Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Musician's Musician: Ron Pope (CAS '05)

Every now and then we will come across alumni who are out there pursuing their passion for music. When we found out about Ron Pope (CAS '05) we contacted him and asked him to tell us about his time at NYU and his career path as a musician.

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CAS Alumni: Do you have any specific memories of your time at NYU?

Ron Pope: I transferred into NYU after my sophomore year, and never lived in the dorms, so I made it a mission of sorts to meet people right away when I started my junior year. I joined the Songwriters and Performers Society (SAPS) and the Poetry club so that I could meet people with similar interests to mine. In SAPS, we'd get together each week and workshop everyone's new songs. I met a number of musicians in that group that I still work with to this day.

The moment in college that stands out most in my mind is the day I met my best friend, Zach Berkman. He walked into a SAPS club meeting, sat down, played an incredible song, and when he finished, I said, "We're friends now" and we've been buddies (and musical partners) since then. I kind of drafted him.

I used to spend a lot of time in the practice rooms in the Ed building, playing piano and writing songs. I developed a love/hate relationship of sorts with those places...it gets kind of hot and gross in those rooms when you're in there all day, but having access to a piano whenever I needed one was obviously very useful.


CAS: Can you talk a bit about your career path? At what point did you know that you wanted to be a musician? What were the steps you took to break into the music world?

ronpope3.jpgRP: I've always loved music and enjoyed creating it; it's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I knew that I might have a chance at becoming a professional musician at some point during my junior year of college; my friends, who were songwriters that I really respected, all really encouraged me and led me to believe that I was much better than I'd ever thought I was. For a long time, I was following a pretty conventional path. I played in a band, hung up flyers around the city, had club gigs in New York, then went on tour, doing the same sort of thing all over the country. While this was happening, I was also building a fanbase online, by interacting directly with music fans all over the world through social networking sites. Every person who wrote me a message would get a reply back, and I believe that level of personal contact made the fans more invested in the project. Before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of an honest-to-goodness grassroots movement. One fan became two fans, two became four, and so on, until my music had spread out all over the world.

CAS: How would you explain your style of music to someone who hasn't heard it before? Who are some of your music idols?

RP: I do a lot of different things. Some of my songs are big, anthemic rock tunes, others are sparsely arranged acoustic recordings. I grew up loving all sorts of music...blues, country, rap, rock, r&b...I think that comes through in the music I make now.

As a guitar player, Jimi Hendrix has been a huge influence on me (and every other person who has picked up a guitar since 1966). He's the guy that made me want to plug in my guitar, turn it up loud, and rip it apart. Jimi, Albert King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy...all those guys influenced my bluesier playing. I also really love the Edge and Jonny Greenwood, in terms of creating unique sonic landscapes and new universes with a guitar. My taste in music is pretty broad. If I put my iPod on shuffle, you might get Sleigh Bells, Bob Dylan, U2, Kanye, Lady Gaga, Robert Johnson, T.I., Guns N' Roses, Taylor Swift, Band of Horses...I just love music and listen to all different kinds.

CAS: We read that you are going to start releasing a single every week starting July 5th through the end of the year? Can you tell us more about that? Are you working on other upcoming projects?

RP: I'm going to release at least one recording every Tuesday for twenty six straight weeks, from July 5th through December 27th. I've recorded all sorts of different tunes for this project...big rock songs, sparse acoustic numbers, blues, more experimental recordings...all kinds of things. This is an exciting project, because by releasing the songs as singles, I've been able to record whatever I'd like without considering whether or not they'll fit together and feel cohesive as an album. Since each song is a stand alone project, it can feel completely different from all the others, which is a very freeing set-up. As these songs are being released, I'll be working on my next full length album, which should be out some time early next year.

CAS: What advice would you give to graduating students who want to pursue a career in music?

RP: Be prepared to struggle. If you can think of anything else in the world that you wouldn't mind doing, do that instead. With that said, if you're going to go for it anyway, the most important thing is to be willing to think outside of the box. The conventional music business is dying a slow, painful death, and the way people consume media is very, very different than it was a generation ago. Jackson Browne once told me this, and I think it's good advice, so I'll pass it along here, "You've got to do it your own way. All the people you remember were original. Follow your gut."

For more information on Ron Pope and to listen to his music be sure to check out his website:http://www.ronpopemusic.com.