Finding Her Voice: Grammy-Nominated Artist Cassadee Pope Releases New Stripped-Down Acoustic Album
Today, Cassadee Pope is recognized as a country music powerhouse and The Voice’s Season Three winner. But even before she competed on the popular NBC singing competition, Cassadee had been making waves in the music industry. At the age of 15, she signed her first record deal with her punk-rock band, Hey Monday, with whom she released two studio albums and three EPs. But after being the first female competitor to win The Voice, her solo career really took off.
In October of 2013, Cassadee debuted her solo country album, Frame by Frame, and took the country music world by storm. She went on to team up with Chris Young on “Think of You,” for which she received her first Grammy nomination. Next came the release of her EP, during the summer of 2016, before her second studio album Stages in 2019, which she refers to as “the first project that was the most me.” In 2019, she also headlined the “2019 CMT Next Women of Country Tour,” which brought the franchise outside of the U.S. for the first time ever.
It is now July of 2020, almost four months into quarantine, and the Pennsylvania native is getting ready to share her new stripped-down, acoustic album, Rise and Shine with the world on August 7th. The album, she shares, was completely spur of the moment. “I had my mom and sister over. We were all hanging out, including my boyfriend, and I’d been struggling with not working and not putting out any new music. I had all of these songs I’d written that I’d never released, so I decided to record an acoustic album. I went through and narrowed the songs down from thirty.” Her selection process included identifying songs that would translate well acoustically. Once she decided on the songs, she leaned on guitarist and producer, Tom Lombardo, to establish the sound. “I wanted something Dashboard Confessional meets Jimmy Eat World. I sent him the demos and we Facetimed after so I could hear what he came up with. He would go in and record his guitars and send them to me. I had barely any notes --it was exactly the sound I was looking for,” says Cassadee.
Then, it was her turn to record the vocals. “I went into the studio --mask and all. We took all of the necessary precautions to keep everyone safe. There, I cut the vocals for all eight songs and spent some time picking the right microphone, a beautiful mic which made my voice warmer. I finished and sent it to the mixer. I’ve never not been in the studio when we’re recording the music side of things, so it was definitely a different experience.”
This album is setting the stage and guiding fans to Cassadee’s new sound - leaning into more of her rock, pop side, with the storytelling influences of country music. Rise and Shine definitely represents a more personal side of the artist with singles such as, “Let Me Go,” which Cassadee explains was not written about a relationship. “‘Let Me Go’ represents a desperation of freedom from any situation: relationship, work, someone not understanding you or believing in you and making you feel trapped. In my case, it was written in a place where I felt creatively I wasn’t being embraced. I wasn’t feeling seen or heard. But that’s what I love about music, it’s all about interpretation. I love that fans can relate it to any situation they may be going through.” She mentions the song, which she’d performed over five years ago, was a fan favorite. They’ve been waiting for its release.
“California Dreaming” features her boyfriend, actor and musician, Sam Palladio on it. “I put him on this song and he absolutely killed it. My mom loves it. It’s her favorite song.” Other hits include, “Counting on the Weather” (my favorite!) and the playful track, “Hoodie.” “We’ve all been there where we get in touch with someone because of something subtle, but it’s so obvious. The lyric video I shot for it is very fun.” If you’ve been following Cassadee since her Hey Monday days, you’ll recognize a stripped-down version of “Hangover” on the list as well.
Since her start, Cassadee’s musical journey has definitely been one of “self-discovery.” “There was a lot of trial and error. I’ve had a lot of moments in my career where I didn’t really know myself and had a lot of influence from older, more powerful people in the industry.” Now she is coming into her own and letting go of those outside influences to pursue her sound. “I have a very clear direction of what I want to write. That includes tapping into where I come from, the rock realm, and intertwining that with those country roots.” Which is exactly what Rise and Shine sets up.
With COVID still present, it’s hard to tell whether the Grammynominated artist will be able to get back into the studio to record a full album or play a live show soon. For now, Cassadee is engaging with fans in a virtual way, which included a live Virtual Release Party via Looped following the premiere of the “Let Me Go” lyric video. The event featured special performances from Cassadee and a virtual Meet & Greet with fans. The virtual events continued until the album’s release in August, including July 16 and August 6 dates. “I love being able to interact with fans. I’ve joined the Community app, so I’m able to text them directly. Yes, it’s really me! My fans know my voice, so I make sure to handle my own social media. I’m very hands-on.”
In addition to Zoom writing sessions and virtual events, Cassadee is getting stuff done around the house Sam and she recently moved into together. “I’ve been mowing the lawn. I used to do it in Pennsylvania, but hadn’t in awhile. It’s really therapeutic. We’re also in the process of staining our fence and waiting for our new couch to arrive.”
While Cassadee may not know what the rest of 2020 looks like when it comes to performing live, she knows exactly what she wants to do more of. “I want to be more vocal about how important mental health is to me. Honestly, I struggle with feeling enough. I think a lot of people do. Things that have happened in my childhood, like my dad leaving, really had an impact. It followed me into my relationships, including feeling like I’m going to be left. Feeling abandoned and neglected. Quarantine has resulted in Sam and I being in each other’s faces 24/7, but we’re able to share our feelings with each other, whereas if I was on tour, we wouldn’t have that ability. It’s really been a growing component of our relationship. The best part about this mental health journey is being able to name what we’re going through.”