There has always been an endearing quality about Cassadee Pope.
It could be the freckles that sprinkle her cheeks or the smile that lights up the room, or maybe it’s the way, when she leads with her heart, that her soul literally shines within her songwriting.
When she is happy, you can feel it.
And when she is hurting, you can feel it.
And in 2017, Cassadee Pope was hurting like never before.
“It was the year from hell,” the Grammy nominated singer says in a candid interview with American Songwriter. “I became single after being with someone for eight years. I left my management team and my publishing deal and my label. I bought a house on my own. I had never lived 100% alone before.”
She was scared and sad and lonely.
But then, the season three winner of The Voice and the woman who had burst on the country scene with her Platinum-selling single, “Wasting All These Tears”, started going to therapy. She started reading books. She started getting to know the person she used to be, the person she was and the person she wanted to be.
“I can’t imagine not living that year,” she reflects, adding that the year gradually got better as it went along, especially thanks to the success of and her #1 hit “Think of You” with Chris Young receiving a 2017 Grammy nomination for “Best Country Duo/Group.” “I would never want to do it again but I am grateful for it.”
Flash forward three years, and Pope finds herself in a much different place.
While 2020 has been a hellish year for most, Pope seems to have found a way to embrace the challenges and the uncertainty of the future by folding herself within the comfort of her music, most namely her first acoustic solo album, Rise and Shine. And its this stripped down version of everything Pope is and has always been is now properly illuminating one of country music’s most authentic of them all.
“There is not a lot of frills or distractions or fluff around it…its just the way it is,” says Pope says of Rise and Shine, in which she co-wrote each track. “It’s honest and reflective, and its symbolic for the times we are in right now, that’s for sure. I want to give people something to grab onto. I feel like people need to be helped into an emotional space, whether that’s to laugh or to cry or whatever space they need to be in at the moment.”
Granted, the eight songs that make up Rise and Shine are not exactly representative of where Pope finds herself right now. In fact, most of the songs on the album were actually written two and a half years ago, when she was not only dealing with the leftover pain of the year that was 2017, but dealing with the reality that comes when one finds themselves at a crossroads spent reflecting, thinking, remembering and reliving.
“I was digging deep in the songwriting department, that’s for sure,” quips Pope, who also serves as a co-producer alongside Todd Lombardo on Rise and Shine.
From the lighthearted “Hoodie,” the emotional “Rise and Shine” and a country-sounding throwback to the Hey Monday song “Hangover,” Pope showcases all sides of her wide-ranging musical background on this new EP. Perhaps the song she dug the deepest on is actually the most recent one she wrote on the album, a reflective song called “Built This House.”
“The last couple of years, I have felt a little bit wobbly emotionally,” explains Pope, who second solo album, STAGES, featured hit singles “Take You Home,” “One More Red Light,” and “If My Heart Had a Heart.” “I always seemed to feel that something could come along and knock me to my core. After 3.5 years of therapy, I now know it’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to lose myself in the process. That’s what “Built This House” is all about. I feel very solid in the place I am in right now. I know that what I have is what I built. It’s empowering to know that. There will be bumps in the road and there may be some cracked windows, but the house is on a solid foundation.”
That solid foundation is not only thanks to the natural progression that age and maturity bring with it, but also the love that Pope has found alongside boyfriend Sam Palladio…the man she now shares her home with.
“’California Dreaming’ was one of the first songs I showed him after we started dating,” Pope gushes, adding with a laugh that it’s also one of her mom’s favorites. “I felt like it would be a cool song for him to be on.”
Granted, it’s not the happiest of songs.
“It’s a song about a person who ended up being, in hindsight, a toxic person to have in my life,” says Pope, who calls her next full band album an ‘important album for my sound.’ “But at the time, I just couldn’t let him go.”
But she did let him go, along with the pain and the uncertainty and the feeling that she could never find her spot within country music. And in doing so, she let love in to not only her soul…but her music.