Ron Pope is a Nashville-based artist with a prolific career as a songwriter, performer, and multi-instrumental recording artist, the majority of which has occurred while retaining independence from any label support. After his 2007 internet release of the single “Drop in the Ocean” became a viral hit, Pope’s music career flourished, but not without a few major professional and personal obstacles along the way. Coming off of the release of his latest album, “Bone Structure,” musically documenting his reflections as a new father, and experiencing major life shifts, Ron took a few moments to talk all things music, mental health, and more in this month’s Music for the Mind artist spotlight!
How would you describe your music in three words?
Definitely not reggae.
(It’s very hard to describe music in words, especially music like mine, that is fairly genre-less. It is true though that it isn’t reggae.)
What was the earliest musical moment that made you think, "I want to do that!"?
I was always singing and writing as a kid so it’s always kind of been in there. The first musician I remember wanting to be was David Ruffin from The Temptations. Sang like a hero, danced, looked so smooth and cool; that guy was something else. His voice crack on the word “know” at the beginning of “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” is the most perfect of imperfect musical moments. I still love him.
Your music career has been on quite an unique journey: from going viral on MySpace with your song, "Drop in the Ocean," to signing a record deal, to leaving that deal and going fully independent through the label (Brooklyn Basement Records) that you and your business partner/manager/wife, Blair, owns and runs. You've developed a rapid, dedicated fanbase through your constant musical output and grassroots promotional efforts. In reflection of your storied career, how has your music grown and developed over time?
My music is constantly changing. I’m lucky to be in a position where my fan base allows me the freedom to chase the muse. I just do what sounds right to me at any given time. So far, that’s worked out for us. I couldn’t do it any other way.
Allen Toussaint, prolific New Orleans-based songwriter, producer, and pianist/vocalist, once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to life you up-not to be escapist but to take you out of misery." With this quote in mind, how has music gotten you through hard times in your life?
I don’t know where I’d be without music; my identity has been shaped completely by my relationship to it. People always ask musicians what they’d be if they weren’t making music. I have no real answer for that. This is what I’ve spent my life learning to do, it’s as much who I am as it is what I do. How has music gotten me through the hard times? The same way it has gotten me through the good times. It’s always there for me. I feel blessed that my hobbies became my job.
What does the phrase “Music for the Mind” mean to you?
Music inspires and enhances so many moments. The right song for the right moment can add a little exclamation point to any experience. I like Sinatra in my kitchen, Joni when I’m stretching, Mötley Crüe on the highway, etc. etc. etc. Music is part of how I think, how I mourn, how I celebrate. Its tied to all the little corners of my mind.
In addition to music as a cathartic measure, what other resources or coping tools do you use for your own mental well-being?
I’ve been exercising a lot over the last few months. I noticed that I was struggling emotionally early on in the pandemic and spent a lot of time considering what I could do to put a little pep back in my step. I considered the fact that leading up to tour, when I usually train very hard and take good care of myself for 3-4 months, I tend to feel incredible. So, I really leaned into diet and exercise and it has improved my moods. I’m working out for about two hours most weekday mornings and being careful with what I put in my body most of the time. My moods have been way more balanced as a result.
As we wrap up, do you have any lingering thoughts to share with us regarding music, mental health, or anything else?
I think that in the age of 24/7 global news coverage and social media, it is easier than ever to get lost in the world’s misery. Of course, it’s important to have empathy and to work towards the betterment of this world, but you can’t allow your focus on those things to chip away at your wellbeing. Pay attention to your emotions and take breaks from the world’s problems whenever you need to. It’s ok to take a deep breath and look inward sometimes; you can’t save the world if you burn down yourself. Remember to take care of you. To be clear, I’m not saying to hide your head in the sand. Help everybody you can and work towards positive change, of course; just don’t do it to such a degree that it does irreparable harm to you.
To listen and learn more about Ron Pope, head to:
Official Website: https://www.ronpopemusic.com/
All photos by Blair Clark for the Brett Thomas Doussan (BTD) Foundation.