re really enjoying it.
NG: Do you have a title for it yet?
CP: That’s still a decision that’s being worked out. There are a few names being thrown out there. There’s one that I’m pretty into, but we’re still deciding [that].
NG: You’re debuting the song on The Voice on June 4. Are you excited to return?
CP: I’m so excited. It was such an amazing experience. You know, it’s the reason I’m doing exactly what I’m doing right now. I owe where I am to that show and to go back and show them what I’ve been up to the past few months is going to be really fun.
NG: What was the biggest lesson you learned from coach Blake Shelton?
CP: With Blake, it was all about observing. He was just so outright in himself and blunt and he never apologized for it. So, I just basically learned from him that you need to be yourself, and that’s how you can have a real career. You know, trying to be something you’re not is so short lived but for an artist like him, you know, he’ll be around forever. He’s just real and down to earth and people can relate to that.
NG: You have a CMT series coming up this fall. Have you already been filming? What has that been like to have cameras following you around?
CP: We’ve been filming for a few weeks. We started filming when I was in Nashville finishing up recording some songs, and they’ve been following me around on this radio tour. So, you’re gonna see a lot of the radio tour, making the album and getting ready for the Rascal Flatts tour that’s coming up really soon. It’s a look into the road to my new music. It’s like a docu-series.
[Adding:] It’s definitely something to get used to. For The Voice, everything is very scheduled, and you sit down, and the cameras are there, and they say action. With this, you know…and don’t get me wrong, they’re very respectful of my personal space, and everything is scheduled but they’re there all the time, all day. Even when the cameras aren’t on, you’re still mic’d, so you have to second guess some things sometimes. For the most part, I’ve been able to just be really natural in myself. People are going to get a raw look into my life right now.
NG: You head out on tour with Rascal Flatts next month. How has the preparation been going for that?
CP: It’s definitely taking a lot to prepare out on the road. I have my two guitarists here with me on this radio tour. One of them is literally putting the band together as we’re driving in between places. It’s coming down to the wire. It’s one of those things you have to juggle along with this radio tour and getting the single prepared to release on June 4 and all of that. It’s going to be awesome. The guys we’ve been looking at are just incredible, and I think the first time we’re really going to be practicing for it is probably like…three days before. [laughs] Thankfully, I have these two guys out with me, and we’ve been playing the set pretty much four times a day. We’ve got those parts down. So, we just have to get the bassist and drummer locked in.
NG: Will you be doing any covers in your set?
CP: I think we’re pretty locked in on doing “Over You.” It’s a song everybody always requests, and it gets such an amazing reaction. It’s a big, big milestone for me on the show. Then, we’re talking about doing another cover. I don’t want to say yet. It’s not completely confirmed, but I’m very excited about it. It goes back to the ‘80s. It’s a really great rock song.
NG: For females, there is always a higher barrier to entry (especially looking at so many up-and-coming females right now, including Jana Kramer, Kacey Musgraves, etc), does that intimidate you at all?
CP: No, not really. I guess having been in a band with all guys and being in a world where it is very male dominated, it kind of prepared me for that. All I can do is hold my own and prove myself. I’m not going to try too hard. I’m not going to try talk people into liking me or buying my music. I just gotta be myself and remember my songs will hopefully speak to people. If I try too hard…that’s just not me. It’s sad that that’s even a thought, but we [do] have to work harder than men to prove ourselves, and I do plan to do that. I’m working pretty hard right now, so hopefully it all pays off.
NG: What are you currently listening to, Country and otherwise?
CP: Well, in Country, I’m definitely listening to the new Blake album, Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes, Brad Paisley. I’m pretty much all over the place in Country. Everything else, I kind of go backwards. I’m listening to the old Michelle Branch albums and Avril Lavigne and Shania [Twain]. I kind of hop all around the place.
[This interview originally appeared in Examiner]
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