“I was one of the first artists to get popular on social media before social media even had that name,” says singer/songwriter Ron Pope. Tonight, Pope kicks off the A Drop in the Ocean Tour, which will have the Nashville/Brooklyn Americana artist performing his 2008 debut solo LP, Daylight, in its entirety to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the album, and which will bring him to our very own City Winery this Thursday, February 15th. The tour’s name came from Pope’s 2008 breakout hit off of Daylight, “A Drop in the Ocean,” which has currently been streamed over 1 billion times, pushing Daylight to platinum status in the US and double-platinum status in Sweden.
During a recent phone chat, Pope tells me about his love of streaming and all of the new and changing ways of listeners getting their music: “I’m excited to stay on top of how consumption of music is changing.” Although, he admits that in his early days of selling music online (much of it through TuneCore), he was a little bit hesitant: “I sold millions and millions of digital tracks through 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, so I was really scared of streaming.” But his mind was quickly changed when he saw that it was possible to make a musical career like his own sustainable: “We were early adopters of Spotify and have been incredibly enthusiastic about streaming for a long time now… For an artist like me, with a lot of music, people can become a fan of the artist and the catalogue, and not just an individual song… Ultimately, you wanna make something great, and you wanna share it with people.”
When I ask how the idea to tour Daylight in its entirety came about, he suggests it has a lot to do with getting a bit older and being able to look at this history of his: “I have been doing a lot of reflecting the last number of years. There have been all these anniversaries, like my wedding anniversary… these landmark things in my life,” before definitively summarizing his take on his career: “There was before Daylight, and there was after Daylight.” He explains that playing these songs has given him the opportunity to reconnect with a past period in his life: “I’m really excited to visit this much younger version of myself. I started to write these songs when I was twenty, and it came out when I was 25… It’s like reading your old diaries, a little bit.”
A Drop in the Ocean Tour is also giving Pope and his band a chance to expand their current repertoire. “We decided that we would see about learning all of these songs, some of which we’ve never played live,” he tells me, going on to cite rarely-if-ever played songs such as the title track, “Virginia,” and “The Right Way,” of which he explains, “I wrote that in 2007, so it’s getting up there in years [laughs], but [upon revisiting it] I was really struck by how much I liked the recording we made.” But of the tour’s titular track, he tells me he has a very vivid memory: “I wrote ‘A Drop in the Ocean’ with my best friend, Zach Berkman. He’s like my brother, and he was my roommate. He sat at the piano and played the exact riff all the way through the first time.” He also notes the significance of the track as the turning point in his career: “It felt so natural and easy for it to all come together that we were surprised that this song turned into this juggernaut that would go on to propel my whole life… It’s a fun thing to share with him.”
Ron Pope is excited to tell me that Zach Berkman will very much be a part of the A Drop in the Ocean Tour, both as the opening act and a member of Pope’s band. In fact, the tour will be his first with a band in quite some time: “This is my first full-band tour in four years. I’m really excited to get onstage and bring this energy to everyone. It feels like a bigger event when it’s a lot of us onstage.” In addition to the songs of Daylight, Pope tells me that the set will include songs from throughout his career, and possibly even some unreleased songs and his latest single, “I’m Not The Devil,” which was released this past Friday and features up-and-coming singer/songwriter Taylor Bickett, who is providing direct support on these dates.
“The internet kept putting Taylor in front of me; her singing, her beautiful voice, and I can’t believe how great these lyrics are,” says Pope of Bickett. And apparently she has a background with Ron Pope’s early music: “When we met, I found out the first song she learned on guitar was ‘A Drop in the Ocean.’” “We are real life buds!” he says of his current relationship with Bickett, before going on to gush about the experience of working with the artist on “I’m Not The Devil”: “I cannot express how impressed I am with her… She’s a quietly unbelievable singer — she’s nonchalant – and she came in and murdered it.” He even goes on to admit, “I’m looking forward to, in a few months when she’s much bigger, getting the chance to open for her!”
When it comes to making music these days, Pope tells me that a lot of what he does reflects the life he’s built for himself and the people who matter most: “I’m trying to make American music, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what does it mean to be a man – a father, a husband, a lot of that has evolved in my lifetime – and what does it mean to be me? A lot of people struggle with the notions of being American and the notions of being a man.” He admits that there is certainly one person who impacts the way he views his music more than anyone else: “It’s one thing to be married, but it’s another thing when you bring children into the world… Being someone’s father, it’s really important that it be something that my daughter can be proud of.”
“It feels like people are posturing when they say, ‘I’m a feminist,’ but I think I’m a feminist,” laughs Pope, who tells me he enjoys surrounding himself with women: “I love bringing in these gifted, strong women, like my tour manager, along with me. We’re on the road and she’s the boss, she’s in charge.” In addition to their personal relationship, Pope’s wife, Blair Clark, is also in charge of the label that they founded together that releases his music, Brooklyn Basement Records: “My wife runs the label, and is this wildly accomplished music executive… At the end of the day, this is our family business, so when my daughter grows up, I want her to be able to say, ‘My parents stood for the right things.’”
*Get your tickets here.