Interview with Ron Pope

Independent Philly recently had the opportunity to speak with Nashville-based singer-songwriter, Ron Pope. If you haven’t heard of Ron Pope, you might recognize his music from features on shows like like NBC’s “The Voice,” CW’s “Vampire Diaries,” “90210,” and multiple seasons of FOX’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” which sent two of his albums into the top 100 on iTunes… simultaneously!

[ Interview by Jen Strogatz ]

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Ron Pope’s new album Bone Structure is set to be released on March 6th, 2020 via Brooklyn Basement Records. He will be hitting the road in support of the new record, kicking off January 10th in Nashville and seeing stops across the U.S. and Canada. Pope will be heading to Philly to play for us at the Foundry on January 16th, so in preparation for his show, we were able to get some info straight from the man himself (Ron Pope)!

If you’re feelin’ a little antsy and can’t wait to get your hands on it, Ron Pope’s website offers the option to Preorder Bone Structure.” now… You’re welcome 🙂

Jen Strogatz: So first I just need to say… When I put your music on the other week, I recognized one of your older songs (“A Drop in the Ocean” from 2007 album, Last Call), and as much as it pains me to admit this out loud, I recognized your song from the Vampire Diaries.

Ron Pope: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’ve always been very surprised at, how many people that reached because it was just in one episode.

Jen Strogatz: You know, that show had really good music on it. That’s honestly why I think I liked it. But yeah, I remember hearing your song and it was during a sad or intense scene, and amplified that scene to another level, it gives me the chills. Your music- it’s very from the heart, you know, you can really feel it.

So, what inspires you to write your music?

Ron Pope: Well, this new album, “Bone Structure” that I’m going to be putting out next year, it was kind of a crazy series of events that led me to write the songs. My wife and I had a little girl at the beginning of 2018. I was working on a new album through this process and early in 2019, we went on the road and I was coming back to where we were staying. Just after I got out of the car that I had been riding in, some men attacked the car and the driver called me in a panic because he thought that these people were trying to attack me, it was really a terrifying thing. He was confused, he didn’t know what was happening, it was a really horrifying thing. It was the most afraid I’ve ever been in my life. It’s one thing to be afraid for yourself and it’s another thing entirely to be afraid for your child. It’s the most powerful kind of fear that I have ever felt since we had the baby with us. And so after that, I just started thinking a lot about my mortality.

I started to write songs that either spoke directly to my daughter about my experiences thus far as her father, or songs that were sort of stories from my own life that I felt had some sort of moral, you know, that might be of value to her. The kinds of things that you can’t tell a one year old but you know, God forbid, if something were to happen to me and I wasn’t to be around when she grew up, like some of these things that I just want to share. And so it was a pretty startling thing to have happen, to say the very least. But I think in the end, being able to create this work of art out of it has helped me with just kind of adjusting to being a parent you know, there’s this kind of new reality that I live in.

Jen Strogatz: Wow. How old is your daughter now?

Ron Pope: She is now a year and a half.

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Jen Strogatz: I did read it little bit about that story. I thought it was just really touching the whole story about you changing the direction of your new album to be more directed towards your daughter. I think it’ll be such a lovely gift for her when she gets older that she’ll really cherish. Is that something that you ever think about? Obviously I know you said that you want the songs to be lessons to her, but do you wonder what she’ll think about it when she grows up?

Ron Pope: Man, that’s tough to say. Yeah. I mean, I have friends whose fathers are professional musicians who really love the work of their fathers, and I have other friends whose fathers are professional musicians who really don’t care about their music. I think at the end of the day, my job in her life is to be her dad. And so, it doesn’t matter if you’re a musician or a bricklayer or a doctor, you know, at the end of the day, my most important job is being dad. And so I, you know, I hope that she likes it but you know, if she doesn’t it’s okay too. I mean, you know, if nothing else, I think it will show her at least that I care a great deal. Like it is just kind of tangible evidence, I spent a great deal of time and energy creating something for her. So hopefully, she’ll at least, even if she doesn’t like the music, she likes the sentiment of it.

Jen Strogatz: Absolutely. Well, I think your music is beautiful. You did an interview around the time that your last album “Work” was released and you said that it was pretty much an ode to your life from the age of 15 up until that point. What would you say in comparing “Work” and this new album, “Bone Structure“? Would you say that this album gives more of you as you are in the present?

Ron Pope: This album touches on moments both in my past and my present. Songs like “Practice What I Preach” where it begins with the first moment that they handed me the baby in the hospital. I was standing there holding the baby. And I kind of, at some point in the first few minutes thought, like, “I don’t know if I’m qualified for this, like, I can’t believe that they’ve handed me this child, and that I’m responsible for her. Like, is this a good idea, you know? That really is a sobering moment, you know, when they hand you this baby, and you count the fingers and toes and you’re in the hospital for a few days and then all of a sudden they’re like, “Okay! Walk out the front door with this baby!” It’s like a really, it’s a pretty striking moment. We were walking out the doors of the hospital, and I had the car seat in my hand, I bumped the car seat into the doorframe, as we were walking out to put her in the car for the first time. And, and I was like, ‘Okay, kid, I’m gonna do my best,’ you know, like, obviously, this is gonna be hard and then I drove like eight miles an hour the entire way home. I mean, there’s nothing you can do in your life to prepare you for that moment, with this life in your hands and they’re like, “Here you go. Now, keep this person alive.” It’s terrifying and beautiful.

And so there’s more points like that, that are very much at this new point in my life. There are stories like that. And then there are songs from when I was when I was very young also on this record, I talked about my relationship with my own parents. I talk about some of the times when I have found trouble, certainly. You know, and that was a challenging thing to try to figure out. You know, my path to get to this point in my life was definitely not always G-rated. I left home to be a musician and traveled around the world and you know, with everything that that entailed. So there’s somethings on this record that I debated whether or not I should talk about.

There’s a song called “Stuck On The Moon” and I talked about a period of my life where I was using drugs. The guy who was my dealer used to come to my house Uptown, and I remember at that point in my life, I thought that taking drugs, was part of what you were supposed to do as a musician. You know, like musicians stay up all night, musicians take drugs, I thought in my mind, just as much as part of being a musician is you know, like having a guitar, to me, that was just a part of what you were supposed to do. And what I learned through that process was that actually, all these things that I was doing, like staying up all night and taking drugs and drinking too much, just kind of generally living life like I wasn’t afraid to die. Those things were actually hindering me, they were holding me back from accomplishing the things that I wanted to do because the actual work of being a musician requires, I needed to focus, I needed to sleep.

Jen Strogatz: And to feel!

Ron Pope: Right exactly, being able to feel things and not, you know, kind of put on a protective covering all the time. And I think just like a lot of people also, when you’re growing up and you want to be a musician, all of these people that you look up to, so many of them are these stone-cold junkies. But it’s like, Keith Richards isn’t great because he was a junkie. He was great in spite of the fact that he was a junkie. And that’s I guess the thing I kind of had to learn. So that was, you know, for me, it was interesting to try to pick out what was reasonable to talk about, what I should share, but I just felt like because, it’s sometimes in the past, it’s like, I felt like I write for myself, and then edit for my audience. But with this record, it was so particular because my audience is one person, like I’m only targeting the songs at one person. So, I guess it felt like I could tell kind of a more unvarnished version of the of the truth. Because it felt like I should be sharing as much of myself with her as I can.

Jen Strogatz: I imagine that it made it easier to be more vulnerable and not censor as much because you’re in a sense speaking directly to your daughter. That’s a beautiful thing. And so I did I read a tiny bit about your past. I’m wondering, are you in recovery from addiction? Or were you just sort of dabbling in using drugs and alcohol at that specific time in your life?

Ron Pope: You know, I am lucky in that whatever the switch is inside of people that gets tricked and that they end up as addicts, that thankfully, I did not have that switch. I have been very lucky to be able to skirt that issue. And so I feel very lucky in that regard. So no, I am not in recovery. For me at this point, I like to think like, drugs are something I have retired from. I got to triple A, I probably could have gone to the majors, but you know what? Let’s step away from the game! There were people that were, you know, my running buddies that I did all kinds of crazy stuff with who, some of them, didn’t fare so well. Certainly there are guys I grew up with that are in prison, guys that I grew up with, I have my friends that are in recovery. So, I am very blessed to not have to do any of that.

Jen Strogatz: Yeah, absolutely. I just thought that what you said about you know, societal terms of being a musician living the “rock n’ roll lifestyle,” things like that, I just think it’s such a good message to up-and-coming artists and just basically in changing the tone of what everyone thinks is “cool.”

So, let’s talk about your upcoming tour! We’re excited to see you in Philly. How is preparation for this tour different for you in comparing it to past tours, before you and your wife had your daughter?

Ron’s newly released single, Habits from his upcoming album is now available to stream

[ here ]

Ron Pope: I would say that I am much more focused at this point in my life than I was before. Because every moment that I spend on the road and I spend in the studio, or I’m going to spend doing anything, is a moment that I’m not at home and I’m not with my family. And so I feel like if I’m going to do it, I have to be my best every day because what I’m giving up is incredibly valuable. And the most important thing in my life, I step away from that in order to go to work and play these shows. So I am very focused and have been working very diligently, we’ve got a great new band this year with a bunch of really, really incredible players. I’m very excited to get out there and show people what this new material as well as the older stuff, what it feels like reflected through the lens of this new place that I’m at in my life.

I always want people to know, though, that this record, of course there’s a lot of serious content on it. But the show is very high energy. It’s very fun. It’s like, you know, me and seven of my friends having a great night, and try to make you have a great night. I’ve always felt like, as an entertainer, I understand that, you know, especially in a city like Philadelphia, there’s any number of things you could be doing every single night. And so the fact that people go out of their way to choose to be with me and make whatever accommodations they have to make to get the night off of work or, you know, get their parents to let them go out and get somebody to watch their kids or, you know, whatever stage you’re at in your life, I know that everybody you know, could have chosen something else and they have gone out of their way to make these plans and be there with me. So it’s very important to me that we give you a fun night. And so that’s, what I’m hoping the Stuck On The Moon Tour is!

Jen Strogatz: That’s so exciting. So what has your success within the music industry been like personally for you this far?

Ron Pope: Well I would say the best part for me about being able to generate a living from making music is that it allows me to not have to spend any of my time and energy doing some other job. I would still be making music, you know, if I worked in a bank during the day, I would be making music in the night or on weekends. And so, the best part about having this career in music is that I’m able to devote all of my time and energy to creating art, which feels like, you know, a pretty unbelievable blessing. I mean, I know a lot of incredible musicians that have some other job that they do all day because, you know, the entertainment business, it’s unlike other jobs. In many other jobs, if you go to school, get a degree, do all the necessary training, you get out and you go to work. You work hard and you show up and do your best every day, you’re gonna have a career. In music, you could be incredible. You could do a lifetime of preparation, you could, you know, do your 10,000 hours. And you could not get any you know, any financial opportunity from it. You can have a life that is enriched by being involved in the arts, but you know, in terms of buying cereal for your kids, you know I have a lot of a lot of friends thatdon’t get that opportunity. So that’s been a really big blessing. Because it allows me to focus on being creative. Like this album, it took me a long time. It took a lot of work.

I wrote a ton of songs, we recorded over the course of, over a year. You know, we worked on this for a very, very, very long time. And I spent, I can’t imagine how many hours… the writing, the production of this record, and yeah, there’s no way that I would be able to do that if it wasn’t my job. So that’s kind of the best part of it. It’s not like a miracle or something, it’s not like being struck by lightning like, we’re lucky. But also I would say like, you know, my manager who runs the label is also my wife and she is an incredibly diligent, intelligent, hardworking person who’s like, and honest to goodness authority on the contemporary music industry. And so having her like guiding the ship, you know, really I think that’s kind of the secret weapon. We’ve just done a lot of hard focused work over many, many years to get to this place. And so that’s, you know, you sprinkle a little luck on top of a whole bunch of hard work and preparation, and then that’s how you end up feeling like it’s kind of you know, every day of my life feels a little bit like a miracle.

Jen Strogatz: That’s so nice. I mean, your wife sounds like she’s amazing. That’s awesome that you guys get to work together like that. And that she knows so much about music and that you get to share that with each other. That’s really great.

Ron Pope: She is, she’s just like absolutely integrated into every part of the process. She executive produced the album, she workshops all the songs, she does any number of things. Like sometimes she’s taking the photos. Like for “Work,” the last album, she did the photography. She writes a lot of the copy, she made the website, she’s just like very involved in every step of the process.

Jen Strogatz: She sounds like a really awesome, talented woman.

Ron Pope: She is. She’s also a great mentor to a lot of people who are kind of coming up behind her in the industry and like, I can’t sing her praises enough.

Jen Strogatz: That’s so incredibly sweet! Well, thank you so much for sharing all of that with me and I’m really excited for you to come play for us here in Philly.

Ron Pope: Wonderful! Well, I’ll see you in a few weeks!

Jen Strogatz: We’re definitely all looking forward to it!

Ron was a total pleasure to speak to. He really seems like such a sweet, kind and gentle soul. After chatting with him, I know that I’m super excited to see him play here in the good ole’ city of Brotherly Love – what about you?!

Check here to view tickets for all of Ron’s tour dates


January 10Mercy LoungeNashville, TN
January 11Lincoln HallChicago, IL
January 14Great HallToronto, ON
January 15Union StageWashington DC
January 16Foundry at FillmorePhiladelphia, PA
January 17SinclairBoston, MA
January 18Bowery BallroomNew York, NY
January 22Fine LineMinneapolis, MN
January 24Bluebird TheaterDenver, CO
January 25In The VenueSalt Lake City, UT
January 27NeumosSeattle, WA
January 28Aladdin TheaterPortland, OR
January 30Great American Music HallSan Francisco, CA
January 31Teragram BallroomLos Angeles, CA
February 1Crescent BallroomPhoenix, AZ
February 3Bronze PeacockHouston, TX
February 53Ten @ ACLAustin, TX
February 6GranadaDallas, TX
February 8Terminal WestAtlanta, GA
April 17Union ChapelLondon, UK
April 18The Stoller HallManchester, UK
April 19MelkwegAmsterdam, Netherlands
April 21Kulturkirche KölnCologne, Germany
April 23PustervikGöteborg, Sweden
April 24Hotel CecilKøbenhavn K, Denmark
April 25Södra TeaternStockholm, Sweden
April 27Parkteatret SceneOslo, Norway

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