American rock and pop singer-songwriter Ron Pope releases his 12th album today, but this one’s different than anything he’s ever done. It’s something the 32-year-old, now living in New York, says he’s been waiting his entire life to be a part of.
The album is called Ron Pope & The Nighthawks. It’s country meets folk meets soul meets church choir. It’s made up of Pope and his favourite Brooklyn-based musicians. The album was co-produced by Pope and Grammy Award winner Ted Young and brings with it a brand new sound.
When we got wind that Pope’s album would be released this month, we reached out to Pope and his team. We are thrilled, blessed and honoured to have had the chance to interview Pope himself!!
Read our full interview below, where Pope talks about his newest album, The Nighthawks and what any young person on the hunt for a career should do to find success.
1. Ron, you are one of the top grossing independent acts in the music industry today. How does reading that statement make you feel?
Sure beats being the lowest grossing independent act. I’m lucky; I’ve worked very hard and the world has been good to me. Thank God this worked out, because I don’t have any other skills!
2. What was your first job? How has, or hasn’t, your first job helped you in your own successes, today?
My first job was delivering coupons for a pizzeria. It was pretty mindless; I’d just walk around hanging these coupons on people’s doorknobs. All the terrible jobs I had before remind me to get up and hustle every day, because I don’t want to go back to doing that kind of nonsense.
3. What is a day in the life of Ron Pope like?
Well, my wife Blair is also my manager. We started a label together, called Brooklyn Basement Records. We’ve signed two incredible artists so far. One is a fantastic soul singer by the name of Tim Olstad. The other is a badass guitar superhero (who I’ve known since he was a little kid) named Truett. Both of them are phenomenal artists. When I’m not on tour, I get up early to work out, do my vocal warmup on the way home from the gym, practice guitar for a while, head into the office to work on the business of our label most of the day, do interviews in the midst of all that, handle any music related stuff (critiquing mixes, workshopping songs, etc) and then in the evening, I try to shut it down and hang out with my wife and my dog. Busy days!
4. How old were you when you first started making music in Nashville?
I started going to Nashville on tour many moons ago, but I’d never written a song there until last year. Some of “Ain’t No Angel” was written in a little house in East Nashville while we were in town shopping for a house of our own!
5. On January 8, your newest album Ron Pope & The Nighthawks will be released. Many of the songs on this album were recorded while on tour in 2014, and you’ve even played some of them for a live audience. What is so special to you about this album?
This band is the best thing I’ve ever been a part of. Playing together has elevated what each of us does. I took a lot of time to write these songs and really craft something meaningful and cohesive. I hope it shows.
6. What are you most excited about regarding Ron Pope & The Nighthawks and what was it like working with Paul Hammer, Alex Foote, Andrew Pertes, Alex Brumel, Alan Markley and Michael Riddleberger to create this new album?
We leave for tour very soon! I’m actually on my way out the door for our first rehearsal as soon as we finish this interview. I can’t wait to play this music with the band out on the road. Every night, when we get on stage, I’m having the time of my life. It’s such a privilege to be able to be a part of this group. Making the record together was so inspiring; each and every one of those guys added something unique to the process and I think it shows.
7. What was/will be the most challenging part about Ron Pope & The Nighthawks?
Whenever you’re trying to change directions, sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what direction to head in. Sometimes, we’d travel down a long road and then realize we’d gone the wrong way and have to backtrack. That was frustrating, but it was all part of the process.
8. What was/will be the most rewarding?
When we finished the album and I hadn’t completely lost my mind, I was pretty proud of myself. I started writing the songs for this record over a year before we finished it, and by the time we were done, I’d written over 150 tunes, not counting an absurd amount of drafts of some of these tunes. It was a journey!
9. You’ve said this new album is you trying to soothe your mind. What does this mean?
With my last album, I was really trying to blow my own mind, taking turns that I wouldn’t normally take. In terms of composition, production, arrangements, the whole thing, I was just trying to get really far out. With this album, I wanted to return to my strengths and do things that felt the most natural to me. This record feels like home; I think it’s fitting that we started working on it in Georgia (where I grew up).
10. I’m listening to “Ain’t No Angel” as I write this question – I’m feeling a lot of soul in this tune. What was your favourite part about recording this song?
I wrote that slide guitar line but had trouble playing it, so I asked Brumel (who plays guitar, dobro, pedal steel, and, inexplicably, tenor saxophone in this band) if he could try it. He showed up at the studio and played slide guitar like the devil was chasing him. That was fun to watch. He’s a monster.
11. If you could give advice to any musician trying to make it, what would it be?
Write great songs. If you don’t have great material, there is someone else who could easily step into your place. You can’t stop a hit record. Sit down and write songs and keep on writing them until you’re writing songs that are as good as your favourites.
12. What would be your advice for young people developing careers (musical, or not) right now?
Work harder than everyone around you. If you don’t get the rebound because the other guy is a foot taller than you, so be it, but never, ever, ever get out hustled. If it was easy to be great at what you’re doing, everyone would be a boss. If you want to stand in front of the line, you need to sprint up there and then keep running faster than everyone else who’s trying to catch you. Sorry for mixing my sports metaphors. Hustle. Period.
13. What’s next for Ron Pope?
We start a world tour in a few days! We’ll be traveling all over Europe and the US to start. The album drops on Friday, January 8 and we’re running around supporting that!
Thank you to Pope and his team for taking the time to help make this happen! Best wishes with Ron Pope & The Nighthawks. We know we’ll have the album on repeat from now until, well, ever.