Ron Pope is one incredibly talented guy. After all, 32 million views on his song A Drop in the Ocean can't be wrong, right? If you haven't seen it, the video is below. Uploaded by a fan [complete with lyrics], this song gained critical acclaim off the back of The Vampire Diaries. No doubt fans of this television series would be familiar with this beautifully crafted piece.
Fast forward to 2014 and Ron Pope will be in Australia this June to promote his new single Lick My Wounds, straight from the new album Calling Off the Dogs. The song and record are a far cry from Pope's earlier work and showcase a new direction, a challenge Pope set himself to push into a different style.
When asked where the impetus to shift gears came from, Pope reflected back to his college days, a time when as a former baseball player he pitched a major sweeping curve into his music career. "I wanted to challenge myself as a writer, a composer, a producer and lyricist. I had nothing to benchmark this record against, it was so fresh and different from anything that I had ever done. I had proven to myself that I could produce music [A Drop in the Ocean] that was engaging, emotional and had the fundamentals. This time I wanted to take it to a new place and experiment."
The film clip for Lick my Wounds is set loosely on an idea of two female superheroes. Pope enjoys the process of creating mini-worlds within his videos, seeing the conventions of making a story too limiting. "It is too easy to copy the lyrics and turn them into a film clip."
Pope's wife has a hand in the all of the videos he makes, including the art direction. "She's very involved," he laughs and tells me he loves being able to collaborate so closely.
Even the video reflects Pope's desire to break new ground. "I really wanted to push myself and do something different and this album could've gone one of two ways, I think I actually surprised myself!There is no point staying the same as an artist and doing the same thing, you may as well produce a Greatest Hits album and say there it is." The clip features Pope's friend Jillian Rose Reed as one of the superheroes and the concept - courtesy of a friends production company - has produced that desired effect.
When asked about the comparisons the song is receiving to MGMT's Electric Feel, Pope pragmatically shrugs it off. "I haven't heard that as yet, but people are always going to benchmark music against something else. I experimented with the score on this a lot, the range, the way the music has been composed. I've been doing this for a long time, I've produced a lot of records. and if you had told me when I was seven I was going to be a musician, I thought I would've been the lead singer of a band like The Temptations! I was really into soul music actually. I was one of those obnoxious kids, who had a fat red pencil in his hand and was writing stories for as long as I can remember. "
Growing up Pope recounts being exposed to a diverse musical landscape, "when I was little my favourite bands were The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stevie Wonder." Country music was a big feature in his young life and the direction he thought he would head in until he faced his first obstacle, "I had to develop a falsetto range because my voice changed when I was growing up. I had to really focus on this and perfect it, that came out of necessity. Now I am really comfortable singing in falsetto, you develop your weaknesses when you are deficient at something."
When I bring up his love of Led Zeppelin, the already enthusiastic and articulate Pope, starts jumping out of skin. "Oh man, absolutely they are like my favourite all time band – Led Zeppelin are one of my greatest influences." Pope wishes he could be as great as the powerhouse that is Robert Plant, but cites his vocal range as being a limiting factor. Pope amusingly recalls a significant chance meeting when his voice actually failed him altogether, "I was actually at a gig in LA once and John Paul Jones [keyboardist of Led Zeppelin] came into the venue. I said to myself 'oh my god that is John Paul Jones' and just froze. You know those fan girls? I became like one of those girls and I just couldn't speak!"
Meeting John Paul Jones afterwards was another lost-for-words moment, "I just sat there quietly not saying anything, because I was like... it is Led Zeppelin! I just sat in the room and kept thinking to myself it is John Paul Jones..." Pope confides, "if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one record it would be Led Zeppelin IV." He muses and remembers being a child you desperately wanted to be both a combination of Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant, "like superhero of both of those singers!"
Currently in LA at the moment, Pope admits he is really enjoying it. There's one major factor this New Yorker loves: the sun. I tell him it'll be winter when he arrives in Australia, he laughs and says he is really looking forward to it, "your winter is really cute, it's cold with a little bit of rain. That is mild for us New Yorkers." Fans are in for a real treat at his shows, I've heard he puts 110% into the production and from looking at the photo gallery on his website, fans are a treasured part of his musical journey.