Citizen and Songwriter:
Interview with Citizen Cope
Citizen Cope makes music that simply cannot be labeled. Cope is one of the most unique artists in music today because of his choice to write about the people he meets and the characters he creates. Cope’s latest release is “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings,” out now on RCA.
Do you have a favorite song off of your new album?
I really listen to it as a whole. Hopefully, it’s something that kind of goes from one song to the next. I have different favorites at different times. Each of them has their own special meaning to me.
You’ve been quoted as saying that your songs are filled with characters. Are these characters insipid by people within your own life?
Some songs, like “Pablo Picasso,” I just made up that, but I understood the emotion. I was kind of relating to the emotion of it more so than the actual character. There are really no rules in songwriting how I do it. It’s just a method of putting your heart into something and drawing on the experiences you’ve had in your life, people you’ve met and their experiences, the people you’ve been close to. The love you’ve had and lost, the pain you’ve felt and healed from; all those things that make up life.
What has been one of the hardest obstacles that you have had to overcome in your life?
There were times in my life when I wasn’t aware of what my calling is. I think that if you’re a creative person and you have something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re not doing it that can be very difficult. There’s been a lot of personal strife that I’ve dealt with. Everyone has a story and everyone has things that drive them.
Do you have a favorite memory from childhood?
Just having a simple meal with people that you love.
Who in your life inspires you?
People that I’ve met in my life, on the street and in my family. There are all different types of people that inspire you. The work of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X inspires me.
Earlier, you were talking about how you don’t follow a method in your songwriting. Do you approach each song differently?
There’s a method in the sense that I’m just constantly doing it. You just follow the muse and see where the song’s going to lead you.
You also do your own production, was this album your first experience doing your own production?
No, I’ve produced before and it is just something I’ve wanted to take back into my range. I decided to develop myself as a producer as well. I think I have the best idea of where the music should go.
What was the first song you wrote for this album?
I think it was “Sideways.”
Did you write “Sideways” all at one time?
I think I was messing with the chords for a minute. I wrote “Son’s Gonna Rise” around the same time. Songwriting is hard to explain. I can sit there and try to explain it and in essence be full of shit. I don’t really understand it myself sometimes. The questions you’re asking are very important. I’m glad you’re asking these kinds of questions because it shows that you are listening to the music as a listener and somebody who loves music. I can say I felt inspired by this or learned this, but I think a lot of those things are in retrospect after thinking what the song is about. After you’ve heard it 100 times, ‘OK, it’s about this…’ The emotion that you deal with I think people relate to as personal. I think they relate to a connection I make with the songs. I can say “Sideways” is about this girl, but me saying what it’s about might completely change what you think the song is about. Something like that is really an emotion, hopefully inherent, that I was able to touch on. Each song has different things. “Son’s Gonna Rise”, I consider it to be a song about rebirth and renewal. Making an analogy of an actual childbirth and the birth of a day, within the context of me telling a story of me driving my wife to the hospital when she’s pregnant. I’m not married and I don’t have a kid. There are personal things in that about renewal and rebirth, life and joy, and clarity.
If you could tour with any artist, who would it be?
I’d love to tour with Dead Prez, Lauren Hill or Ben Harper, Radiohead, Coldplay. I’d love to tour with a lot of people. Nas, I’d like to play with him.
You recently toured with Robert Randolph…
Toured with Robert, that was a good tour.
Do you have a favorite memory from the tour?
I came out there and sang a Bob Marley tune with them, “Is This Love?’ That was a great memory from that tour. Did that a few nights.
Did you ever play with them backstage?
We worked that song out backstage. There was a lot of jamming, there’s certain things that I know about it and certain things that I don’t. Those guys are incredible players.
For more information on Citizen Cope, please check out his website:www.citizencope.com