255 N. Front Street
Tickets: $10 adv/$12 day of
Doors at 8 p.m.
Also on bill: Zach Berkman and Ari Herstand
Put singer-songwriter Ron Pope into a room, hand him a microphone, sit back, and watch the audience react. The mesmerizing words that softly pour out of his mouth are powerful enough to silence even the loudest crowds at any given venue. Currently touring in support of his latest release, “Whatever It Takes,” the Georgia native will sweep fans off their feet at the Soapbox on March 28.
Pope’s first single alone, “A Drop In The Ocean” earned over 7 millions hits on YouTube and thousands of iTunes downloads. For anyone who has yet to hear his music, the beauty embedded so deeply within his infectious sound is difficult to describe. John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw fans can appreciate Pope’s ability to gracefully transcend the genres of both acoustic and soul with perfectly tuned, gentle vocals that are filled with romantic, but somehow not cheesy-sounding lyrics. However, Pope did not intend on playing the part of a soft, sensitive musician.
“I never really wanted to be a solo artist,” he says. “I always wanted to be playing lead guitar and fronting a band. I never wanted to be sitting down, playing the piano and crying. I really wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix. I think my new record points in that direction a lot more, and you see that I’m an actual musician.”
While attending college at Rutgers University in New Jersey on a baseball scholarship, a physical injury compelled Pope to transfer to NYU where he joined a songwriter’s club. It was there that he met one of his best friends, Zach Berkman, now a musician as well. Together, they formed a band called The District. After a couple of albums and tours, Pope decided to release a solo acoustic EP in 2005.
“My acoustic stuff started to blow up in 2007,” he says. “I started getting 100 plays a day [online], and then 1,000 plays a day, and then a few days later, 5,000, and then a few weeks later, 50,000 on MySpace.”
It’s evident to any listener that a lot of time and dedication went into creating and perfecting “Whatever It Takes.” Pope and his band first wrote and played demo versions of about 75 songs. Adding greater credibility to the album is Pearl Jam drummer Matt Chamberlain, who plays throughout its entirety. “For me, this is probably the most important album of my career up to this point,” Pope says. “I think we struck a good balance where I kind of showcased all the things I wanted to do and the things people expected of me, as well as pushed the boundaries. We’ve learned to be really self-sufficient and kind of figure out how to get stuff done on our own. With this record, we took it very seriously that we were going to do this outside of the system.”
Consisting of 11 songs, and one instrumental, the outcome is uplifting. It contains fast-paced, electric tracks like “I Believe,” which fit in with the slower, sweet love songs like “Our Song” and the acoustic “Tightrope.”
Pope credits his rise in popularity to the grassroots movement of his fans. In 2008, his music began to sell exceptionally well on iTunes, he was featured on MTV’s “TRL,” and he released “Daylight,” his first full-length solo album. In 2009, he signed with Universal Music Group, which he dropped eventually.
“They didn’t really do anything to help me,” he says. “Other artists who blew up on social media sites—like Colbie Caillat, Never Shout Never—all those people got major label deals, and they did a good job of promoting them, so they kind of blew up; but my fans have had to maintain this grassroots thing, because no real major promotion has occurred around my music. There’s no big radio or press stuff, so it’s been an honest to goodness grassroots movement.”
Pope emphasizes the importance of maintaining a solid relationship with his fans, and always tries his best to respond to each one. On MySpace, for example, he takes time each day to respond personaly.
“My fans aren’t bombarded with me on all fronts because I’m not on the radio or on the cover of ‘Rolling Stone.’” he says. “I feel like it’s part of my job to engage them in some other way.”
He’ll be doing so on March 28 at the Soapbox. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 the day of the show; doors open at 8 p.m. Pope will be performing with special gests Zach Berkman and Ari Herstand, who has opened up for Ben Folds and Cake.
For more information, visit www.thesoapboxlive.com. Ron Pope’s new album is available for purchase via iTunes.