By, Chanju Mwanza and Lorna Miri
There is no person or thing that came to New York that did not become beautiful in his or its own right. Literature, art, decadence; all romanticised by the city herself. When Ron Pope transferred to NYU, he discovered a song writing circle which would sculpt his words into that particular sort of lyrical genius he needed to capture the world’s attention.
Although today he stands as an internet sensation, it was not so long ago that he found himself searching to find his style of writing. But Pope’s penmanship is distinctive and one of a kind. It takes one many tries, many hours to find the perfect musician –but it has finally been done.
When did you realise that music was what you wanted to pursue?
I always made music. I sang everywhere they’d let me when I was a child and I wrote little stories and poems from when I first picked up a pen. Playing guitar has been a passion of mine for a long time, and I started writing songs with my best friend when I was twelve. I played in bands growing up but wasn’t 100% locked in on making music a career until I joined a song writing circle in college (at NYU.) We’d meet each week and critique each other’s new songs. It was a wonderful time in my life and the support and guidance of other songwriters that I really respected did wonders for me. That inspired me to continue on.
If you had never been injured, do you think that you would have chosen music as a career?
If I hadn’t been injured, I most likely wouldn’t have transferred to NYU. Many of the forces which helped to drive me towards music as a career come from my time there; I don’t know if I’d be a musician today if I hadn’t made that move.
Lyrically, what do you think is the most important aspect to keep in mind when writing a song?
There are so many different kinds of songs and different kinds of songwriters. For me, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you want to be concise. I want to share all of my ideas in as few words as possible.
Would you describe yourself as a sentimental lyricist, or a romantic?
I don’t know that I’m one kind of lyricist or another. I write such a wide variety of songs.
You co-wrote “A Drop in the ocean” with Zach Berkman; How did you react when it became an internet sensation?
We both continue to be very excited about the success of that song. When you go from playing shows for no one to having millions of listeners, it’s overwhleming. The success of that song has been gradual…I’m floored by it’s continued ability to reach people.
How was your first UK tour? How does it make you feel that knowing people all around the world respond to your music?
I had a blast on my first UK tour. It’s really flattering that people are willing to spend their time and money to come to my shows…whether it’s in Los Angeles or Nottingham, I’m honored when I show up to perform and the room is full.
Does it give you a sense of pride when people cover your songs?
I’m incredibly flattered each time I find a cover of one of my songs. There are so many great ones out there. My friend Meghan Tonjes did a really cool cover of “A Drop In The Ocean” that I like a lot. Aleksander WalmannÅsgården, who’s currently on The Voice in Norway does a great version of “Perfect For Me” that I dig a lot. We just met and hung out a bit in Norway; he’s a cool guy. I hope he wins!
Tell us about your experience when recording ‘Atlanta?’
For “Atlanta,” I took a few weeks off and wrote at least one new tune every week day. I think I spent 18 total days writing and wrote 20 songs. As I finished them, I’d rough demos to Paul Hammer and Zach Berkman. We talked about the tunes and possible arrangements, then picked our favorites. It was pretty straight forward. We just picked out the ones that sounded like they’d work together as an album. Recording this one was a lot of fun. We picked an amazing studio (Magic Shop, in New York) and got to hire a bunch of incredible musicians. One of the luxuries about being an independent musician and producing the records myself, with my friends, is that I can really just focus on trying to make the best music I can without the added stress of anybody complaining over my shoulder. If we go over budget, it’s my money, and if the songs turn out sounding like crap, at least it’s crap I believe in. A lot of what you hear was cut live…I’m in a vocal booth, and next to me, in a big live room, there’s a drummer, bass player, and two guitar players…we just played together, like a band. After that, we overdubbed piano, some more guitars, pedal steel, dobro, banjo, organ, fiddle, and harmonies. We tried to keep the palette relatively simple in order to make the record have a consistent feel throughout. So far, it seems like people are enjoying it, so I think we did a solid job.
What was your favourite song to write?
For the “Atlanta” album, my favorite song to write was “In My Bones.” I was having a very frustrating day working on a different tune for hours. I decided to take a break and hop in the shower. While I was in there, I started humming the melody to “In My Bones.” By the time I was done getting clean, I’d come up with most of the song. I sat down at the keyboard, and within a few minutes it was finished. I feel like I plucked that one from the cosmos. Sometimes, it’s very rewarding to work on a song for days on end and finally beat it into submission, but it’s also neat when they just show up and fall into your lap, like they’ve always existed
How does it differ from your older albums?
I’d say that the major difference on this album is that everything is more consistent. Since I wrote the songs in a shorter period of time, to me, they feel like they go together in a much more obvious way than any of my other albums. Also, since we planned and then stuck to a very specific palette of sounds, there’s a certain consistency that runs through the album sonically as well. This one is by far my favorite yet. That’s always a good feeling. You want your newest album to feel like your best work. I’m really proud of “Atlanta.”
Do you prefer working as a solo artist or working with The District?
In an ideal world, I’d be working with The District all the time. Imagine traveling the world doing your favorite thing with your best friends…that was always my dream. Unfortunately for me, they all have their own lives. Paul Hammer has his band, Savoir Adore. Will Frish is a chef, Zach Berkman and Tom Schecter are solo artists, Mike Clifford is a music teacher, and Chris Kienel has a job in mediation. We’re working on a new album, so hopefully I’ll be able to convince them to tour a little bit in the next year or two. Making our last album “Wellfleet” was a lot of fun for me; it’s always great to work with the boys.
Ten years from now, where do you see yourself?
Ten years is a long time. I’d love to keep growing my touring audience, so that in 10, 20, 30, 40 years it’s bigger than it was the year before. I just want to keep building my audience, reaching more people, connecting with everyone that I can access. Ten years from now, I’d imagine I’ll have released a few more albums. I’d also like to continue to find other people to record the songs I write. I’ll be married and have a family in ten years…hopefully, I’ll also have someone to cut the grass if I have a yard (I’ve got allergies.)
You can check out more from Ron Pope on his Facebook, MySpace and Web pages: