Musician, RON POPE Discusses His Debut Album With The Nighthawks, Being On The Hit Show, NASHVILLE, His Documentary -“One Way Ticket” and Much More!
Posted On 11 Feb 2016
Tag: All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Austin To Boston, Brooklyn Basement Records, Chris Stapleton, D.A. Wallach, Georgia, Hell Or High Water, Irving Plaza, Jonathan Tyler, Kelly Teacher, Lake Blue Ridge, Nashville, No Cameras Allowed, One Way Ticket, Ron Pope, Ron Pope And The Nighthawks, The Magic Shop, The Nighthawks, Trevor Hall, Zach Berkman
Ron Pope & The Nighthawks’ debut, self-titled album is now available onBrooklyn Basement Records. To celebrate the release, Pope and the band kicked off their 31-city North American and European tour Saturday night at New York’s Irving Plaza. (See Full Tour Below The Interview)
Pope, who completed his fifth solo album in 2014, began writing new songs on the road that he brought to his favorite Brooklyn-based musicians. While recording, The Nighthawks were born.
The sessions began in Lake Blue Ridge, Georgia, followed by a loft in Louisville, Kentucky and finished up at The Magic Shop in New York. The final album was co-produced by Pope and Grammy award winner Ted Young (The Rolling Stones, Kurt Vile, Grace Potter) with Paul Hammer, Alex Foote, Andrew Pertes, Alex Brumel, Alan Markley and Michael Riddleberger of The Nighthawks.
While in the studio, Pope enlisted filmmaker Kelly Teacher (No Cameras Allowed, Austin To Boston) to create One Way Ticket, a feature-length documentary following Pope and the band as they record their debut album and tour the U.S. The film uses the story of Ron Pope & The Nighthawks as a backdrop to explain the state of the contemporary music industry and how to forge a career in the new digital age. “Here’s a guy who’s figured out how to do this basically by himself and is really proving the power of streaming music,” says Spotify’s D.A. Wallach in One Way Ticket.
As a solo artist, Pope has sold over two million singles to date and averages 15 million spins a month on Pandora. His songs have been streamed over 126 million times via Spotify, with over 100 million YouTube views and over 14 million plays on SoundCloud. His music has been featured on 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. Pope also guest stared on “Nashville” as himself last season.
Learn more about Ron in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So, how’s 2016 been treating you so far?
-So far, so good! We just played our album release show in New York at Irving Plaza this past weekend. It was awesome to start the year with a big, sold out show! Now we’re off to the races; I’m in London this week and then on tour all over Europe!
How did it feel to release your debut album on Jan 8th?
-The new album “Ron Pope & The Nighthawks” was such a labor of love. We wrote over 150 songs as we worked on it, we recorded around 40, and finally whittled it down to 11 for the album. I’m just so happy that people can finally hear it all!
As a solo artist, you experienced plenty of success so why did you decide to put together an album with The Nighthawks? How did this group of musicians come together?
-This group came together very organically. All of these guys are my first call people in New York, the ones I reach out to for every show, tour, or recording session. Usually, they’re all busy, but I was lucky enough to snag them for the fall 2014 US run. Once we all got together in Georgia to rehearse and begin recording, it felt obvious pretty immediately that we weren’t just making me a solo album; it just felt like a band.
What has it been like to play yourself on the last seasons of Nashville? Are you really having to act since you are playing yourself? J Would you like to act more in the future?
-My guest spot on “Nashville” was a blast. I absolutely had to act, because the character I’m playing exists in an alternate reality (interacting with fictional characters in made up situations). Even though the character I played is also named “Ron Pope,” it didn’t really make it feel like I was “playing myself” since the character was in such a strange situation (talking to a fictional musician about signing to a fictional record label). I am hoping to act more in the coming year; I’ve actually been writing a scripted series that I’m hoping to star in. We’ll see if I have time! Music keeps me pretty busy.
You are about to kick off a 31-city tour. Where are you most looking forward to playing at?
-It’s always a blast to visit Stockholm; my fans there are just so engaged. They know every word to every song, no matter what album it comes from. Honestly, any night, wherever we are, if people show up and they’re enjoying the show, I’m just that much more stoked to be on stage, but in the end, I always love to play. The boys and I have a blast at rehearsals just hanging out and playing these tunes!
What can you tell our readers about your full-length documentary, “One Way Ticket”?
-“One Way Ticket” follows the band and I as we tour around the US and begin recording our new album and then uses that as the context to talk about the contemporary music industry and my place within it. Our friend, the wonderful documentary filmmaker Kelly Teacher was with us from when we showed up in Georgia to start rehearsals all the way through our final days in the studio in New York, about nine months later. It was an intense process, but I think she was able to capture something that anyone who’s interested in the music industry (or just my career in general) will enjoy.
What was the inspiration for the band’s lead single “Hell Or High Water”?
-“Hell Or High Water” is a song I really fought to bring into the world. Sometimes, tunes come easy. You sit down and boom, fifteen minutes later, there’s a complete song in your lap. “Hell Or High Water” was a process; over the course of many months, I would open it up again and again to tinker. There are nine very different complete drafts of that song. Alan (Markley) and I wrote one song, then Alex (Brumel) and I wrote another in the same key. I kind of smooshed them together and then tweaked it over and over. The main riff comes from Alex and I, the breakdown is Alan (I added the “hey” shouts) and we all went back and forth on the lyrics. I love the power and energy of that tune, plus the “can’t stop, won’t stop” spirit of the lyrics. One of my favorite lyrics ever comes from Kanye’s “Amazing,” “ Never gave in, never gave up, I’m the only thing I’m afraid of.” I like the idea that a person can be an unstoppable force of nature (provided we stay out of our own way). The narrator in HOHW is saying “I will not be stopped; no matter what gets put in front of me, I’m going to make it.” People often look at the slower, moodier sounding songs as if they have a deeper meaning, but this one (which is really energetic and driving) is one of the most emotional tunes on the album for me.
As a musical storyteller yourself, who do you consider some of the greatest storytellers out today? What musicians would you love to work with in the future?
-For my money, Zach Berkman is the best songwriter of our generation. I’ve known him for well over a decade and his work continues to blow my mind. I’m honored that he continues to work on my albums with me. As far as people I haven’t worked with, I’d love to write with Chris Stapleton; it seems like he and I have a lot of influences in common.
Your music has been featured in many TV shows. Do you still get excited when you hear one of your songs on a show?
-If I hear my songs on TV, on the radio, in a coffee shop that’s playing Pandora or Spotify, I get excited. I don’t care how jaded or cool you think you are, it’s neat to know that folks are hearing your music.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope listeners take away from one of your songs?
-When I write the songs, they’re mine. When I release them out into the world, they become yours. Your interpretation of what the song is about is just as valid as mine, because art is subjective. I love that. I want the songs to feel like they’re yours when you hear them.
RON POPE + THE NIGHTHAWKS TOUR
* Jonathan Tyler
† Trevor Hall
January 9 /// New York /// Irving Plaza*
January 15 /// London, U.K. /// Koko†
January 16 /// Manchester, U.K. /// Academy 3†
January 17 /// Glasgow, U.K. /// ABC†
January 18 /// Belfast, Ireland /// Empire Music Hall†
January 19 /// Dublin, Ireland /// Whelan’s†
January 21 /// Amsterdam, Netherlands /// Paradiso Noord†
January 22 /// Zurich, Switzerland /// Exil†
January 23 /// Munich, Germany /// Strom†
January 25 /// Koln, Germany /// Stadtgarten†
January 28 /// Copenhagen, Denmark /// Vega (Small Hall)†
January 30 /// Stockholm, Sweden /// Munchenbrewery†
February 18 /// Atlanta, GA /// Variety Playhouse
February, 19 /// Nashville, TN /// Mercy Lounge*
February 20 /// Philadelphia, PA /// Trocadero Theatre*
February 21 /// Boston, MA /// Royale*
February 23 /// Pittsburgh, PA /// Altar Bar*
February 24 /// Cleveland, OH /// Beachland Ballroom*
February 25 /// Ann Arbor, MI /// Blind Pig*
February 26 /// Chicago, IL /// Metro*
February 27 /// Minneapolis, MN /// Mill City Nights*
March 1 /// Seattle, WA /// Neumos
March 2 /// Portland, OR /// Star Theater
March 4 /// San Francisco, CA /// Great American Music Hall
March 5 /// Los Angeles, CA /// Teragram Ballroom*
March 6 /// Phoenix, AZ /// Crescent Ballroom*
March 8 /// Denver, CO /// Bluebird Theater
March 10 /// Oklahoma City, OK /// ACM Performance Lab *
March 11 /// Dallas, TX /// Granada Theater
March 12 /// Houston, TX /// Warehouse Live *