Published July 2019, hourdetroit.com.
As the country music star gets ready for her set at the three-day festival, she reflects on her new material, the songwriting process, and her evolution as an artist
By Emma Klug
Cassadee Pope soared into the national spotlight in 2012 when she was named the winner of The Voice. Her years of experience fronting the pop-punk band Hey Monday showed in her engaging stage presence, and fans responded well to her new country direction led by coach Blake Shelton. But Pope has well outlasted the fame associated with the NBC singing competition. In the years following her time on the show, she went on to garner a Grammy nomination for a collaborative track with Chris Young, tour the U.S. and world — she recently wrapped up a USO Tour in countries such as Germany, Kosovo, and Kuwait — and break from her record label to release her third country album Stages in February 2019 as an independent artist.
Now, Pope is bringing her vocal talents and new material to Faster Horses. The country music festival, held at the Brooklyn-based Michigan International Speedway from July 19-21, also features sets by Keith Urban, Toby Keith, and Zac Brown Band. Prior to her afternoon performance on July 21, Pope spoke with Hour Detroit about what fans can expect from her set at the festival, her experience making her new album, and how she’s evolved as an artist.
Hour Detroit: The songs on Stages showcase a range of emotions. Why did you want to explore so many different things rather than focusing on one theme?
Cassadee Pope: I wrote it based on what I’ve been through the last few years. It wasn’t going through one emotion. I went through heartbreak, falling in love, feeling ashamed, and then feeling hopeful. I went through all the different stages of life, and that’s why I called it that. Life can be messy and complex, and you don’t ever have one year of just happiness. There’s always speed bumps, roadblocks, and dark things you have to get through to get to the happy things.
You co-wrote a majority of the songs on the album. What was that process like?
I love to co-write. There are about three songs on the album that I cut that I didn’t write. The co-writing process is amazing in Nashville. There are so many amazing writers that I look up to. Over the years, people have taught me how to write better. I just wrote about things I was going through. My producer, Corey Crowder, was like, “You need to be writing through everything right now because you’re going through life and not a lot of people get the opportunity to write as they’re going through things.”
What kind of freedom did being an independent artist allow you on this album?
A lot of artists have deadlines, and I didn’t have that. I was able to be creative and write through everything. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops of getting approvals from anybody. It was just me and my producer making the decisions and putting our heads together and deciding which songs belong on the album and which didn’t. It opened my mind up to write more authentically.
How has it been touring with the new material?
It’s been really special. I love my old music and I’m proud of it, but I identify with [the new music] so much because there was no watering it down. The crowd seems to be reacting to it really well. I had been playing “Take You Home” before the album came out and that’s one of my favorite songs to perform live. It feels confident and sexy. I also really love playing “FYI” live. It’s really sassy.
What can fans look forward to you during your set at Faster Horses?
I’m going to do a mixture of old and new [material], but I lean a little bit more towards the new stuff. On the new record, I have faster songs that lend themselves well to festivals. While I love ballads, I’m playing at like 2:30 (laughs), so I think the [crowd is] not ready to slow down yet. It’ll be up-tempo and energetic. I’ll be playing a Whitney Houston cover. That usually gets people going. My main goal is to just for people to have a great time and to have fun.
While you have experience in pop-punk with your former band Hey Monday and touring on Warped Tour, you’re now known for your country music. Considering your evolution as an artist, what do you consider to be the biggest differences between those two genres?
It’s funny. I think a lot of the Brian O’Connell festivals — [the president of Live Nation Country Music created Faster Horses] — are the most similar to Warped Tour than I’ve seen of any of the other festivals. Everybody is standing, rocking out, and jumping and flailing their arms. There’s an electricity that I remember from Warped Tour. But I think the biggest difference is the songs. I do play Hey Monday songs during my set, and it does fit, but there’s been an evolution in my songwriting. Back in Hey Monday, I was 18-19, and I’m about to be 30, so the lyrics are going to be different (laughs). There are so many people from those Warped Tour days that are here in Nashville now doing the country thing. We’re all here after being on the grind in a van on Warped Tour and sweating our asses off, and it feels really good.
As you continue to evolve, what’s next for you?
More songwriting for sure. I just signed to BMG Publishing because I was a free agent on all fronts and now I have a publishing deal, which is amazing. They’ve been setting me up with some great sessions. I’m writing some really special songs. There are more life-lesson songs on the next record. I don’t know when that’s going to be, but I figure while life is happening I should be writing through it and accumulating the material for whatever the next project is.