In an age of manufactured pop it’s always refreshing to hear from artists who enjoy getting stuck in to all aspects of its creation. And few fit this description better than Ron Pope, an independent musician who, not only performs his own brand of country and alternative rock, but is a prolific song writer and producer.
Ron first started making waves when he formed alternative rock band ‘The District’ with his college classmates and, after three albums, he then moved in to solo territory . He released his biggest hit ‘A Drop In The Ocean’ in 2006, which became an internet sensation, and featured in shows such as ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and ‘90210’. Now, with his fourth solo effort ‘Calling Off The Dogs’ having been released in February, he has returned to the UK, armed with a new single, a rerecording of the album track ‘Nothing’ , featuring Leeds based singer, Hannah Trigwell. We meet in the relatively tranquil backstage area at the Brudenell Social Club, the last venue on the UK leg of his tour.
“Calling Off The Dogs is a concept album” He explains, “It follows two people from the first instant they see each other, to falling in love, falling out of love and their final interactions. ‘Nothing’ is a later, troubled point in the story. I wanted to rerecord ‘Nothing’ and do something special with a UK artist, and a friend, who was having dinner with my wife (who also pitches in as his manager), said he knew this incredible girl. We checked her out, thought she was great and it all connected so we brought her on tour. She definitely brings something different, it’s really cool. Her voice is very unique and beautiful and I’m very excited to have her on the track”.
The album itself was a challenging one for Ron to create. Written as he toured round the world in 2012, it began life as the song which would become the closing track ‘Blood From a Stone’, conceived at a lake in his native Georgia. Then ‘Silver Spoon’ followed, and ‘Lick My Wounds’
was added in to the mix. From these tracks the idea of a concept album, following the life of a relationship, began to bloom. He describes writing the album as a ‘war of attrition’ between him and his muse, writing a whole host of songs, but some not fitting the concept and others just simply
being ‘not that good’. The challenge of the record, then, being not just about finding eleven great songs, but songs which tell one story. The result is an album which stands apart from his previous work.
“I think it’s incredibly different from anything I’ve ever done. There are songs like ‘Silver Spoon’ which have moments like a classic piece, whilst ‘Empty Page’ goes in one direction for two and a half minutes before taking a left hand turn in to a different universe”.
It also incorporates more influences which fans may not initially associate with the rock and country sound of his earlier work, particularly the hip hop he loved whilst growing up. These are very apparent on tracks such as album opener ‘Lick My Wounds’, with its driving beat, carrying
the opening guitar riff. He is also keen to stress the other new sounds as well, such as orchestral arrangements, woodwinds, horns, strings, choirs and a big rock band element, giving what he describes as a ‘crazy soundscape’ to the record, whilst remaining a cohesive unit.
The title of the album itself is lifted from the song ‘Silver Spoon’, and is intended to show the unique nature of the music.
“I felt like, because this record is so unconventional, I wanted to have an unconventional title. So I listened to the album in its entirety and made notes of lyrics that stuck out to me, and looking through I found something I found to be as unique as the record itself”.
And the reward has been the response to his efforts on tour.
“This year I’ve been here (the UK) more than I’ve been in America, it’s been one continuous tour since starting in New York, in January. It’s been great, there’s been a real positive vibe and great energy from the UK fans.”
From The Brudenell he ventures further in to Europe during the rest of the year, covering Germany, Belgium and Switzerland to name a just a few of the places he’ll be stopping off.
And what of the future for Ron? Surely an artist with such a work ethic already has something else in the pipeline.
“I’ve been writing more songs” he says, enigmatically, “So there will be another record before I die..unless I die soon, so let’s all knock on wood and hope I don’t!”
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