Throughout the record Calling off the Dogs (2014), Ron Pope shapes his songs with hard-hitting one-liners and images that grip his listeners. On “Silver Spoon,” Pope thinks about ill-fated socioeconomic circumstances and affirms, “What is left of me/Cannot be called a man.” He urges his lover to go back to bed, but he’s really just realizing the tragedy of a lonely bed and life on “Back to Bed.”
Pope’s ability to capture different emotions—about society, toxic relationships, and identity itself—obviously rests on his compositional skills, which draw on everything from dreamy pop and moody folk to hard rock and experimental rock. But his voice is what really propels the songs forward and allows them to stand strong as both hard-hitting, full band tracks and stripped down, acoustic renditions.
In his first Whiskey session, Pope reconfigures “New Friends,” the penultimate track off of Calling off the Dogs. His voice holds the listener at its first note and doesn’t let go. The differences between studio and stage too are striking. The studio version of “New Friends,” relies on extensive production—stomping drums, recurring church bell, and string arrangement—and Pope’s aggressive, cutting voice. It’s packed with anger and frustration; he spits off commands dressed as questions. The stripped version of “New Friends,” however, is wistful and aching. It’s the reflection after the storm, the moment where a scream becomes a sigh.
The two renditions seem like different songs, but they’re just pieces of Pope and his extensive catalogue. He’s an experienced musician, internationally known after the release of the 2006 Internet sensation “A Drop in the Ocean” and yet still personally felt. He’s constantly playing with songwriting, an idea that stretches back to his debut record, Last Call (2007). And he’s always shifting, aware of both his own wants as an artist and his accessibility that makes his fans.
Article by Pam Segura
Filmed by Gabello Studios